Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: Iron Man 2

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The last ten years have seen many superheroes return to the screen, and a consistent part of the treatment they receive there is to be made into rounded characters. I’m uncertain that this is a Good Thing but I am certain it poses no end of problems for the writers, since they have to make us engage sympathetically with someone who can kick our arse as soon as look at us.

The problem is particularly pointed for Iron Man because Tony Stark (the eponymous hero) is so fundamentally unlikeable. Not in a Grinchy, villanously unlikeable way nor even a Hancocky, grouchy way, but in a “get this asshole out of my living room before I beat him to death with a lamp,” sort of way. Rather than trot out the usual range of emotional problems that superheroes find so crippling – unrequited love, inability to reveal their secret identity, loss of parents, blah, blah, blah – the writers in this case make us feel sorry for Stark by showing him dying from the toxic effects of being Iron Man. An ideal opportunity, you might think, to wrap things up quickly; but no, we sit through more than two hours of Stark’s antics and he still doesn’t have the decency to pass on.

Perhaps to make Stark less objectionable, or perhaps because it’s just his style, Favreau gets a quirky and relaxed mood from his actors in many of the non-action scenes, so that at times you feel you’re watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (and at these moments I rather wished I was). Favreau also plays Stark’s chauffeur and about half an hour before the end of the film takes a fairly savage beating which to me seemed only fair.

My failure to feel any sort of sympathy for Stark made what is not a particularly pacy movie into a real drag, and I have to admit I was watching the clock until the very end, even though the second hour is much more engaging than the first (Stark is just childish and sulky rather than arrogant and boorish). The action sequences are fairly good but by contemporary standards utterly unremarkable; the plot is predictable but not polished or well realised.

Paltrow and Downey do have some lovely moments, and the film does give us some hint that they, along with Sam Rockwell, really can act. Rockwell’s energetic performance, however, sticks out like a sore thumb against the general background of tedium. The best I can say of this film is to recommend it for watching on a first date – because after about 20 minutes, your partner will probably be willing to do more or less anything to halt the encroaching ennui.

Uncomfortable Plot Summary: Ayn Rand fan bailed out by rich parent, fails to revise world view.

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Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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