Saturday 12 March 2011

Films: Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010)

I seem to be working through superhero movies at the moment, even though I'm not a fan of the genre and scarcely looked at any comics even in my youth, let alone since. However, good ones do make for stress-free undemanding entertainment and there have been some critically acclaimed examples recently, among them the Iron Man films.

Robert Downey plays Tony Stark, the womanising engineer/genius inventor head of a major armaments firm, who is injured and captured by terrorists in Afghanistan and held for three months, supposedly working on a weapon for them. In fact, he is building a prototype powered armoured suit with which he escapes, but he has been changed by his ordeal and decides to stop making armaments. Back home, he is opposed by Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his deputy, but supported by his adoring assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He works on perfecting his powered, flying and fighting suit, using an "arc reactor" of his own invention to provide almost limitless power. With this, he returns to Afghanistan to take on the terrorists and is later faced with an even more grave threat at home, when he is challenged by a second "iron man" built using his original plans. The first film ends with his identity as "Iron Man" revealed.

Iron Man is as good as Nolan's Batman films - which is to say, very good indeed - with Downey being remarkably convincing as the conflicted inventor. His performance dominates the screen, with Patrow very good in the supporting role; the on-screen chemistry between them works well.

As a result, I looked forward to the sequel, Iron Man 2. Sadly, this is just a rehash of the first, with yet another "Iron Man" emerging to challenge him. The film tries to distract the audience from noticing the lack of original ideas by introducing Scarlett Johansson as an athletic secret agent and throwing in more fight scenes and bigger explosions, but it doesn't really work and I was relieved when it ended. It isn't a bad film by most standards, but was a major disappointment after Iron Man.

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