Sunday, 15 March 2009

Iron Man and A view to Kill

There are those who have been trained and were able to self train themselves in self control over all aspects of how they use time and their bodies. There are those who as a matter of choice abandon all forms of self control and give themselves to hedonistic experience regardless of the consequence for themselves or for others. Between these extremes are the majority of human kind, struggling to achieve equilibrium

Between Friday and Saturday, not feeling like work or having the inclination to drive myself into doing so, and not ready for bed, I decided to watch Iron Man, expecting to fall asleep or aroused into writing some condemnation. What happened is that I quickly abandoned the internal wrestling and gave the film my undivided attention. It was enjoyable and stimulating bringing back memories of the early superhero, former comic book films with Christopher Reeves as Superman and his adoring assistant Lois Lane, or such name.

First the film and then the background. The head of the most successful innovative arms designing and producing firm USA based is captured by an Afghanistan warlord with ambitions to become a contemporary Genghis Kahn or Alexander the Great. The super hero to be is Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Junior as the standard genius more interested in creativity than wealth or understanding the impact of his work upon the human race. The firm was in fact built up by his father with the help of he Chief Executive played by Jeff Bridges who we quickly learn is behind the kidnap plot because of ambitions to control the company he feels to have created without getting his fair share of recognition and power.

Stark is badly injured and is kept alive by a ingenious device designed by his doctor, an electro magnet fitted into his chest which keeps the shrapnel which has entered his body from piercing his heart. Stark turns this into an kind of nuclear power device and instead of creating the latest super rocket bomb weapon as ordered by his captors uses the available materials to make himself a bullet and explosion proof metal suit with a range of weaponry sufficient to make his escape, Having firsthand experience of the destructive and killing power of his military use work when he returns home he announces that he going to change from a weapons’ creator and manufacturer to something constructive thus plunging company shares, creating mayhem with his employees and governments. He cuts himself off from everyone while working on an advanced power unit, giving the first model to his personal assistant played by Gwyneth Paltrow to dispose which fortunately as events develop she does not but has made into an object for display. He develops the concept of an armour plating body suit with rocket power which can also be controlled into slow moving off ground activity and a built in weapons system. While he is having fun trying out the new creation he discovers that his weapons are still be sold to the baddies and being used on defenceless people so he charges off to give the attackers a taste of their own medicine.

Meanwhile his previous captors have recovered the remains of his first armoured suit and together with the chief executive of the arms firm worked out what he did and how he did it, with the exception that they cannot replicate the power device. The solution is for the chief executive to incapacitate his boss and steal the unit from his chest leaving him to die. However he remembers the old model and manages to save himself and to commence a mortal combat with his adversary. Iron man has the advantage of his second stage suit but has significantly weaker power unit. His rival now has the full power unit but only a copy of the original suit. Iron wins through and having recognised the worth of his personal assistant establishes a partnership with her and decides, contrary to the advice of the security services to admit to the world that he has become Iron man. The first of a series of adventures begins.

So why is this comic book adventure which makes full use of the latest computerised graphics and stunts more than one in the long line of such films designed for an adolescent family audience. My esteemed film critic James Baradenelli makes the point that Robert Downey manages to create a “charismatic fusion of Bill Gates, High Hefner and Howard Hughes,” and certainly he contains the elements for which all three have become famed. However what is the difference for me is that despite all the trappings of wealth and creative ability and sci fi gismo’s he comes across as a credible individual and given the development of robotics, miniaturization and lightweight but heat, explosive and gun resistant, metal, such a powered suit is not light years distant and may already be in the making, giving the soldier protection and manoeuvrability. The age old problem highlighted in the film is that once this form of genie has been released it is impossible to return to the bottle. Once this has happened all the goodies can do is to keep one step ahead. The prospects of one government and one police force and one army are as remote today as they have always been and even a democratic pathway will to global government will lead to the abolition of most civil liberties and personal freedoms that are left. Therefore the need of states to arm themselves with the latest weapons will continue.

I knew nothing of the background of the character which I found was surprisingly only a Marvel Comic creation in 1963. Given the era of origin the main the adventures involved the Cold War whereas future adventures can concentrate in corporate and general syndicates and on terrorist fanaticals.

There is a chasm between Iron Man and the Roger Moore Bond film, A view to a kill, the seventh and last of the Roger Moore series and the third to have an original screen play although it is loosely based on an Ian Fleming short story of the same name. The film is silly and the avuncular Bond spends much of the time feigning enthusiasm when his only interest appears to be on the pay cheque. Why are the Nazi scientists who the Russian took over all evil and those who went to the USA really good guys once you take away the apparatus of the Hitler state? In this instance the Nazi doctor experimented with the use of steroids to create a super race and one of his creations played by Christopher Walken has been sent to the USA to create havoc in the days of the cold war. The film was released a few years before the Berlin Wall was removed but when there was an increasingly friendly relationships between the Soviet, British and USA security services, not quite the love in it is alleged to have become for a time post the ending of the Soviet empire. but they are supposed to have stopped killing each other and concentrated on individual maniacs who threatened to disturb the balance of power.

In this story Walken has used his wealth and connections to stockpile micro chips, the old fashioned variety, and then attempts to become master of the electronic universe in cahoots with a number of world electronic moguls by destroying Silicone valley by manipulation of the St Andreas Fault. The conduct of the story is not only silly pathetic but Bond is amazingly stupid by walking into every trap laid for him and ignoring all the evidence of danger ahead. If he thought less of his trousers and more on his work the world would be safer and we would have been saved from this boring nonsense. He misses the opportunity to join forces with the Russians to stop Walken’s plan in its tracks. Bond’s nemesis in the film is not Walken but Grace Jones, someone splendidly cast as a villainess, who was then a very fit young woman and whose body glistened in a physical work out with Walken. She is one of the rare women in all the Bond films that is more than a one night bed partner and she dies, giving her life to get her own back on her lover Walken who betrays her as he betrayed everyone except the good doctor and his head of security. They all perish in a spectacular sequence at the top of the Holden gate Bridge and involving an airship. The opening ten minuets and the closing were enjoyable but the rest is woeful. Geoffrey Keen is the British Minister of Defence, Patrick Macnee is a Knight who plays Bond’s driver factotum, David Yip is the CIA link and Fiona Fullerton is Pola Ivanovo a soviet ballerina and KGB agent sent by Walter Gotell as General Gogol head of the KGB to spy on Walken and who renews their previous romantic (!) association.

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