Posts Tagged ‘Robert Downey Jr.’

David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ explores the complicated saga of a twisted California killer

February 23, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 23, 2018

David Fincher’s sprawling 2007 thriller, Zodiac, tells the true story of the hunt for a notorious California serial killer through the eyes of a cop tasked with finding him and a cartoonist who became obsessed with the case.

The movie begins on the evening of July 4, 1969, when a gunman fatally shot a 22-year-old waitress and seriously wounded her friend in Vallejo, and ends with a short coda in the early 1980s. (This was actually the Zodiac’s second confirmed attack.) Although one of the last scenes shows Mike Mageau, the survivor of that Vallejo incident, identifying a suspect as his assailant, no one was ever formally charged with the Zodiac’s murders.

That lack of closure is one of several frustrating things about Zodiac, which begins as a rather conventional movie about a serial killer and then evolves into something more complicated.

Early on, the narrative focuses on a crime reporter and political cartoonist at San Francisco Chronicle, to which the killer repeatedly sent missives, and depicts a number of vicious attacks. After one of these — the October 11, 1969, killing of cab driver Paul Stine — two San Francisco homicide detectives steal much of the spotlight.

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A battered but not fully humbled Tony Stark battles terrorists and mutants in ‘Iron Man 3’

May 22, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 22, 2013

The conundrum of the superhero story is simple: A superhero by definition is powerful, but easily resolved conflicts are boring. Therefore, in order to make an interesting superhero tale, his or her or their victory must be difficult to obtain.

Often superhero movie, television and comic book writers make victory hard to secure by pitting the protagonist against a supervillain, an antagonist so strong that the hero’s extraordinary strength is at least partially neutralized. Sometimes the hero is shorn of his abilities. And quite often — see Superman II, a classic of the superhero genre — the writers use a combination of these solutions.

That’s the case in Iron Man 3, where the eponymous hero arrogantly invites an enemy attack upon his home and pays a steep price. Consequently, billionaire genius and ex-playboy Tony Stark (the scintillating Robert Downey Jr.) spends most of this movie — even most of the climactic battle! — outside of the exoskeleton that is the source of his superpowers.

There are two advantages to this approach. One is that it allows us to see more of Downey’s expressive and entertaining face. Another is that it makes this cocky hero incredibly vulnerable.

Will Stark be able to save the president from the Mandarin, his terrorist superfoe? Will he be able to save the love of his life (and the CEO of Stark Industries), Pepper Potts, from a sinister genetic engineer? Heck, will Stark even be able to save himself from low-level goons tied to these shadowy figures?

Isolated and exposed as Stark is, the movie induces real doubt as to what the diminished hero can accomplish.

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