REVIEW: Iron Man 2

10 05 2010

Iron Man 2” may not have all that much to offer us as a movie, but it provides significant fodder for conversation about what it means to cinema in general.  In my mind, it marks the first comic book movie of the post-“Dark Knight” era.  Filmmakers have seen what made Christopher Nolan’s film such a hit on multiple fronts, and they are trying to strike gold using the same tools: namely, character development and strong plot over explosions and action.  Jon Favreau and the other minds behind “Iron Man 2” had time to adapt their series in an attempt to replicate that success.

One thing this sequel gives us is confirmation of a theory that many have been advocating for almost two years: “The Dark Knight” really does mark a revolution in the way we watch movies and the way they are made.  As soon as we saw it, we knew that we would never watch comic book or action movies the same way.  We instantly scorned “Transformers 2” and other movies that only emphasized the visuals.  But now, similar movies are trying to shift the focus to plot.  That’s a really good thing for the average moviegoer because it means that studios are recognizing our intelligence!

But “Iron Man 2” also reminds us of an unfortunate reality: some revolutions are only revolutionary once.  Some are meant to repeated; the American Revolution, for example, inspired similar uprisings in France, Haiti, and all over Latin America.  “Iron Man 2” incorporates many elements used in “The Dark Knight,” hoping to continue the pattern of success.

But its inability to recreate what made Nolan’s film so incredible signals the dawning of an era in comic book movies not favorable to anyone.  From now on, there will be “The Dark Knight” and every other movie who wishes they were “The Dark Knight.”  These movies cannot simply try to concoct their own version as if there is some sort of a formula.  Nolan’s movie worked for so many reasons.  Now, filmmakers have to find their own way if they want to make a movie that doesn’t play like a cheap ripoff of “The Dark Knight.”  A key factor to the success of Nolan’s film was originality.  Any movie that tries to use that originality will end up creating banality.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 27, 2009)

27 11 2009

Before I went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” I wanted to get a taste of Wes Anderson’s distinct style.  So I took a friend’s recommendation and watched “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which is this week’s “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie).  I am now officially smitten by the quirky, off-beat humor that people love about Anderson.  He has a very cultish, niche audience, but “The Royal Tenenbaums” managed to make a blip on the mainstream radar.  It made a respectable $52 million (attendance comparable to “The Final Destination”), won a Golden Globe for Gene Hackman’s performance, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  But for a large group of moviegoers who haven’t experienced Wes Anderson, might I suggest renting this?  You’re really missing out if you haven’t.

The film follows a dysfunctional family that has fallen apart, mainly due to the large egos of the three extremely bright children.  Chas (Ben Stiller) is a successful enterpreneur by his early teens, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a skilled playwright who is published by high school, and Ritchie (Luke Wilson) finds great success with the game of tennis.  But for different reasons, they all wind up miserable.  Surprisingly, it is their estranged father, Royal Tenebaum (Gene Hackman) who ends this unhappy spell.  With his eccentric and often manipulative ways, he often infuriates them.  But he has a certain charm that has the power to ease the pain of disappointment and fill the gap he has left in their lives with his absence.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about “The Royal Tenenbaums” is that I could sense Wes Anderson had as much fun making this movie as I did watching it.  He ornately concocts these bizarre characters that seem so far-fetched, yet they hit home in unexpected and delightful ways.  Anderson makes his presence felt throughout the entire movie.  You can feel it in the cinematography, consisting of deliberately framed geometric shots.  You can feel it in the soundtrack, a mix of folk and rock that really sets the atmosphere for his quirky work.  You can even feel it in the font he uses for the titles.  If you were like me, questioning what could possibly make Wes Anderson so special, watch “The Royal Tenenbaums” to be silenced and completely won over.