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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Bill Loguidice
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Superhero flicks
Calibrator wrote:
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.

I personally consider the gold standard the Spider-Man trilogy, and they even improved the awful CGI from the first film as the series went on. I think I had the most overall fun with Superman II (possibly due to being a kid and seeing it a bazillion times on cable) as that was the first to truly combine all kinds of elements in it, including finally some kick-ass action sequences, so I have to give "props" (ugh) where it's due (and Chris Reeves had charisma, unlike Brandon Roth and the putrid movie he was in). Of course I also love the subdued "Unbreakable", which kind of turned the whole genre on its ear.

I'll be honest - I never liked Tim Burton's original Batman even though I saw it in the theaters with my friends in my teenage years. Of the Batman films (I never saw the recent one with Christian Bale), I actually like Batman Returns the most, though of course that is generally widely hated. I would probably put the first Val Kilmer one second, followed by the first Batman film. I won't even count the miserable failure of a movie with George Clooney and Arnold S in it...

By the way, Christina and I may try to re-watch the original Indy Trilogy on DVD again before going to see it... We've always wanted to do something like that, but never seemed to get a chance.



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Matt Barton
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Well, I think part of the

Well, I think part of the problem with comic book movies is that we all tend to build up expectations that may or may not fit the comics and the resulting movie. I heard a student once going on and on about how great the original He-Man cartoons were; he'd basically imagined all sorts of elements and a level of quality. When he saw the cartoons again on DVD, he was sorely disappointed. I think the same would happen if people who have such high hopes for a character like Wolverine actually go back into the comics and see what's there. The comics always hint and suggest that he's a dirty harry kind of character, but he ends up being too tame. The mainstream comics (at least the ones I've read) seldom have the guts to get that dark. Even the villains often seem more abstract than truly evil, though I've seen exceptions.

The first few minutes of Iron Man really stand out to me, because there you have a direct connection to real life. Personally, I think that's when superhero comics are at their best--they are used to explore contemporary social issues from a variety of intriguing perspectives, and sometimes even the comic book writers aren't sure what will happen. The worst are the by-the-numbers type that are predictable by the third frame.

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Rob Daviau
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I wont go see it as I rarely

I wont go see it as I rarely go to theatres BUT looking forward to the DVD, of course there are bad reviews, when something is big and popular it gets you more attention to give a bad review, I mean come on, it's Harrison and Spielberg I show it will live up to exactly what I expect, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's some of the biggest most profitable movies that have the biggest fan followings often rate low with the "Critics", good thing I never follow any of their advice because I'd have missed a lot of good flicks!

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Matt Barton
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Critics
Oldschoolgamer wrote:

I wont go see it as I rarely go to theatres BUT looking forward to the DVD, of course there are bad reviews, when something is big and popular it gets you more attention to give a bad review, I mean come on, it's Harrison and Spielberg I show it will live up to exactly what I expect, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's some of the biggest most profitable movies that have the biggest fan followings often rate low with the "Critics", good thing I never follow any of their advice because I'd have missed a lot of good flicks!..

This is precisely why I calibrate my critics very carefully and over an extended period of time before trusting them. For instance, I like James Barardinelli (sp?) because when I look up my favorite movies on his site, I find our tastes are very similar. I don't tend to put much stock in "meta-critics" and so on because it's really a matter of personal and individual taste; just because something is popular or unpopular doesn't really help me decide.

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Bill Loguidice
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Iron Man = Great

My wife and saw Iron Man in lieu of Indiana Jones due to timing tonight and I must say that we both really, really loved the movie. Even if we would have also liked Indiana Jones, Iron Man was a great film and well worth one of our very limited chances to see a movie. The only thing I didn't really like was the clumsy Burger King product placement. It also had one of the longest end credit sequences (list of names) that I've ever seen, but at least there was indeed a payoff at the end of it...



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Matt Barton
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What was the payoff? I

What was the payoff? I probably would have stayed, but had a friend with us and didn't want to "punish" him by making him sit through all that.

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Bill Loguidice
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The final Iron Man scene after 10 minutes of credits
Matt Barton wrote:

What was the payoff? I probably would have stayed, but had a friend with us and didn't want to "punish" him by making him sit through all that.

Basically, Samuel Jackson comes out as Nick Fury of SHIELD and says, "So, you're Iron Man, huh?", "Do you really think you're the only super hero out there?", "Let me tell you about the AVENGERS initiative"... etc. So you know where that's headed...



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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