The Hurt Locker 危機倒數
I have to admit that I became interested in this movie because of all the praises it got from the critics, and its triumph over the egoistic James Cameron and his Avatar at the Oscars. When Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win the Academy Award for Best Director, I started to wonder what a woman’s touch could do to a gritty war film. And I was glad to find out that a woman’s touch was exactly what made it different from the other award-seeking war dramas.
The Hurt Locker follows a team of bomb squad, especially the new team leader William James (Jeremy Renner) on their missions, as they battle the nerve-racking pressure of disarming bombs, while dealing with surrounding civilians who they can’t tell are friends or foes, and the internal demons that would change them forever.
That sounds just like every other war film, but Bigelow focus on the characters to show the overwhelming influence rather than the gruesome details of warfare. Granted, the film has got its share of brutality and cruelty, but the human aspect remains the driving force behind the story. This allows us civilians to connect to the subject and examine the issue on a more philosophical and personal level instead of a political one, making it more accessible to a wider audience.
Renner shines as the adrenaline junkie team leader with charisma but also an air mystery. His approach is reckless, but his talent and rock-‘n-roll style of personality gradually wins over his teammates and the viewers. But then the excitement and romanticism of the war and his hunger for action finally consumes him, to the point he is not capable of living a “normal, boring” suburban life. I find a lot of people dislike this film, saying it’s inaccurate, overrated, and boring with no plot. But to me, this movie is a successful character study, but it’s also quite thrilling to watch.
Iron Man 2
Ever since the huge success of the first Iron Man movie as the summer blockbuster hit in 2008, people have been waiting for the sequel. The recipe for sequels states that now that we have the origin story out of the way, there’s got to be more of everything, more action, more special affects, more bad-ass villains. Iron Man 2 did follow the rule, but I can’t but feel something is lacking in this popcorn flick to kick off the summer season.
Defying the first rule of concealing his secret identity as a superhero, Tony Stark (played by the ever brilliant Robert Downey, Jr.) goes on living his glamorous life filled with alcohol, wild parties, expensive gadgets, and a complete disregard of his own well-being. Meanwhile, a Russian engineer, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who believes the Stark family stole his father’s technology and thus all the glory and fortune seeks vengeance. He teams up with Stark’s jealous competitor in the weaponry industry, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). But when each man has his own agenda, all hell broke loose, and Iron Man has to get a grip to save the day once more. Between all these, he also has to deal with his failing health, SHIELDS, and of course, his only true love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Just by writing that summary, I demonstrated how contrived Iron Man 2 is. While it excels in special effects by giving the young demographic what they expect, it seriously lacks the heart and freshness of the first instalment. Although it was still a standard superhero movie, Iron Man had an emotional element by showing how Stark discover his hand in war and his internal ethical struggle. However, Iron Man 2 seems to forget all that and runs in circles, until we realize nothing much changes at the end of the 124 minutes. Judging from the release date, it’s very possible that the movie rushed its production, and there are rumours that Marvel Studio interfered with director Jon Favreau’s ideas. The result is an average action-packed summer blockbuster, dumb down more than necessary to fill in product placements and to pave the way for upcoming Marvel franchises.
However, the cast is still brilliant with what the script allows them to do. Downey is still charming and lovable as the self-absorbed Tony Stark. His chemistry with Paltrow is almost neglected in all the explosions and subplots, but the dialogues and interaction still shine in the movie. Rourke was hugely underused in this film. It seems like the casting decision was largely influenced by his revived career after The Wrestler. He does suit the character (quipped Whiplash during promotion but oddly not mentioned in the film), but there is not enough development to make the viewer to care about him. As the main villain, he is not even that threatening, but we still like to see he use Hammer and then take over everything. That shows how well Hammer was played by Sam Rockwell. He is the villain who we all love to hate. He’s a jerk, but he’s definitely very good at being a jerk. Scarlett Johansson shatters my doubt as a very young Black Widow. Her combat moves and sex appeal let her hold her own against Downey and Paltrow. Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Rhodey/War Machine. I usually like Cheadle, but he’s too serious for my taste here. That makes him an odd fit in a fast paced superhero movie like this.
Iron Man 2 is by no means a bad movie. It’s good for what it is. As a director of a superhero movie, Favreau is talented in keeping the balance of comedy and good action sequences. Again, this may be another example of failure to meet everyone’s high expectation after the success of the first film in the franchise. I don’t know the future of Iron Man movies, but I know I’ll look forward to The Avengers. With what Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson have shown in the Iron Man movies, I hope all the buzz is justifiable. I know, I know… I must not let all the hype get to my head again.