Last weekend, Joe and I saw Ironman II. This week we saw Robin Hood.
Joe loved Ironman II.
Joe hated Robin Hood. He said it was unrealistic.
Hmmmm . . . a man flying around in a red metal suit, who invents his own atomic particle to ensure that he doesn’t die from blood poisoning stemming from the energy thingamig that lives in his chest is realistic? I see.
Ironman II is standard comic book fare. A cocky hero, a funky toothed villain, and a waifish heroine masquerading as a corporate CEO — and I say masquerading not because this is her super hero disguise, but Pepper Pots is no Donald Trump, nor is she Mary Kaye, but rather she is a simpering pouter, who occasionally gets a good line here or there, but spends most of her time fretting about her boss and love of her life, Tony Stark. And, a superhero movie really is only as good as it’s villain, and while Mickey Rourke is always a bit whacked, he wasn’t really a compelling villain. A compelling villain in a comic book needs to be a bit over the top, and for all of his gadgets, and all of his metal teeth, and his snake like laser weapon thingies, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash is kind of blah. I wasn’t really moved by the history behind his desire for revenge, and really, what’s a mad scientist without one “Mwah ha ha!” Mickey Rourke is just not a “Mwah ha ha!” kind of guy. He’s a quiet, reflective villain, who you know would cut your toes off and have them for dinner, but since its not a scary movie, and you’re never really concerned that’s going to happen, Whiplash is just a bit too flat.
So, I guess to beef up the villainy, there’s another villain, in the form of a rival weapon’s manufacturer, Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, who breaks Whiplash out of jail in order to use his scientific brilliance to replicate the Iron Man suit, and therefore help him win a gazillion dollar defense contract with the government. Hammer is not evil, he’s just annoying. He’s not a villain, he’s a boob. And every time he’s on screen, all you can think is, “not that guy again!”
And Tony Stark? I’m always happy to see Robert Downey, Jr. do well – he’s like a client who succeeded on parole (because he is someone’s client who succeeded on parole), but again, it’s the villain that drives a super hero movie, and Downey’s Tony Stark is competent enough – the appropriate quips, the inner angst, the creativity of a master inventor – but in the end, he’s not cool – not really, he’s a goofball.
Cool is Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood.
But, coolness aside – since Crowe’s Robin Hood is just another version of his Gladiator, again, a superhero movie – and have no doubt, Robin Hood is just as much a superhero as Iron Man, but with an engraved sword, and a trusty bow and arrow – is only as good as its villains. And the villains in Robin Hood are snearingly delightful. Evil Godfrey, the traitor, a scarred, marked man, pillages, plunders, burns and mwah ha ha’s his way through England. Ok, so we don’t know why he is a Frenchie, even though he was nursed at the same bosom as Evil King John, but who cares! And Evil King John, very evil indeed, excellent.
And heroines? No contest – Cate Blanchett’s Marion could smack down Gwyneth’s Pepper Potts with a fly swatter. Blanchett’s Marion is fiece, and even though her appearance towards the end of the movie in the climactic battle scene was what killed it for Joe (not that she was fighting, but rather how she got there and who she got there with) – I can say no more without a spoiler – I was just as ok with her in that scene, as I was with Scarlett Johannson in her teeny tiny leather outfit clobbering 25 armed men without anything other than her slick moves and finishing “hi-yas!” in Iron Man.
Better friends? Merry Men and Friar Tuck or War Machine – I’ll take the mead drinking lads over the guy who steals your weapon suit any day. Better weapon – hmm, bow and arrow v. super duper collosal weapon suit, ok, we’ll give it to the suit. Better villain – no questions, Godfrey, King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham kick Whiplashes and the boob’s derriere. Heroine? Cate, who wields swords, plants fields, manages a 5000 acre estate, stays true to her missing husband for 10 long years, avenges her dead father in law, and has great dogs versus Gwyneth, who, um, does nothing.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t really like either movie very much – but if you only have time to hit up one, I’d go with Robin Hood.