PTSD and the objectification of women – Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 (2012)

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce (screenplay) & Shane Black (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book) and Don Heck (comic book) and Larry Lieber (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle

Iron Man 3 was always going to have to compete with the success of Avengers and I for one was hoping it could live up to my incredibly high expectations. Avengers was my favourite film last year and after the bomb of a film that Iron Man 2 was I was hesitant to want to expect too much of this next instalment. But if there is one thing the Marvel Universe know how to do it is to rise to the challenge and defeat the bad guy of negative reviews. This film was incredible.

Iron Man 3 focuses on Tony Stark after the events of the Avengers film. Tony is back in his lofty life as a billionaire, play boy, philanthropist but is having troubles adjusting after saving the world by traveling through a portal into another part of the universe with a nuclear missile on his back and then falling back down to earth. And thank goodness they brought that up because if he had just gotten back on the horse after that film then he wouldn’t have been a man any more. He would be something other than the Iron Man we know and love.

Of course you have your psycho villain who wants to destroy the world again, now in the form of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and the ever so helpful rival scientist mad man of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who team up to create a formidable opponent. There are a few nice little twists to the villain which provide some good entertaining scenes, especially between Ben Kingsley and Robert Downey Jr. The expected epic battles, the near indestructible villain, and some very high tech special effects create a fast-paced and action packed ending.

But I want to talk about the middle of the film.

Tony Stark is stuck in Tennessee with a ruined suit and some kid who keeps triggering his newly discovered panic attacks. Now you would think that if Tony needed to find technology, computers, etc, then there would be a logical place to find these things, but the makers of this film have decided that a T.V. station van outside a beauty pagaent in the middle of winter when the ladies are in bikinis is completely logical. This scene infuriated me, as did the lack of any substantial female parts apart from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The reason it got to me was because comic hero films have an opportunity unlike most films to really portray all people equally awesome and with intelligence and substance, but Iron Man 3 has decided that there will be many scenes with skimpily clad ladies just standing around the men who do all the work and all the action. And I know what you’re probably thinking, “chill out! It’s just a film, it was just a small part of the film, there are strong women in the film like Pepper and Maya Hansen.” But it still bugs me and it is what I left the cinema thinking about. I want female characters I can look up to and aspire to be like. Pepper Potts is the typical damsel in distress for the majority of this film and yes Tony is a mess for most of it as well, showing the depth of character that we want. After Avengers I wanted more female leads, they started well and could have improved their rep even more, but alas it wasn’t so.

Okay, feminist rant over, now onto Tony’s PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of those things that I’ve never really experienced but seeing it on screen makes me happy that it is getting more publicity because so many war veterans suffer from it, as do those who have been through major trauma. Robert Downey Jr may not have got it bang on but Stark’s humour and flippancy are powerful contrasters for his panic attacks and especially with the kid beside him. You see Tony struggle and become powerless in his fight against the stress. The increased depth of character is something that really made this film for me. It’s balanced with the action and fits well in the plot line and pushes the character of Tony Stark to new levels.

All in all I loved this film. I will see it again and again and apart from that little issue of bikini clad women through the whole film, I really do think this is one fine comic book hero film.

4.6/5

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Why can’t great people be good people? – Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Hyde Park on Hudson – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Stars: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams

Power corrupts. The thing about seeing an American film about an American president is that it will always try and show them in a good light, at least a little bit, even if they were awful leaders. It’s the kind of patriotism I just haven’t grown up with. However, when growing up with American popular culture filtering in through the Australian television stations, music, films, etc etc., it’s hard not to understand what it means to be patriotic and to see the appeal of powerfully positioned men.

Hyde Park on Hudson is about Franklin D. Roosevelt and the weekend when the Queen and King of England came to visit. FDR (Bill Murray) is a president who made an impression. Married to one of the most outspoken and influential women in the 1940s-1950s, Eleanor Roosevelt (Olivia Williams), FDR was not the best of husbands. He had a string of lovers on the side, including his secretary Missy (Elizabeth Marvel) and his fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney). The film centres on Daisy’s arrival into FDR’s world and the start of their friendship and their hidden love affair.

Linney is perfect in this film. Her portrayal of naive yet strong Daisy is powerfully moving. Her performance is what lifts this film out from the screen and into your mind. The politics, the power of situation, the tensions, the controversies all leave the moment Linney appears and you remember that this is a film about people, just people. It is about their fears, their lies, their love, their hardships, their sadness, their passions, and the power of people’s love and forgiveness.

There is however the little issue of the whole adultery thing, and the many mistresses FDR keeps. The film portrays FDR as a nice man to begin with, then slowly as you learn of the indiscretions of FDR. It turns him from being a nice man and a good president into a cruel lover and a manipulator of position. Bill Murray’s character development in the film is flawless as he holds FDR’s character intact from beginning to end never allowing you to second guess him. It makes it both hard and easy to despise him for cheating on a great woman. And I suppose that is what you are meant to feel, just as Daisy would have. It’s just that he manipulates all these women and then expects them to accept him and his “habits”. And so I hate him for that. But the movie is compelling towards FDR as a character and the women in his life are empowered in their own ways through his position and power.

A history lesson of a different sort, this film left me feeling like no great and powerful men are good and nice people. It’s disheartening and pessimistic I know but it’s the feeling I was left with even with the feeling of sadness for the state of the world.

3.5/5

I will have nightmares – Trance

Trance - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Trance – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Trance (2013)

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel

You know how there are films, actors, directors, etc, that people keep telling you are extraordinary and you definitely need to see their films? Yea, me too. I’m usually the one telling people that they MUST watch this or that for reasons I can never verbalise in person without deteriorating into complete nerd state (yes high-pitched squealing included). Danny Boyle is one of those directors who I’ve heard the name of in different scenarios and people have raved about. And so when Trance was realised I was excited because, you know, Danny Boyle directed it; and James McAvoy is in it; and it’s sci-fi thriller; it’s right up my twisted alley. But five minutes into the film I remembered what Boyle was famous for: Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire and the London Olympics. Two films that, although are cinematically and narratively brilliant, I never wanted to watch a second time.  And Trance is another one of those films. I shall put it into my box of “Films I’ll never watch again” along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vanilla Sky, A Clockwork Orange, and a whole array of others.

Trance is about Simon (McAvoy) who is an art auctioneer at a reputable auction house in London. He teams up with criminal Frank (Vincent Cassel) to steal a painting to repay his gambling debts. But he gets knocked out, forgets where he put the painting and so Frank is a bit cranky at Simon. Who wouldn’t be if you’d just lost $25mil? Their solution to recovering Simon’s memory is to send him to a hypnotherapist. Coz that is always the answer. The hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) they choose at random ends up being a little more than expected. And so begins the trippy adventure. Trance is comparable to Inception in that you never really know whether the scene you are witnessing is real or part of the hypnotherapy. But it does grab you and yanks you along through the confusion and delusion of Simon to recover the events of what happened to the lost painting.

James McAvoy has this wonderful but eery ability to make you like Simon even when you find out what kind of person he is. He  captures the character so flawlessly that when the twisted world unravels it’s hard to believe. McAvoy is perfection in this role as you want him to get away with it even at the end. Rosario Dawson is also the perfect fit for her role as the hypnotherapist as she portrays a smartness and power that is hard to do, especially when using sexual power to manipulate. The slow reveal of the truth with Danny Boyle’s shifty, unfocused cinematic craft gives this film a very dark feel and doesn’t leave you with a happy ending. The film unveils the narrative in a clever form, using the cuts and glimpses, the voice-over and soundtrack, to produce a thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.

I probably won’t rave about this film because there were parts of it that were visually disturbing – I think Boyle has issues with bodily functions and probably needs therapy – but it was a thrilling ride.

3/5