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A Cinematic Weekend: The Bank Job & Iron Man - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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May 27th, 2008

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01:09 am - A Cinematic Weekend: The Bank Job & Iron Man
Yesterday, teaotter, athenian_abroad, Aaron, and I all went to see The Bank Job, which was based on a real (and unsolved) 1971 London bank robbery. I'd not heard of the robbery before, and while many of the events depicted are true, connecting together the bank robbery and the crimes and other activities of Michael X with a plot by MI5, is an effort of fiction, or at least of unfounded speculation.

Nevertheless, it's a truly excellent film – it has the feel of some of the older and grittier caper films of the 1970s, and was both exceptionally well made and acted and gripping to watch. I would recommend it without question, except for one problem. From what I've read, Michael X was largely a murderous thug who made a front of being a black power activist, which is precisely how he is portrayed in the film. However, the singular lack of any black people in the film who are not equally murderous thugs or at least mindlessly devoted followers of his is troubling. For having a large cast of incidental characters, there are only a relatively few characters who you at all get to know, and so I can see to some extent not focusing on other black power figures, but from a racial perspective the film still bothers me somewhat. However, my suggestion is to go and see it and make up your own mind.

Today, teaotter and I went to see Iron Man, which was a complete and total joy to watch. I've watched quite a large number of the recent superhero films. The X-Men films ranges from mediocre to dreadful, the Hulk film was an impressively dysfunctional train wreck of two completely separate and unrelated films, Batman Begins was good but not exceptional and the last Spiderman film was quite bad as was the first Fantastic Four film. In contrast Spiderman was quite good and Spiderman 2 was utterly brilliant (and largely was made so by the combined talents of Tobey Maguire as Spiderman & Alfred Molina playing the single best comics villain I've ever seen on screen.

I'm not certain Iron Man was better than Spiderman 2 Largely because the two major villains in Iron Man simply weren't quite as compelling, but it was at least as good. In addition to being predictably gorgeous to watch, Robert Downey Jr. had a masterful performance as someone who had been a truly reprehensible person and who was becoming a superhero in an effort to redeem himself. Also, and most surprising of all, Gwyneth Paltrow did an absolutely amazing job as the female lead. My primary problem with all of the Spiderman films was that MJ was far more of an object than a character. In Iron Man, Paltrow player her character as someone who was far more than that, and who was in fact a real and complex character who was a much rescuer as a victim.

I was also pleased to see that in both Iron Man and the previews for the new The Incredible Hulk film (which looks to be vastly better than Ang Lee's awkward melding of intense and overplayed family drama and impressively goofy supers film ) seem to be drawing heavily from the brilliant (and vastly better than the original) recent revision of the Avengers, The Ultimates. Finding the various hints and mentions of this throughout Iron Man, added extra geeky enjoyment to an already excellent film. In any case, I now have much hope that the Avengers film and the other ones leading up to it will both be similarly excellent and similarly influenced by The Ultimates, my only wish for that is the (at least in the actual Avengers film) we have at least two female supers, and if possible one black super (looking at the Ultimates continuity Black Widow, Wasp, and Black Panther or The Falcon all come to mind as good choices).

In any case, Iron Man was beautiful, not politically vile (which I'd worried about), and I definitely appreciated how the film sidestepped the problem of having yet another set of Muslim villains, by having the first set of villains be more on the order of shadowy conspirators rather than religious fanatics. Also, the acting ranged from good to excellent, and the plot made sense and largely did not rely upon anyone being stupid. I highly recommend it.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 27th, 2008 08:48 am (UTC)
I was assuming that you'd be coming out against the sexism in Iron Man...
[User Picture]
Date:May 27th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
I have no problem with Tony Stark being a total lech. As for the rest, while definitely present and non-trivial, I found it was considerably better than any other supers films I'd seem. Even compared to the Spiderman films, Iron Man is a paragon of egalitarianism. Also, the presence of an actual female character made up for a lot.
[User Picture]
Date:May 27th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
I would love to see Monica Rambeau on the Avengers team (an awesome black female superhero who has been an Avenger in the comics).
[User Picture]
Date:May 27th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
I really should go see it; I hadn't originally been planning to, but it seems like it's getting a lot of good reviews on my friends list.
[User Picture]
Date:May 30th, 2008 02:13 am (UTC)
Note on non-Muslim enemies: not just a clever sidestep, but also a clever bit of foreshadowing. Ten rings = a certain ring-wearing supervillain.
[User Picture]
Date:May 30th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)
Damn, I missed that - very cool!

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