Iron Man: The Movie *****

Matt Barton's picture

Iron ManIron ManI have to admit, I wasn't very optimistic about the movie adaptation of one of my favorite comic book superheroes, Iron Man. I read the comic growing up and always loved Iron Man because, unlike most of Marvel's other heroes, his powers were based on science and reasoning rather than random events (bitten by a radioactive spider, mutations, etc.) I also thought Tony Stark's character was interesting, particularly when he was in a wheelchair and suffering from alcoholism. He always seemed more mature and sophisticated than many of the other heroes. I guess there's probably not many of us techie geeks who can't appreciate Iron Man to some level.

Of course I feared the worst when it came to the movie--would they go-over-the-top like they did with Spiderman, turning Peter Parker from a shy and sensitive teen into a parody of nerdiness? Would they rely on cheezy CGI too much for the Iron Man scenes (Incredible Hulk)? Would it become an extended product placement segment (Transformers)? Would it be all action and simplistic moral tales (X-Men)?

Thankfully, Iron Man surpasses all these movies and ranks near the top of my shortlist of superhero movies. Indeed, the only movies I think can really compare with it are the first Batman (not the 60s one, though I like it) and Superman movies. Finally we get a nuanced character and supporting cast we can care about rather than dismiss as stereotypes. Even the villain in Iron Man is likable, though granted his transformation into "psychosis" at the end is a bit hard to swallow. My only regret is that the movie ends on the stale-as-year-old-wedding-cake "showdown" at the end, even though it totally wasn't necessary and actually detracts from the drama.

There are some huge changes from the comic book. That may bother some people, naturally, but I think it works. The idea here is that Tony Stark is abducted by terrorists (he's visiting Afghanistan, I think). He's a famous weapons designer, so naturally the terrorists want him to build a super missile for them. At first he refuses, but then has the idea of fooling them into thinking he's making the missile when in reality he's constructing his prototype super suit. This part does stretch credulity a bit; I mean, come on, how stupid could these terrorists be? Nevertheless, you can't help but say "Oh, HELL yeah!!" when Iron Man makes his debut, putting some major smackdown on the terrorists. Then you start looking forward to what will happen next, because Tony lets us know that this was just a crude prototype--the next one will be ten times better. The expectations are high, and amazingly, the movie delivers. This whole segment is also a nice allusion to the comics; Iron Man's first suit did look very crude compared to the later models. The special effects and gadgetry throughout the movie are amazing; they look very convincing and will have you dreaming about them for weeks. I can't wait to get my hands on that hologram display!

What makes Iron Man really work is the effective humor. Imagine the efforts at humor in Transformers and ratchet it up a few notches. There are plenty of hilarious scenes, but they're also character-building scenes. When you see Tony launch himself into a wall, you laugh, but also feel sympathy for this guy who's willing to endure pain and humiliation to reach his goals. He never shows any sign of giving up despite some pretty serious injuries and a social and professional life that's falling apart around him. As always, Stan Lee makes an appearance, but I bet you'll never guess what role he's in (it's a wonderful gag).

All in all, the only part of the movie I thought was weak was the typical Hollywood-esque supermatch at the end. I know it's a "comic book movie" and you simply must have something like this, but I really hoped Iron Man would be different. It almost seems like they really had to stretch the bounds of credulity to set it up, and I was scratching my head even while I was enjoying the effects. Another, smaller caveat is the treatment of the terrorists. They are depicted as cardboard villains, purely evil with no trace of sanity or commitment to any cause whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from a peacenik on these matters, but I think the movie could have been more effective if we could have found some small way to sympathize with them (maybe the movie could have shown how they were deluded/defrauded by sinister clerics, twisted on revenge, etc.) Another opportunity is lost when Tony's doctor in the terrorist camp turns out to be a fellow prisoner with zero sympathy as well. Again, I think it would've been better if he had been allied with the terrorists, though perhaps also sympathetic to Tony. Heck, the movie even shows the natives hating the terrorists just as much as the Americans. I find that a bit hard to swallow. Nevertheless, it's very satisfying when Iron Man shows up to set things right, and yes, I know that "it's a comic book movie" and everything is supposed to be black and white. As a lifetime comic book lover, I have to disagree with that. The best comics are anything but black and white, and far from simplistic. Hell, take the recent Civil War event in Marvel comics; no WAY that was simple black and white.

Anyway, as usual I'm fixating on the negatives and not extolling the positives enough, so GO SEE THIS FILM NOW. I loved it and heartily give it 4/4 stars!

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yakumo9275
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Havnt seen it, probably wont

Havnt seen it, probably wont see it. (Never saw spiderman3 either.. dont remember if i saw#2)... I can see it now.

Terrorist1: He's building us a super missile!
Terrorist2: Neat! It looks like a person with a face and all, not like a missile.
Terrorist1: Thats because whoever we fire it at will be too busy thinking its superman before they go bewm!

I see it was usurped at the box office by prince caspian...

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Iron Man - I'd like to see it...
yakumo9275 wrote:

I see it was usurped at the box office by prince caspian...

-- Stu --

Yep, but not before blowing past the $200 million mark in the US alone...

I'd like to see it, but I think my wife and I will have our girls babysat for the new Indiana Jones film instead... (we basically get one chance every few months)



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adamantyr
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Iron Man *spoilers*

Yes, Iron Man was superb... I've a feeling it's going to be a more enjoyable experience than the Crystal Skull, actually.

Concerning the terrorists, they WERE watching them. But Tony and Yinsen took great pains to hide what they were working on. Tony wrote out the prototype suit plans on multiple pieces of translucent paper, so that by themselves, the parts didn't appear like a suit. And the terrorists knew something was amiss; they were commenting how it didn't LOOK like a missile, and they eventually brought the boss in to investigate. Who also knew something was up, but frankly, who would have expected Tony to create a suit of powered armor? And none of them got the significance of the mini-arc reactor that Tony built for himself either. (If you check on Wikipedia, someone noted that 3 giga-joules of power is over 15 times the reactor output of an aircraft carrier.)

I rather enjoyed Jeff Bridge's Stane interpretation because he really seemed like a regular Bridges character, affable, friendly, and a good guy. I agree that his transformation into pure evil at the end was very shocking... enough to be a bit unbelievable. The inference is that he's not only greedy and meglomaniacal, he also has a low opinion of Tony Stark. Possibly he was jealous of Tony's inherent genius? In the movie time-line, I could see the possibility that Stane was the one responsible for Howard Stark's death.

And wow did I like Gwennyth Paltrow's version of Pepper Potts. I especially liked her reaction when Tony showed up at the charity event, and she was really nervous dancing with him... Not because she didn't like it, but because she's worked hard to keep her professional relationship with Tony separate from her own feelings. Tony, of course, sees no problem with this, like any typical guy. :)

David Torre
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I'm sorry, I have to

I'm sorry, I have to disagree with your comment that said X-men was "all action and simplistic moral tales". The first two X-men movies were deep and engaging, with character development and real-life allusions. The whole mutant phenomenon, as delivered by director Bryan Singer, is a metaphor for oppression. Look at some of the speeches delivered by Senator Kelly, find the word mutant and replace it with black or gay and you hear common arguments used to discriminate against these peoples. Perhaps the funniest payoff of this whole idea is Iceman's "coming out" scene when he reveals he's a mutant to his parents. The mom immediately says, "Have you ever tried NOT being a mutant?" Again substitute mutant for gay and you have a portrayal of what coming out is like for thousands of teens.

X-men is probably the best comic book adaptation along with the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films.

Matt Barton
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X-Men
David Torre wrote:

I'm sorry, I have to disagree with your comment that said X-men was "all action and simplistic moral tales". The first two X-men movies were deep and engaging, with character development and real-life allusions. The whole mutant phenomenon, as delivered by director Bryan Singer, is a metaphor for oppression. Look at some of the speeches delivered by Senator Kelly, find the word mutant and replace it with black or gay and you hear common arguments used to discriminate against these peoples. Perhaps the funniest payoff of this whole idea is Iceman's "coming out" scene when he reveals he's a mutant to his parents. The mom immediately says, "Have you ever tried NOT being a mutant?" Again substitute mutant for gay and you have a portrayal of what coming out is like for thousands of teens.

X-men is probably the best comic book adaptation along with the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films.

Yes, I was aware (even painfully aware) of that metaphor; I just felt like it was about as subtle as one of Shane's rants. :) Simplistic is probably too strong a word, but I always felt I was being emotionally manipulated rather than invited to explore a serious and complex social issue. As you well know, being gay is not a black and white issue, and few people are really easy to peg as pro- or anti-; my guess is most people have mixed feelings. The one part of X-Men I found powerful was the bird man (can't remember his name in the movie) and his relationship with his father (as I recall, this was the Senator you mentioned, but I could be wrong). That segment did have some resonance for me. Even that, though, seemed a bit ham-fisted; I would have preferred a bit more torturous emotional wrangling for both parties. :)

If anyone were ever foolish enough to put me at the helm of a picture like X-Men, I would make it ambiguous and complex, with no easy solutions and definitely nothing that you'd walk away from feeling closure. I know they tried to expand with Magneto, but they just seem to lack the guts to make a truly multifaceted character. In the end you always have to have the good guys and the bad guys being very clear cut and unambiguous. The comic books have grown up beyond that duality, and I'd like to see the movies based on comics to take a similar leap forward. For instance, the Iron Man comics have Tony Stark as director of SHIELD, and it isn't at all clear whether he's on the right side or not. Spiderman was on Iron Man's side for awhile about superhero registration, but then got disgruntled and switched sides (to join with Captain America). The whole Civil War event is loaded with very difficult situations that simply defy easy solutions; either way, somebody is going to be screwed. I *love* that. I'm tired of shallow fare; throw me in with the lions. :)

One thing I loved about Iron Man was that you didn't get any real closure with the Pepper/Tony relationship--they left that part hanging. I liked that better than if they'd given in and had them making out and having sex at the end. They've tried to do something like that with Peter Parker and Mary Jane in the movies, but again that seems forced. I just don't feel convinced that Peter Parker would really reject MJ for the reasons posited in the film. Doesn't add up to me. The comics weren't necessarily good either; I always thought it was just stupid that Peter Parker would end up with a supermodel or actress--too blatant of an adolescent fantasy. I actually thought his relationship with Black Cat was far more interesting, particularly when she got obsessed with him.

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Bill Loguidice
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Superhero films

I have to agree that the X-Men films lacked subtlety in their message. I also thought the three films were somewhat wasted in that they were always under some type of oppression/suppression when there could have been more interesting fighting. They weren't bad films by any stretch of the imagination, but I just wanted more than they ultimately offered. On the other hand I found all three Spider-Man films combined just the right amount of everything for my tastes...



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Matt Barton
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Not to ruin it for everyone,

Not to ruin it for everyone, but my most trusted critic just lambasted the new Indiana Jones movie. Apparently it's very disappointing. Still, I'm sure I'll trudge along to see it, though I may want to rent the original trilogy first to freshen up on the storyline and characters.

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Bill Loguidice
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Indy
Matt Barton wrote:

Not to ruin it for everyone, but my most trusted critic just lambasted the new Indiana Jones movie. Apparently it's very disappointing. Still, I'm sure I'll trudge along to see it, though I may want to rent the original trilogy first to freshen up on the storyline and characters.

There are some interesting opinions in the review that seem like the kind of things that would play differently per person, so I still hold out some hope for enjoying it. Not a Shia fan though...



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Bill Loguidice
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More Indy Movie Reviews

A good Indy review: http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2008/05/review-indiana.html

Another bad one: http://movies.yahoo.com/mv/news/va/20080518/121115565200.html



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In general
Matt Barton wrote:

Still, I'm sure I'll trudge along to see it, though I may want to rent the original trilogy first to freshen up on the storyline and characters.

Personally, I don't think that this is necessary at all. Also one may find that the earlier movies are better than the last installment people waited nearly twenty years for (from what I've read).

Re: X-Men
I liked the movies but that may be because I generally never got a kick out of superhero comics as a child. The only cool hero was Batman at the time and the movie with Jack Nicholson is still the gold standard for movies based on comics, IMHO.
The X-Men movies stand well on their own, however, and with the exception of the (sadly) PG-rated Wolverine I liked the evil-doers the most - but that's no wonder: They clearly have the most creative superpower scenes and abilities and cause more havoc. The good mutants are more of comedians in the movies (except one or two tragic scenes of course).

Never liked the comics *and* the movies of Superman, though.

take care,
Calibrator

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