Iron Man (2008)

Iron-Man-2008

I almost wish she was the center of the film

“Has he lost his mind?
Can he see or is he blind?

There’s a reason why the film ends with the riff from the famous Black Sabbath song but without the lyrics. Black Sabbath’s song described a flawed and conflicted person. He might be interesting, but nothing we’d hope to be. The same thing can’t be said of Iron Man‘s Tony Star. Black Sabbath said about their character that nobody wants him. You couldn’t find a more unfit description for Tony Stark

If this was just a dumb superhero film, I might have forgiven that. It wouldn’t work well as one anyway, though. There isn’t enough violence and the characters aren’t insane enough. Too many moments hint that the creators wanted to make this an important superhero film. The nature of weaponry is an obvious theme. The creators understand a superhero should be a symbol for some idea, not just a human with superpowers.

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A time before duckface

Tony Stark’s suit leaves little room for exploration, though. It’s not a Medabot. Medabots symbolized toys as weapons, and were an exaggerated portrayal of violent toys. It’s not a Terminator, which was a weapon with the appearance of a human being. Tony Stark’s suit is just a means to save people and instigate the final action scene.

There is something about how weapons can be harmful in the wrong hands, but that’s an idea that goes nowhere. The film never asks if there is more to do with weapons other than attack other human beings or if weaponry (and violence) is a part of being human.

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No hair, no heart?

The people who represent the bad way of using weapons are evil clowns. The Ten Rings are just a gang of mooks who are like the bandits from Borderlands without the humor. As for Obadiah, he was stuck under Tony’s shadow and for some reason we’re expected to dislike him for his evil deeds. No matter how hard the film tries to make Obadiah look like the devil, his story remains more interesting psychologically.

Obadiah’s development happens off-screen, but his is a story that can never get old. He’s a man stuck under another’s shadow who felt like he never got what he deserved. This is a common sentiment and the fact Obadiah still lives a kickin’ life makes it even better. Even as a villain, these ideas could’ve been explored. Why Obadiah wants Stark’s place so much? Why can’t he be content with still being stinking rich? They say no matter what you do there’s always someone better than you. What if there’s only one person who’s better than you?

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This is a sci-fi film, in case you didn’t notice

Obadiah’s motives have nothing to do with these. He’s evil so there will be someone to fight with (and also because he’s not as pretty). These so-called motives are here to put a cover that a film is serious and that its villains have motives.

Tony has some sort of arc, but it barely qualifies as a cheap psycho-drama. His development happens in 20 minutes. After spending some time in a cave and seeing that people shoot each other in real life, he develops a desire to save the world. That’s all that happens. It doesn’t affect anything else. He’s still a womanizer and he still loves being funny.

He was a selfish person in the beginning. That was why we saw him have sex with a lot of women and being told he has nothing because he doesn’t have a family. You’d think that such a person would change dramatically along with his desire to save the world. You don’t have to make a complete 180-turn. Impmon became less of a bully but he still retained his sarcastic personality. Tony doesn’t become anything new but is just given a desire to save the world.

Allow me to be cynical, but that’s because the film wants to keep Tony’s coolness. The beginning isn’t meant to satire the lives of the rich and famous. It’s meant to portray them as cool, charismatic and living an ideal life. Tony may have given up selling weapons, but no way will he give up the cool lifestyle of casinos and having sex with anyone he wants. Even if the rich truly live such perfect lives with no problems at all, isn’t it insulting? Most people will never live this way, so why dangle the carrot?

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Tony aims for Chris Martin’s ex

The seriousness of the film is ridiculous when you look deeper, but there’s a good side to this. The storytelling is so focused that it feels much shorter than it is. No scenes are unnecessary. There are no extra characters that don’t serve some purpose later. Action scenes don’t clog the film with incoherent explosions. In fact, there are few of them and even in those scenes they don’t go full retard. They’re not a series of endless explosions but a collection of set-pieces that build up to a conclusion. It’s not one of the best action scenes ever, but it’s purposeful.

Pepper Potts is also a unique character to see in such a film. It’s been a while since we had a female side kick that could be worthwhile without packing heat. She’s not developed, but the script never lets her fall into cliches. She never becomes pure eye candy, or a woman whose character is passed off as strong because she kills people. She almost ended up as an empty character, but Paltrow’s performance gives her a humanity everyone else lacks. Everyone is charismatic enough, but Paltrow is the only one who plays like her character can star in a variety of other stories.

Guitars also make constant apperance in the musical score. It’s a bold decision. It’s not the most uncommon element yet but it’s still rare compared to cliched orchestras. This adds some punch to many scenes. If the only point of Tony’s character is that he’s cool and macho, add some macho guitars to go along with it.

Iron Man became popular because it’s a well-constructed film. All the professionals in the film industry and I still see a lot of incoherent stories. Simplicity is rarely a death sentence in films, especially when you want to make some easy fun. Iron Man’s attempts at depth aren’t convincing, but it’s fun enough.

3 cool suits out of 5

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Madvillain – Madvillainy

MADVILLAIN

Madvillainy is a record so brilliant, so unique that it couldn’t remain underground. It was an antidote to the horrores that plagued the radio. It was the antithesis of the the generic Rap-Rock* and the one-dimensional Crunk. It’s a record with a coherent concept. The lyrics are beautiful, funny and clever. The rapping is energetic and passionate. Almost no rapper raps with as much verve and passion as MF DOOM. Madlib’s production is even better. It’s wide-eyed, borrowing ideas from any genre it can. Madvillainy isn’t just the product of a talented rapper and a talented producer. It’s also a bold experiment. It completley destroys and rebuild the format with short songs that move quickly, throwing idea useless things such as hooks.

This is all true if your exposure of Hip-Hop can be summed up with Lil Jon, Nas and Jay-Z.

Madvillainy is such a wonderful failure that it’s surprising. It shoudln’t be. The Hip-Hop canon treats originality like the Nazis treated the Jews. It’s that Madvillainy actually fooled people into thinking it’s original. ‘Original’ artists like Tribe Called Quest are merely praised for hating women over a different style of beats. Madvillainy‘s gimmicks will fool the easily impressed that you’re listening to a precursor to El-P.

The few tricks that the duo pulls to come off as ‘original’ are pathetic. They barely hold for one song. The song’s format is short and without hooks. That’s cool, but Hip-Hop is already driven by the verse. Illmatic and Midnight Marauders didn’t have a lot of hooks either. Madlib is even worse. He doesn’t even pretend to be original. It’s just that people haven’t heard of Mike E. Clark or El-P before writing about this.

You know an album is awful when everybody mentions that it has an accordion in it, therefore it’s original. That song is called “Accordion”. This is how desperate they are to make you think they are original. Madlib may throw some funny noises occasionally, but his approach has already been beaten to death. His beats are smooth and calm. He may remove the basic breaks, but he relies on soul music like any other producer who’s scared of imagination. “Accordion”, in fact, doesn’t sound that different. He mostly mimics early Roots production, which is just a worse version of Black Moon anyway.

MF DOOM fails in the same way. He pulls some tricks, but he’s no different than Black Moon. His rapping consists of random words placed between references to how wack some rappers are and how good his own rapper is. He even occasionally talks about hustlin’ and pimpin’, just in case you’re worried he never heard of NWA. The whole ‘supervillain’ concept is present in a few samples, but that’s it. MF DOOM is a generic battle rapper who stays smooth because being loud isn’t cool anymore. He deviates a few times from this subject only to pursue even more generic subjects. On “Fancy Clown”, he gets heart broken. We already heard that. On “America’s Most Blunted”, he preaches about the beauty of weed. Cypress Hill already did that. There’s also some half-assed social commentary on “Strange Ways” that Chuck D probably ghost-wrote in his sleep.

DOOM’s slow is as boring as his lyrics. He has a unique voice, but that monotonous flow was never worked. It may have worked in a few Rakim songs, but without good lyrics it doesn’t do anything. It’s like a House beat that has a boring drum sound. MF DOOM doesn’t try to develop a personality with his vocals. There are no moments that show some emotion, like Tyler or Eminem or Cage. It’s the same old monotonous flow we already heard in a thousand Boom Bap record.

“America’s Most Blunted” is the only good track here, and the only one where the duo sounds like they care. If they love drugs so much, why not just make a Cypress Hill tribute album? It’s hard to make an original album with titles like “Hardcore Hustle”. If you wonder how dull the Hip-Hop canon can be, listen to this. Madvillainy is supposed to be one of the most original rap albums out there, yet it manages to be more boring than Liquid Swords. An absolute failure, but that’s classic rap to you.

*Which includes Pop Will Eat Itself, Urban Dance Squad, Linkin Park and One Minute Silence.

1.5 supervillains out of 5