May 4, 2008

Notes on a Second Viewing: Iron Man

* Robert Downey, Jr. may very well give the best leading performance we've yet seen in a superhero movie (Eric Bana, Christopher Reeve and Christian Bale would also receive my nomination). The downside to his popularity, then, is the fact that the similarly excellent Jeff Bridges has been somewhat lost in the mix. Who would've thought that The Dude could play a fear-mongering, war-profiteering, prehistoric-like monster so well? Like Downey, the role succeeds because he underplays it so effortlessly, grounding the character in legitimate emotions that exist beyond the plot-based demands of genre mechanics.

* Originally, I felt that the silent romance between Downey and Paltrow "didn't work". On second viewing, the problem came down to a single scene, when Pepper Potts decides to "quit" in the midst of Stark's newfound risk taking. Rooted in nothing even remotely connected to legitimate character motivations, it's a phony device meant to generate tension, all the more apparent because the performers go through the motions of it so well, as if hurdling an unnecessary speed bump before commencing the third act. My apologies, then, to the performers, and my commendation to the numerous screenplay writers for almost hitting it out of the park. I sincerely hope that the imminent sequel achieves the greatness that I feel this film comes within arm's reach of.

* More so than before, I stand by my original reading of the film as an almost-literal account of America coming to terms with itself as a post-9/11 superpower. Like the oxygen destroyer in Godzilla, Iron Man understands weapons and technology as creations in need of accountability and how the only thing separating that technology from being used for good rather than evil is the willpower to do so. Obadiah is out for profit and Stark for justice, the former illustrating the apathy many people bear towards others that either live elsewhere in the world or that they don't know personally (not unlike a number of so-called "Christians" that I know...).

* Was that Stan Lee playing himself dressed up like Hugh Hefner? Awesome.

* Some - such as a recent, anonymous poster on this blog (an option that I have now removed, seeing as I believe anyone willing to speak here should also be willing to identify themselves) - may very well think that Marvel's recent multiplex contributions are somehow tarnishing all that is good and holy in film culture. To that I say: Please.

* The bonus scene after the end credits isn't exactly mind-blowing. If you didn't stick around for it the first time, don't worry: it can wait for DVD.


  1. Who would've thought that The Dude could play a fear-mongering, war-profiteering, prehistoric-like monster so well?

    I've not seen Iron Man, just chiming in to say that Bridges' chameleonic acting has been evident to me for a while. You should really check him out in Fearless, if you've not seen it. Oh, and The Fisher King. More remarks here.

  2. Seconded on the Bridges opinion. He brought believability to a comic book villain role, not an easy feat by any measure. I'm so used to forcing myself to ignore the typically illogical motivations of a villain because we all know that they are usually plot devices first and characters second. Of course we're all going to forget Bridges in a month if Ledger's Joker is as entertaining as the trailers would have us believe.

  3. rumsey: I do indeed need to see more of Bridges work. I can't say much else, because, well, I'm out of my element. :)

    jeff: I too am digging/anticipating Ledger's Joker. More on that in posts to come...