Tag Archive: robert downey jr.

iron man 3Dir. Shane Black
(2013, PG-13, 130 minutes)

The first thing that came to mind while watching Iron Man 3 was how much better superhero movies need to get about women. Just one day ago I watched the terrific second part of Feminist Frequency’s critical analysis of the problematic roles of women in video games, and here is a movie that makes her point for her.

There are two major female roles. The first, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), more or less runs Stark Industries and manages Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) dysfunctional life, but before long she is damseled by the screenplay – that is to say, she is kidnapped and rendered helpless so that male characters can fight over her. Pepper gets two moments of heroism, but both are the result of technology or augmentation inflicted on her by male characters.

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Dir. Joss Whedon
(2012, PG-13, 143 min)

The challenge of any superhero movie is suspending disbelief. That’s usually a fair bargain, but The Avengers requires multiple suspensions of multiple disbeliefs, and the collision of a handful of superhero worlds – each with its own system of techno-mystical logic – can draw undue attention to their absurdity. A man (Mark Ruffalo) who turns into a giant green monster because of exposure to gamma radiation is all well and good, but when he sits around chatting with the Norse god of thunder and a World War II-era super-soldier freeze-dried since the 1940s, well, don’t they all start to look a little silly?

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There came a moment early during the evening when I, and I’m sure many other close Oscar watchers, thought the foregone conclusion of The King’s Speech winning Best Picture might not have been so foregone after all. At the beginning of the show, Tom Hanks presented the first two categories, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography, mentioning an odd, mostly irrelevant statistic: no film had won those two categories as well as Best Picture since Titanic. The first envelope opened and Art Direction went to Alice in Wonderland. Then Cinematography went to Inception. So much for that.

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Robert Downey Jr., in 'Iron Man'

Dir. Jon Favreau
(2010, PG-13, 124 min)
★ ★

Either I’ve changed since 2008 or Tony Stark has. In the first Iron Man film, I remember being charmed by the billionaire arms manufacturer, a vainglorious man-child who approached superheroism like a playground. But in Iron Man 2 he’s much less charming. His brashness has become shtick. He’s not just making a spectacle of himself, he’s making a spectacle of being a spectacle, self-consciously showing off like it’s a marketing ploy. Step right up and behold Tony Stark’s ego! He wisecracks at Congressional hearings. He recklessly drives his own race car. He jumps out of a plane and lands on stage at his own weapons expo in full regalia, and when he takes off his armor his tuxedo is still well-pressed and his hair still perfectly coifed. “I’m an incorrigible brat, but that’s why you love me,” he seems to tell us. I’m not sure I even like him this time around.

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On DVD: “Iron Man”

Dir. Jon Favreau
(PG-13) ★ ★ ★

I admit, I bring too much reality to movies like this. Like how I couldn’t help but wonder how Iron Man stayed in the air when he flew. Hand and foot rockets always pointed straight behind him, he’s all thrust and no lift. Or how the computers all seem a little too futuristic to be credible in the present day, even for a billionaire who built his first circuit board at age four. Or how it strains credulity that a weapons developer would ever make the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I know, I know. Lighten up, you’re thinking. But I’m a stickler.

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