This will be quite an unpopular opinion, I expect, but I certainly enjoyed this movie more than our first selection in this series, Iron Man. I don’t think either are good movies, by any means, and if someone decided that she liked IM better, I would take no issue with that, but for my particular intersection, I enjoyed this movie more. There wasn’t anything for me to actively hate, so that was nice.
I kinda like this poster. It’s nice.
Those who saw this movie and were trying to warn me away tended to focus on two things; it made no sense and Liv Tyler’s character (Betty) was a giant trope.
My main problem was that this didn’t feel like a movie, it felt like somebody’s notes for a movie, collated together from a large number of cocktail napkins. There were many elements here that just do not go anywhere. Some of them are interesting in their own right, or at the very least, you can see how they could be interesting, but they don’t come together to form any kind of coherent narrative or logically consistent setting.
The entire sequence in Brazil was rather like this. I feel like I watched the outline to a whole other movie. Bruce’s struggle to control his condition through the healing power of martial arts, his relationship with Random Woman and their shared battle against the Sexual Harassment Squad, (there was something there, right? They were holding hands and kissing on the mouth…) his dog, his fight to keep the factory running despite the poverty around him… Like, it’s there, and it’s interesting, but none of these things sticks around long enough to do anything.
Then there is Mr. Blue. Who is this man? How did he and Bruce get in touch? How does he know anything about Gamma poisoning? And then we meet him and he’s a fucking weirdo. Fine, I guess, but what is his story, how is he involved in any of this? There’s an arc in there where he’s so carried away with this whole “power that man was never meant to have” thing that he helps the scary Englishman, but we don’t see any of it.
This is the same problem both of the antagonists had. The General was a generic military bad-guy who just wants to blow everything up and damn the consequences, but it was also clear that his thing with Bruce was personal. Or, like, personalish. It makes sense that he was upset that his daughter was hurt in that thing that was a montage over the title sequence, but it was also quite clear he was involved in this whole thing before that. Why is this Super Solider thing so important to him that it’s clearly more important than his daughter?
And then there is Emil Bronsky, the badass soldier played by a man who looks like he’s a hundred pounds soaking wet. Whatever, I’m sure his skills and fitness make up for that. Why is he the way he is? Like, I get that he’s a man who loves to fight and wants to push the envelope on his abilities, but like, why? That’s not a character, it’s a casting call blurb. What’s his motivation? If you’re going to have a character go to the kinds of extremes Bronsky does, he needs a little more than that. You can honeypot a really compelling and tragic arc for this man, but it’s not on the screen.
It’s obvious to me that they wanted to avoid “yet another origin story” but they didn’t deal with this being thrown into the middle very well. How did Bruce get involved in this? This project must have meant something to him if he was willing to experiment on himself, right? His relationship with Betty is even worse in this regard. Did they meet through this project? Why are they so in love? It kind of amounts to, “wow, I guess those guys were close once.”
Speaking of the past, the timeline in this movie is wonky. Like, he walked from Guatemala to Virginia in 17 days? He sends a blood sample to Mr. Blue and then within, what, a month, he has bags and bags of synthesized blood and a whole lab full of experimental animals? It’s not quite ravens going through wormholes, but it’s weird.
Another thing that is just a little weird; the “comedy beats”. Like, Betty getting blue balls and screaming at a cabby was moderately humourous, but it kind of gives you tone whiplash in this… um, what is the tone of this movie supposed to be? It’s dark, right?
So let’s discuss Dr. Elizabeth Ross. Oh, Betty. You need to get a life.
She’s often cited as the most egregious recent example of the Cooldown Hug Girl, the Living Emotional Crutch who uses the Power of Love to Soothe the Savage Beast, complete with the line “I know you’re in there somewhere”. Yeah, this is tropey, guys.
And she’s the General’s daughter. Like, of course she is… There’s really no reason for her to be his daughter, except for some halfhearted drama for the General. And the implications of things like this always make me uncomfortable. Are we supposed to think that the only way she could get a job on a project like this is if her dad is in charge, because she couldn’t possibly be a capable scientist in her own right? It’s not an overwhelming implication, but it’s enough to make me look askance at it.
And what is up with her new boyfriend. He’s minor and incidental, yet he gets that slight moment of awesome when he stands up to the General. He seems like a mesch, I guess. He might actually be an interesting character if he didn’t come out of nowhere and then disappear with as much ceremony.
Betty isn’t a horrible character; she has a personality and is assertive without being Sassy™, but there is just no denying she has no existence outside of Bruce. Oh, we’re TOLD that she’s a practicing scientist, and that she’s trying to move on with this new man of hers, but what we see is her giving up her whole life for this guy when he pops up again after five years and completely disregarding her own safety for his sake.
In general, I understand why this movie is not beloved by anyone; it is damn boring. But I don’t think it quite deserved the violence with which I was told to avoid it. It was a failure on a story and character level, and Betty Ross was rather disappointing, but this movie never really hurt anyone.
Join me in the near future for Iron Man 2! Yay?