Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leaden Man: A movie review

Also known as "Iron Man", this is a little-boy flick disguised as a guy flick that pours the prodigious acting talents of Robert Downey, Jr. into a metal suit, where it hides them so well that they're mostly invisible even when he's not wearing the suit. Actually, when he's not wearing the suit, Downey seems more interested in showing off his brand-new muscles than in acting. The movie wastes Gwyneth Paltrow in a role she should have been ashamed to accept; could she possibly need the money that badly? The only actor whose reputation might be enhanced by this is Jeff Bridges, who spends the movie chewing a cigar and the scenery with equal gusto.

Downey plays absurdly brilliant weapons inventor Tony Stark. Kidnapped by bad guys in Afghanistan, he escapes by building himself a heavily armed metal flying suit from those high-tech scraps that apparently fill the mountain caves in that part of the world. After getting back home and undergoing what must be the most fuzzily defined moral crisis in movie history, he builds himself a much more advanced version of the same metal suit and sets off to save the part of the world that the weapons made by his company have heretofore been used to destroy.

Along the way, we see astonishingly advanced robots and Artificial Intelligence software, created by Stark but used mostly for plot convenience and comic relief. But these are inventions that would have transformed the world far more than any of Stark's weapons could, and would have made him far richer, too. Or, if he really did want to destroy things, then instead of a suit for a man, Stark could have used the robot and AI technology to create very small robots that could have infiltrated any enemy position or country undetected and done all the damage required. The scriptwriters don't seem to have realized this. That shows you how focused they were on blowing things up instead of thinking about the story.

The politics of the movie are very strange. Stark realizes how much damage his weapons have done to civilians, but no blame is attached to the U.S. government, which has murdered thousands of innocent Afghan civilians - in the movie, by using Stark's weapons. Nor do the moviemakers seem to want to blame the vile Taliban, who are mysteriously absent from the story. Instead, they invent a third group of unnamed terrorists who are killing civilians and Americans and anyone else available, who seem to have no connection to any of the real factions in Afghanistan, and whose goal apparently is to use Stark's weapons to conquer the world. They're led by a sinister figure who speaks English perfectly and thinks deeply and should be a great villain except that, when the plot requires it, he turns out to be absurdly easy to eliminate.

That scene must be one of the worst anticlimactic letdowns in action-movie history, just as the scene in which we learn the identity of the bad guy who is behind everything, and which should be a stunning revelation, instead elicits a no-shit-Sherlock response from anyone in the audience with an IQ above 60.

But this movie isn't aimed at them.

Two stars for the CGI, which are undeniably cool


Travis Erwin said...

Nice review. this movie hasn't interested me in the least but then i kept hearing how great it was and I began to think maybe I should see it. You kind of reinforced my gut feeling.

AirRaidSiren said...

Seems to me you saw a different movie than the critics who gave the film and Downey's performance rave reviews. But, to each their own, I guess. I get the feeling also that you are not a fan of the comic book character... Or perhaps even comic books in general?

Jeff Bridges saving his reputation? Of the friends around here who have seen the film, all believe he was the weak point while Downey pretty much carried off the film.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with you about the US Gov't's involvement in Afghanistan, this is a comic book film, trying to look for a political statement seems to me like a waste of time. Perhaps, if you had watched the movie for what it was, a comic book film, you would have enjoyed it more?

Just a thought ;)

David said...


I've never read the Iron Man comics, so I had no prior opinion about the character. I've enjoyed other movies based on comic-book superheroes, and because of the reviews, I expected to enjoy this one. Unfortunately, the reviewers were wrong. They often are.

It's not that I was looking for a political statement but rather that I was annoyed by the silliness of setting a movie in a real, violent, contentious place and then treating it like some other place entirely, or like a place that happens to have the same name but exists in an alternate universe.

Lahdeedah said...

Um, I'm confused at your attempt to find a plot in this movie.

My understanding was, it's about a REALLY COOL SUIT and stuff.

I agree with you that if you're going to set a movie in a real, violent contentious place, than do it. Don't pretend it's 'just like that place but not because like, we don't really want to make a statement.'

They could easily have fabricated some other scenario.

David said...

True about finding a plot. As it happens, though, I just watched the silly movie Barb Wire on cable. Lots of explosions and shooting and improbable escapes, plus lots of Pamela Anderson, of whom there is lots anyway. And it had a plot. Not a profound or original plot, but at least it wasn't just a sequence of explosions and fight scenes.

The suit was cool but seemed a bit impractical. I'd rather have Superman's abilities, and no suit required. But no one's offered me either!

TGirsch said...

I disagree with you about almost everything here, except for the "no-shit-Sherlock" moment. As soon as he showed up on the screen, I thought "bad guy."

But as for the rest, it was remarkably entertaining for a check-your-brain-at-the-door action flick. Which, frankly, is what I want from a superhero film. Not everything has to be deep and meaningful (or, for that matter even internally consistent). All it has to do is entertain me, and Iron Man did, in spades.

Of course, it will come as a surprise to no one that I'm far more easily amused than you are. :)

Now you have me curious, though: which superhero/comic book movies did you enjoy?

David said...


Thanks for visiting my humble, modest, shy, retiring, insignificant, unassuming (am I overdoing it?) blog.

Ekshly, I only go to mindless escape movies, except when my wife manages to guilt-trip me into accompanying her to some ghastly chick flick, after which I whine endlessly in hopes that she won't do that to me again. I have a problem, though, when an escape movies keeps jerking me out of the story, as this one did. So it's not a matter of not being easily amused but of sometimes not being able to forgive certain problems.

I loved the first Chris Reeves Superman movie, and the first Christian Bales Batman movie. I liked the Hulk movie of a couple or so years ago. I saw the first Hellboy movie on cable and liked it. We're planning to see the new one. We're also planning to see the new Batman movie. Others that I can't think of right now.

They all had characters, and the plot flaws, if they existed, weren't egregious. I don't ask for all that much, but Iron Man didn't come up even to that standard, for me.

TGirsch said...

You address me as if my last name starts with K-o-s or something. :) I'm just a two-bit tag-along at a mostly-defunct blog, so I wouldn't worry about the stature (or alleged lack thereof) of yours.

As for the movies, I guess it takes all kinds. I never much cared for Blade Runner, which makes me a bit of a pariah in Sci-Fi/Fantasy circles...

David said...

Of course, there can be only on K-s.

I thought LeanLeft was still a going concern, although I'd noticed that the posting frequency has fallen off lately. Technorati still shows it as being very much alive.

I just checked. Thanks for adding this blog to your blogroll. I should add my favorite political blogs on mine. There are a lot of them, but since I read them regularly, it would be appropriate.

TGirsch said...

I assume you mean that there can be only one K-s. Blasted typos!

And yes, we've got a small but loyal readership, even as posting frequency has dropped off. Part of the problem is that family matters have kept Kevin R (the blog owner) away. And KTK's rants have always been sporadic.