he was turned to steel in the great magnetic field

This week’s media blow incorporates the latest in Stark repulsor technology.

Iron Man: Dude. Iron Man. Dude. Iron Man.


Jon Favreau directed perhaps the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen (short of The Incredibles). I suspect he pulled this off because he made a priority of making a good movie first, and a superhero movie second. Favreau wandered through the same minefield that every superhero movie does but emerged unscathed. Let’s take a look:

Tedious Origin Story: Robert Downey Jr, as playboy millionaire Tony Stark, spends the first half of the movie inventing his suit, testing its powers and reveling in his new identity. Why does this work, when it failed for other movies? Because Tony Stark makes Iron Man. He didn’t wake up one morning with super-strength and wall-stickiness. He didn’t get struck by lightning after being dosed by chemicals. The process of experimentation and forging invests us more than following the blithe adventures of a lucky idiot.

Wacky Villains: When you adapt a comic book to the big screen, you realize that guys in blue tights or villains in green and yellow costumes look ridiculous in the real world. Seriously. They look like cartoons. No one would take them seriously. Favreau avoids this by retaining the same names and general ideas, but completely revamping them for a modern story. I won’t spoil the connections for comic book purists – just pay close attention to what people say.

I … Will Avenge … You: As fun as Spider-Man was, I had a hard time with a movie where everyone took everything they said so seriously. Tobey Maguire couldn’t tell someone he needed milk from the store without a wistful look in his eyes and stern resolution in his jawline. But Downey, Terence Howard and Jeff Bridges talk just like regular people talk. They talk over each other, sometimes. They throw off-hand remarks. They’re regular people who just happen to have access to incredible weaponry.

Well, My Work Here Is Done: I never realized how weak the traditional superhero origin story sounded until walking out of Iron Man. Okay, I have super powers. I’m going to put on a costume to avenge my parents’ / family’s / neighbor’s death. Having finished that, rather than return to a normal life, I’ll keep doing this, going after lower and lower stakes until I die or get tired of it. Stark’s purpose in becoming Iron Man doesn’t stop after the first film’s villain buys it, though. He has a clear goal in mind: ridding the world of the weaponry his company created. That goal may expand (it’ll probably have to, to keep the franchise going), but at least he starts with a logical reason for superheroics.

Flip the Script: In addition to surviving and improving on all the standard superhero movie tropes, Iron Man flips several on its head. These will not only entertain your average comic book fan, but will keep the casual moviegoer from rolling their eyes at the awkward suspension of disbelief.

I recommend this film without qualification.

I may discuss some spoilers in the comments, so tread with care.

11 Responses

  1. He has a clear goal in mind: ridding the world of the weaponry his company created.

    I think his goal is actually to keep the weapons he created from being used for evilz, but that’s probably nitpicking.

  2. I think it works because any character described as a “playboy millionaire” is inherently awesome.

    Oh, and don’t forget the adorable robots. Adorable robots who try SO hard!

  3. Alex – Either or. I don’t think he trusts anyone other than himself (or possibly Jim Rhodes, as of the sequel) to use his weapons justly. That’s why he’s not selling Iron Man suits to the Navy. The radical anti-imperialist in me would like to see Stark go toe-to-toe with a U.S. carrier group, but that’s not too likely. šŸ™‚

    Squirrel – It amazes me that a faceless, voiceless mechanical arm can act more expressively than Ben Affleck (Daredevil) could.

  4. Agreed with your review – Iron Man was FLIPPIN’ AWESOME. I even didn’t mind Gwyneth Paltrow and her ability to act straight from her neck.

  5. What say you to someone else’s issues (http://theubergeeks.net/2008/05/02/iron-man/) with the movie?

  6. Will – I thought Obadiah Stane’s mundaneness, seasoned with a good dash of gloating, made him a better villain. Stane’s the kind of guy you could see on the street. This other guy thought it made him a worse one. To each their own.

  7. That Stark didn’t get it on with Potts was awesome. I don’t know if that’s how things go in the comics or not, I don’t know the Iron Man story, but I loved that that didn’t happen, and for good reason–he freaking left her standing on that balcony! And she called him on it! Haha! šŸ˜€

    Also, the last line of the movie was freaking awesome, too. Fantastic. I loved it, and I can’t wait for its inevitable sequel. šŸ™‚

  8. Katie – to quote another review: Pepper has enough integrity that she’ll avoid being seen as just another one of Tony’s conquests. To put it another way – she loves him too much to sleep with him.

  9. I like how they other reviewer seemed to think that just because someone’s after money, they can’t be a geniunely bad person.

  10. I never read Iron Man when I was a kid, but damn, this movie makes me wish I did.

    I don’t care if the Batman sequel’s coming out – this movie is not going to be topped this summer.

  11. You can catch up quick on the best of Iron Man with some graphic novels in stores now:

    Armor Wars: Tony Stark discovers his suit design has been stolen and sets off to blow up everyone who’s using it. This includes a few federal agents, which doesn’t make SHIELD happy.

    The Many Armors of Iron Man: A sampling of classic Iron Man stories, including the original Stark v. Stane confrontation.

    Extremis: Warren Ellis’ six-issue run which inspired the current look of Iron Man’s armor. Also a cool story in its own right.

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