Okay, let me be really clear about this: I just saw Iron Man and really, really liked it. It’s one of the best super hero movies in recent years and may well eventually gain entrance into the “Best Super Hero Films of All time” pantheon, rarified company indeed. It is smart, it is nuanced and it is action-packed. Everything you crave in a Super Hero movie.
So now, let’s pick it apart!
Rather, let’s bring to light some of the inconsistencies, the logic gaps, weird moments and the poor plot choices. I come not to bury Iron Man, but to praise him (Take that, Shakespeare!). To find those few little nits, pull out our fine-toothed comb and pick them clean.
And you know what? Let’s not call it “nitpicking” at all. Say nitpicking and everyone groans “nerd”. Rather, let’s do a computer metaphor in honor of our cyber man and call this a service update, a patch to the existing system. Just a few little odds and ends we’d like to correct that’ll make things run a little smoother next time.
WOOF! WOOF! Oh, right. Bert the Spoiler dog is telling me that if you haven’t seen Iron Man, see it first, then browse the internet. Log off now, please. Do it! Okay, for the rest of you:
* First off, hats off to Robert Downey Jr. and his great performance. How he found any reference in his life to play a hard living, drinking, carousing playboy with no self-control is beyond me. Okay, I’m being sarcastic about this. Downey Jr. did do a fantastic job on this, but a stretch? Well…
* The 10 Rings gang. This is the Rainbow Coalition of bad guys. I’m not sure if the producers didn’t want to offend any one group of terrorist (gotta watch those lawsuits!) or just be all-inclusive but somewhere in Afghanistan, there is a base that holds Al-Queda, Taliban, insurgents and HUNGARIANS! Yes, the one dreaded Hungarian terrorist is there, represented like the lone Nigerian at a winter Olympics. I think that this smorgasbord (Hungarian dish!) of baddies called the “10 Rings” is a reference to the 10 rings of Iron Man’s old foe “The Mandarin”, possibly setting up a sequel. But with China being our “ally” lately (read: we owe them money), that may be the closest we get to that sequel. Either way, it felt like the producers didn’t want to get too real to today’s headlines, lest we think there are real US soldiers running around in battle suit. There aren’t — right?
* Stark must have REALLY over clocked those 2 Apple iMacs he was working on to run 3-D holographic displays that are interactive and features a sentient virtual assistant with a British accent. Maybe that’s in Steve Jobs’ next keynote speech.
* As Tony Stark pointed out, his armor isn’t made of iron, but titanium. See, HE’S the one made of iron. I counted 4 times that he survived a terminal velocity crash and basically got up and walked away with only a couple of “movie injuries” and a robot spraying him with fire retardant.
Look, I know that super heroes get the crap kicked out of them on a regular basis. But Tony Stark is not a super hero, he’s a guy in a suit. No matter how strong the outside of the suit is, when he hits the ground at 25 Gs, something is gonna go squish inside. Explain it away with internal repulsor beams or whatever, just throw us a physics bone!
* Why was there that prolonged “Mad Money” segment about how Stark’s stock was falling? I get the product placement for Burger King, Apple and Audi, but “Mad Money”? Does someone really like that show at Marvel? Are they courting the huge Mad Money/Geek audience to see this film? Couldn’t Bald Bridges Stane grab a paper and say, “Hey look! Our stock has fallen!”
* Tony Stark can build a renewable energy source that powers his heart, program a computer that understands his colloquial expressions and a suit of armor that allows him to fly at mach 98, but cannot make a home security system that can keep anyone out. Pepper, Rodney (James) Rhodes, Stane and Nick (Snakes on my Mother Fraking Helicarrier!) Fury all enter his house without him knowing it. Even if they have a passcode or a key, wouldn’t you think something in the house would say “BTW TS, There’s a dude with an eye patch in your living room. LOL!”
* As a general observation, almost every movie has a character who goes to someplace that they feel safe, only to have someone waiting there for them in the dark, to be revealed by our hero turning on a light. Generally, they don’t want to hurt our hero (yet), just pass along some cryptic information and then disappear mysteriously.
But I always wonder: how long were those people waiting in those dark rooms (hours? Days?), what did they do while they were waiting (Mario Kart on the DS is always my guess) and was it worth it to wait that long considering that the person they visit never agrees to their terms. In the future, I suggest texting. Example: “I’m in your basement eating your foods. LOL! :p” Much more efficient.
* Multiple choice question: Tony Stark has had his mechanical heart removed by an evil doer and now races to get his replacement heart which is in a glass container just far enough away. He predictably falls feet away from it and try as he might, cannot get his heart alone. Who is metaphorically the best to help our hero “get his heart back”:
A. His assistant-with-benefits (wink, wink!) Pepper, who literally saved his old heart in the first place.
B. His Spring-Break turned Air Force colonel James (Rodney) with whom he has been bickering with?
C. A mechanical arm that he has been bantering with throughout the movie and seemingly has enough sentience to grab the arm even though it was not commanded to?
I am torn on this one. The feel-good move is Pepper. She comes down stairs, finds Tony and gives him back his heart. Cue music. Storywise it is a great metaphor that is made literal and would probably make Joseph Campbell rise from the grave to give Jon Favearu a gold star. Even his estranged buddy makes more sense in a non-sexual “I love you, dude” way.
The mechanical arm moment (or “MAM” as I must call it forever more) confuses me. On one hand, it’s a great slap in the face of conventional story telling — a “Frak you” to the literary crowd and a sublime twist on the expected. On the other hand — IT’S A FREAKIN’ MECHANICAL ARM! This is not a character we care about nor does its interaction with Tony Stark at that moment enhance Downey’s character. It’s just a “bit”, a wasted moment that we could have identified with the character and see him grow.
* Every superhero movie has a tag these days and they make every fan boy go ape with the tiniest acknowledgement of comic book mythology or hint of a character appearing in a future movie. I want a tag that makes you sit back down for another 6 minutes and watch another kick-ass fight with said hero’s alternate universe self. I want to be rewarded heartily for 10 minutes of “Assistant to Mr. Bridges’ Scalp” credits rather than a Easter egg that hints to another movie — as though $11.50 wasn’t enough to spend in the first place and we have to tease for the REAL movie coming up in 2013 (Maybe… if everything falls into place). This is just padding your movie and it was good enough at its real running time. Quit while you’re ahead.
Which is what I’m doing. Please remember, these comments are only for your enjoyment and do not reflect those of Slice of SciFi or the Libertarian National Party. I really liked Iron Man and look forward to 10 more installments (all with Samuel L. Jackson) followed by patches for those movies.