Monday, 31 May 2010

Iron Man (2008)

Two years late on this, I know. I mentioned to a friend that I'd never seen it, and his bug-eyed astonishment persuaded me I ought to give it a go. I've seen it now. Verdict: fairly jolly.

Longer verdict: for much of its length, this almost lives up to the ideal; the ideal being that the title is short for Irony Man. There's some movement in this direction, with Downey Junior's wisecracking screen persona, but only some. In fact the heart of the film (the gleaming, metallic, circular heart) is clumsily, even painfully unironic. It's the dream narrative of US military involvement in the Middle East: one American is able to go to Afghanistan, kill only the bad Afghans, leave all the good Afghani men women and children alive and leap away into the sky.

Iron Man's suit, classically, is a wish-fulfulment dream of invulnerability, in medieval-knight or Ned Kelley mode. What this film adds is a twopetal garnish to that ancient human fantasy: first, the magic-carpet dream of jet-flight mobility and second, the equally potent dream of perfect moral choice. For Stark's magic suit comes fitted with software that allows him not only to see everything (from the kid's icecream blob falling from his cone, to the wicked Taliban fellah hiding behind the wall) but also to lock-on and, assisted by his silky-voiced computer advisor, discriminate good from bad. That's the film's major mendacity: that accurate moral judgement and effective ethical action are predicated upon an ontology of perfect, mechanical invulnerability. The exact opposite is the truth. Our ethical potential is grounded in our vulnerability.

1 comment:

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

I agree that it's both fun and politically troubling. I think it would be much more troubling, though, if not for the fact that, for a superhero movie, it kinda downplays actual superheroics. When it just concentrates on Downey being charismatic/sleazy, you don't so much have to think about the bigger picture. This is one of a number of aspects in which the sequel is much worse.