Monday, December 22, 2008

Movie Commentary: Iron Man

If you're wondering, I finally saw Iron Man last night.

As I have mentioned in the past, Iron Man is one of my all-time favorite superheroes. It has at least a little bit to do with the second season of the Iron Man cartoon from way back (intro here), and also to do with the fact that that Iron Man is sort of what Batman would be like if he actually made some kind of logical sense and wasn't simultaneously trying to be DC's version of Wolverine (i.e. the non-ultrapowerful guy who can trash all the ultrapowerful guys by flicking his pinky and his fan base in their general direction).

I also really like the armor for some reason.

So I was much more emotionally invested in this movie than, say, any of the Batman movies ever (I've pretty much decided I'll never deliberately watch any of them) or even the Spider-Man movies (the way they did Doctor Octopus just didn't work for me, something I may discuss at some point).

And I wasn't disappointed.

There are lots of little details that really worked. In ways, it seems rather like they were using the cartoon as more of a template than the comic-the iconic chest-mounted life-saving gadget thingy, for instance (though for all I know something similar was in the comic; I've just always been under the impression that he was usually wearing something much bigger in the comics till he got the old shrapnel in his heart junk removed), and also their conversion of Jarvis into a house computer (in the cartoon, the house 'puter was named Homer and had a green holographic avatar).

One thing I loved was the modification of the repulsors into this multifunction blaster/thruster combination. When Tony is testing out his arm unit when Pepper walks in, and remarks "it's completely harmless" you just know it's going to blow something up.

Lots of people, I know, don't make a big fuss about the little technical details, but I obviously love them when they're interesting, and they were in this movie.

The movie also addresses, indirectly, the question "why don't you just put that stuff in a big tank thing and get an even better weapon? Nothing says you couldn't!" Tony doesn't put his Iron Man weaponry into anything bigger than a personal suit because he doesn't want to. Stane puts the weapons into a suit the size of a small tank (he doesn't have quite as many slick weapons, but still sticks to the same technology-he's operating on different principles entirely) and gets something much stronger in a straight fight-because he wants to. Obviously, I'm simplifying considerably when I say this, but this explains so much of what happens in the movie.

The movie also has something in it which I've refered to before, which I will here call the "Spaceknight effect." Watching Iron Man blow away and physically crush the terrorists can be very unsettling. (Perhaps my empathy has improved, or perhaps I've just been seeing more things with this in them lately. I don't know.) It balanced out a bit with bits that struck me as funny-the part where the Mark I's arm gets jammed in the cave wall, so some guy walks up and tries to pop him off, but gets hit by the ricochet, the bit where he pops up out of the crater he crashed into after he was shot down by the tank (the ash on his mask made him look really mad), and the bit where he takes the guy who had been leading the purge expedition and says "he's all yours" and throws him at the villagers' feet, with a brief Robocop punch-through-wall-and-grab-that-guy bit (okay, that's not funny, but it's edifying). Moments like Iron Man's shoulder needle missile things popping up and killing fifteen guys in the span of a breath were very scary.

On the other hand, I love they way they characterized Iron Man. A lazy bum at the beginning, but only because he's confident in the world, and so he's chosen to resign from it beyond his creating technology to help it. When it comes down to it, he does care, and that's important. The way he cares doesn't strike me as heavy-handed or excessively moralizing-he realizes that he's helped kill people that he genuinely (if distantly at first) cared for, and his seeming 180 is a result of his guilt over what is essentially the shattering of his secure worldview. And he makes it clear through his actions that he cares, because he takes risks to avoid bringing others to harm-notably in his efforts to save the airman whose chute doesn't deploy, while the wingman is right there and ready to open fire on him.

Also, while writing a sense of humor into Iron Man apparently isn't what has always been done, it's pretty much necessary for the character from my perspective. Don't ask me what it is, but for some reason, if you can't at least quirk an eyebrow at him, he doesn't work as well. (I don't know that much historically about Iron Man's portrayal-I know that at times he's been funny in the comics.)

The movie as cinema? I liked it. I was a little surprised at Stane's betrayal of the Ten Rings (suppose I shouldn't have been), but I guessed early on (like, the first time I saw footage of some bald guy from the film, and read that there was an Iron Monger prop that had been spotted on the set) that he'd be the big bad of the film itself-I mean, come on, he's freaking Obadiah "Iron Monger" Stane. And yes, I picked up on who the Ten Rings sort of is. I have to admit, some of the bits where he was putting the moves on women put me off a bit (it's good they removed the Dubai house scene), but it's a part of the character-like James Bond, or for that matter like Batman if Batman took that seriously.

Making Stane Tony's "mentor" is kind of a "Spider-Man Movification" of the character, but it works really well here. And unlike Spider-Man 2's version of Doc Ock, Stane is as greedy and coldhearted an *untranscribable* as he was in the comics. (It's also interesting that they cut out Stane's being monomaniacal to the point of death aspect, as he committed suicide in the comics.)

Also, I'm very amused that Tony spontaneously threw out the bodyguard explanation for the Iron Man identity and proclaimed that he actually was Iron Man during the press conference. Obviously, they weren't worried about being slaves to the comics.

-Signing off.

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