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09 May 2008 @ 11:25 pm
Iron Man, and a bit of Worldcup  
I was never a big comic reader as a kid. V for Vendetta, a spot of Martin Millar, Neil Gaiman once he really kicked off (mostly Sandman, by which time I was relatively old) ... but not the Big Heroes.

I was too pretentious, too busy looking for heroes in politics and coming up with ways to save the world from impending nuclear holocaust to look for heroes and world-saving on brightly printed pages.

Which is why the whole comic hero film movement caught me by surprise. J, on the other hand, will nod sagely at a film poster and say "Ah yes, Tony Stark, weapons designer with a conscience. The first Iron Man. You know the title is passed on with the suit, though Stark remains involved as the series progresses, don't you?"

And I look at him blankly and say: "Robert Downey Junior is very handsome with an angular beard."

Today was J's birthday, and we took the day off from work and trotted off to the cinema to escape into fantasy for a few hours. And I was expecting an amusing diversion. What I wasn't expecting was a really, really good film.

It was taut and disciplined throughout, with no extraneous scenes or dialogue -- well, one line that I thought could have been cut where a recurring character gave the acronym for his very long government department (a joke that I had thought was obvious, but which J had missed), but that turned out to be a set-up for a short final scene at the very end of the credits.

What was most interesting was the topicality of the film. The early scenes where Stark is captured are filled with steadycam shots of him surrounded by what appear to be jihadists, shortly thereafter the apparently ideologically driven bad guys reveal themselves to be capitalistic terrorists, in line with many of the mercenary-based organisations that have populated the news in recent years. Alas, no Mark Thatcher analogues.

Similarly a scene of violence within the story, which is thankfully thwarted by Our Hero, has echoes of Srebrenica in in its set up, in a manner that is instantly recognisable to the modern viewer, but which reinforces the horror rather than simply exploiting it.

The cynicism of the story was also refreshing. When Stark discovers his armaments in the hands of terrorists/mercenaries, he never looks for a third party, he immediately assumes that someone in his own operation has been working under the table.

The physicality of the story was exceptionally well-rendered, with Newtonian physics and the effects of violence on human bodies both making a rare appearance. A lot of this was played for humour, with the standard techno-geek scenes of super suit development presented from an engineering-geek perspective, and with predictable flaws in Stark's design process. I adored the fact that he never got around to fixing the hole in his roof. For all that, the suit design was sexy and cool.

In fact, the whole film was cool. Stark's mission is never presented as a great moment of personal awakening, nor as a deep quest for spriitual redemption, more that he is pissed off that his genius has been appropriated by venal idiots and 'bad guys' (although the idea that he is genuinely upset that his weapons cause the loss of people he has met is also well presented). Though he is affable and charming, he is a man of deep flaws, not least his relationships with women, and one for whom money and ego are presented as far more important than the standard American Values. He's probably a godless atheist who supports gay marriage. Bless.

That said, the opening of the film is all 'protecting America, rah rah!', but I didn't really have an issue with this. If you are an arms dealer, of course you are going to make choices as to whom you sell your weapons to, regardless of what GB Shaw has to say on the matter (Major Barbara for those who are looking at me blankly at this point). It makes perfect sense that if you lived in a country where you found the basic values acceptable, you would want to sell it the best weaponry possible.

What was interesting was the distinct break presented in the film between governmental America and corporate America. Governmental America can be trusted in this story: it is flawed and slow and at times stymied where it should be active, but it at least does no harm. Corporate America, on the other hand, is an agent of evil through its worship of the dollar ahead of patriotism, or even basic humanity. Obviously this dichotomy is set in a pre-Cheney world.

At the heart of the film, in every way, is Robert Downey Junior. It's a perfect piece of casting, like Stark he has a brilliant talent coupled with a tendency to the dissolute. Physically he is astonishing; handsome and hard, with a real glimpse of ruthlessness in the casual shrug of his shoulders at being told of those acting against him. At the same time, there is a wonderful glee in RDJ's portrayal of the character. Both that great grin of having solved a difficult technical problem that is perfectly presented from the engineering genius perspective (I've known a few) and in that simple boy happiness of being able to create things that both blow up and fly.

I liked the mild homoerotic tension between Stark and Rhodes, his US military best friend, and Gwyneth Paltrow was surprisingly unannoying as Pepper Potts.  They were all dressed splendidly, and with a slick grooming that worked with the high-gloss art direction. In fact, all of the art direction was spot-on, down to Stark never cleaning up his destroyed sportscar. The action moved quickly and seamlessly, with a sense of immediate logic from one scene to the next, and I was left wanting more at the end.

In short, it's one of the few blockbusters that lives up to the hype, and I was happy to see that epilogue after the credits, which seems to promise a sequel.

It's been another week of great brain tiredness at work, and I have stupidly given away much of the time off I was going to take over the next few weeks in a bid to save other people from the consequences of their disorganisation, so I nowhere near caught up with Worldcup. I am wondering if the people who started off voting have kept it up? Comment counts seem to have dropped right away through the course of the fest, and I wonder whether this has been echoed in reading and voting.

Of course, I am very very very far behind myself, so I feel the pain of those who have given up hope of catching up! I am going to try and put a few rec posts together in the next fortnight before voting ends, but would gently suggest that team EWE's fics not only feature overwhelmingly positive endings (even the ones that look as though they might not), but also feature subtle sheep jokes. Though the other teams are good, too.

Quick cat news, both had their last kitten immunisations last week, Monster has doubled in weight since she came here, Cookie has gained 50%. They are both in excellent health, and the vet amused me no end by picking Monster up and cuddling her with a cry of "Oh look at your little tummy! I love a kitty with a tummy! And your long tail! And your tiny little head!" Then she looked at me and said: "Should I make a bold bid to recover professional detachment now?" I assured her there was no need.

It's after 2am again. I am starting to glean an inkling of where my perennial tiredness comes from ...
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: The Wombats
shadowclubshadowclub on May 9th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I've been hearing a lot of good things about Iron man which is weird because fandom is quite critical of movies:)

I am so behind on everything right now:) But you have to start somewhere I guess!

Haha, I love it when doctors prove that they are human (in a good way)!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 08:55 am (UTC)
Yes, I was expecting to find it pleasant but dull, but it was actually very well made. RDJ is at the centre of my reasons for enjoying it, of course. Some of the critics I usually like have slammed it, but in every case they have expressed a desire for a film that is an overt commentary on the Iraq war, and that's just not what it is. Certainly there is some political commentary there, but it is more veiled and complex (just as the war on Afghanistan is a more complex theatre in RL). And I cannot help thinking it's a bit rich to say that a film fails as an action flick if it's not a satisfying political expose. Stoopid critics.

I keep trying to get back into Worldcup and then feeling so overwhelmed I just run away. I may have developed an allergy. And yes, our vets are lovely!
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on May 9th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
A vet who loves cats is the best kind! Well, if you have cats, that is. I thoroughly trust mine: she has a family member who still isn't speaking to her because she chose to stay home and nurse a sick cat instead of attending a family function.

In other kitty news, nqdonne and I have signed up to volunteer at the MSPCA. There are a lot of cats that need cuddling.

I wouldn't normally want to see Iron Man but I've heard so many good things about it. Also, Amanuensis said it had great slash potential. ;)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 09:31 am (UTC)
Hurrah for great vets! I completely understand staying home with the sick cat in preference to a family do.

And three resounding cheers for you and nq volunteering! It makes such a difference to the little dears, and it keeps them from turning into depressed grumps. Good for humans, too!

And I went to see Iron Man as a birthday treat for the J, but was pleasantly surprised!
romaine24romaine24 on May 9th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
I loved Iron Man, too. Great fun. I was thrilled to see RDJ making such a good come back.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 09:32 am (UTC)
Yes, he was the heart and soul of it all. I can't think of anything I;ve seen him in where he wasn't the focal point, actually, even when it was a bit role.
mahaliemmahaliem on May 9th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
I have fallen behind on reading Worldcup fics, too. However, those I've read lately have been pretty astounding. I only hope that people go back and read some of these stories later.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 10:09 am (UTC)
Yes, there has been a lot of quality, I have just felt my brain melt under the volume. Alas, it takes very little to melt my brain at this time.
rocket62204 on May 9th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
"Oh look at your little tummy! I love a kitty with a tummy! And your long tail! And your tiny little head!"

Hahahahaha. That's so cute. ^.^

I'm going with some friends to go see Iron Man today. I wasn't that excited about the movie, but now I am. :D
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
Let me know if you enjoyed it. I have been baffled by some of the professional critics' responses, but I think they have been wanting a film that was not the one made, which is always going to end unhappily.

Monster does have a tiny little head. The rest of her has had a growth spurt, but her head is yet to catch up. I hope it begins soon, she's going to look very funny if it doesn't!
calanthe_fics on May 9th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
Look at it this way - I'm back to work in 3 weeks which means a total ceasing of all pestering e-mails from me.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)
Oh, look! Rude hand gestures AND a spot of face-pulling!
(no subject) - calanthe_fics on May 10th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
acefacebloodbelieve on May 9th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
not just a sequel... BUT AN AVENGERS MOVIE


i mean, uh. robert downey.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 08:51 am (UTC)
Ahhhhhh ... that image makes me very happy.
(no subject) - bloodbelieve on May 11th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on May 11th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bloodbelieve on May 11th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
oceaxeoceaxe on May 9th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
I just saw Iron Man last night and agree with almost all of your observations. What really impressed me about the film was the pacing - it was absolutely perfect. But I didn't stay to see the extra scene! Could you, erm, email me and tell me what happened???
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 08:47 am (UTC)
I will! Should be with you in a few minutes. Actually, bugger that, Google provides!


Watch it yourself!
★★ C. Gabriel Wright ★★: actions: writinggabe_speaks on May 9th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
In short, it's one of the few blockbusters that lives up to the hype, and I was happy to see that epilogue after the credits, which seems to promise a sequel.

i think it points more to the avengers movie than im:2 (altho' thor is rumoured to be the other hero in im:2, which would be cool.

i thought they did a really good job, especially with the building of the suit 2.0. it could hae either been too little, or dragged too long, but it was perfect! plus the humor added to it helped.

i never really liked iron man, tho'... i couldn't get into him. marvel used that drunken-show-off-turned-hero thing ad nauseum, but i always thought Dr. Strange did it the best. plus there's magic. but if they were to make that movie, rdj would have been my choice too. which obviously they can't do, so that fucks that up. and i doubt johnny depp would do it unless burton did the movies. which could be good, i think.

Of course, I am very very very far behind myself, so I feel the pain of those who have given up hope of catching up!

hear hear!

Then she looked at me and said: "Should I make a bold bid to recover professional detachment now?" I assured her there was no need.

:lol: + "awwwwww"

blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)
Apparently Tony Stark will also be appearing in the new Hulk film, which would mean more to me had I seen the old one ... I have to say that I know v little of the Avengers, but will happily watch RDJ in almost anything, more so if he takes his shirt off or wears sleeveless T-shirts regularly.

The engineering rocked! It was the exact balance of frustration, innovation and excitement that real innovators possess. That was what I liked about the film; the central theme was Stark's brain, and it was an interesting and resilient place to tell a story from!
libby_drew on May 9th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
Heh. I'd love to see this movie. Do you think it's suited for kids, BB? Your personal opinion. When you wake up, of course. ;-p
snottygrrl on May 9th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
depends on the ages. there seemed to be a lot of young-ish children there and i was rather horrified by that, but then again, i don't have children. i thought it rather violent for anyone below a teen, but i know a lot of kids see a lot of violence. as blame says, the terrorists bits seem mighty real.

[*shrugs*] don't know if any of that helps
(no subject) - blamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 10:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
Gossgossymer on May 9th, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC)
Ah, but what about Jarvis?

blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 10:31 am (UTC)
I had no idea he was meant to be a human until I went and asked J. I very much liked the computer version, and Paul Bettany could read the phonebook to me and I would be happy. I enjoyed the fact that Stark designed and built machines and interfaces that treated him with disdain, it said interesting things about the character.
snottygrrl on May 9th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
crikey woman, i just thought "me like movie." you constantly stun me with your knowledge and breadth of taste. do you realise just what a remarkable human being you really are?

love the vet bit as well. glad the kittens are doing well.

and erm, did that first bit mean i'm not going to get to see you [*wibbles*]
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
Am compulsive reviewer. People in cafes beg me to stop. Friends no longer ask what I thought of book/film, etc. There are restraining orders from directors.

The kitties are both doing very well, though Mon's demanding ways have hit new heights, she was sprawled from lap to shoulder nudging me with her nose whenever I stopped patting her. Makes it hard to type! And I'll be there soon! Just not as soon as I thought.
(no subject) - snottygrrl on May 10th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
Amanuensis: jedi bedtime storyamanuensis1 on May 10th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
I found the homoerotic tension to be between Stark/Stane in a "Holy crap, the slash writes itself, doesn't it," way. ^_^
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2008 12:06 pm (UTC)
I can see that, though Stark was more interested in having Rhodey come round and try out his new toys ...