Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Whereas Iron Man Was Right on the Money

I should put a ***spoiler warning*** at the start of this post, but really, I'm like the last person on earth to see Iron Man, so come on. But unlike Spider-Man 3, where I felt the that the movie was unfairly maligned, Iron Man was every bit as fantastically awesome as I had been told. Saw it last night, and I'm still buzzing.

Unlike The Dark Knight, which I thought was a film that transcended its genre (whatever that means) to invite comparisons to works like The French Connection, Silence of the Lambs and Heat, this is very much a "comic book movie" - and one of the best in the history of superhero films to date. Tony Stark shares some similarities with Bruce Wayne (both millionaire playboys with toys, both have snide butlers Alfred and the AI Jarvis, and both butlers even make quips about their employers' "subtle" taste in sports cars), but the films really have nothing in common beyond these superficials.

What Iron Man does have a lot in common with, oddly, is The Incredible Hulk. Now, I've only seen Hulk without sound - the woman in the seat in the aisle in front of me coming back from Calgary was watching it, while her husband/partner/boyfriend was watching Hancock - but I saw the whole film that way, and my screenwriting mentor Dan Deckeralways maintained that a good movie script could be understood sans sound anyway. So, Hulk without sound goes something like this: Bruce Banner on the run, captured by military. Experiments. Hulk gets loose. Bad guy gets formula. Bad guy becomes bigger, meaner Bad-Hulk. Military must rely on Hulk to stop Bad Hulk. And Iron Man (with or without sound), goes like this: Tony Stark captured, builds prototype suit, escapes, bad guy gets old suit and makes bigger, meaner Iron Man suit. Military/government agency must rely on Iron Man to stop Bad Iron Man.

Both films are pretty plot light. Both only have one fight between the good and bad guys. Both films have the protagonist mostly cleaning up their own mess (prompting me to wonder how the press knew so much about this Iron Man "superhero" at the end). In The Incredible Hulk's case, I was astounded at how long it took Hulk to appear, how little he did, and how Hulk and Bad Hulk only mixed it up once. I expected, at the least, for Hulk to get his ass kicked the first time, then have to go away and nurse his wounds, before coming back, Rocky-style, to tear Bad Hulk a new one.

But in the case of Iron Man, this simple, mostly "set up" plot is layered with incredible characters, fantastic (and snappy/fast!) dialog, and absolutely inspired casting. This film moves! I came out of it wanting to break the sound barrier myself, and told my wife it was the Best. Marvel. Film. Ever. After the andrenalin wore off, I'd have to say its nowhere near as narratively complex as either Spider-Man 2 or X-Men 2, and they are both probably superior stories. But this is about as much fun as you can have with a superhero movie that IS a superhero movie (see how I excepted Dark Knight?), and I just totally loved it. Can't wait for the sequel! Can't wait for the Avengers. Loved it.

(And that after the credit sequence? Awesome!)

11 comments:

Praetorian1001 said...

I thought Iron Man was awesome as well. And I was looking forward to Iron Man 2 until this news came out. I hate that Terrence Howard apparently got screwed.

Sincerely,
John-Mark

Lou Anders said...

Terrence Howard was awesome. I'm sorry to hear this. But I do think that whatever you hear in the press, there's always a story we don't know behind the scenes.

Ted said...

I also noted the similarity between the Iron Man and Incredible Hulk plots; both heroes start out too powerful relative to their adversaries. The only way either can have a credible opponent is if their own secret falls into the wrong hands.

As for the idea that a good movie script can be understood without sound: I think that's a reasonable criterion for a Hollywood blockbuster, but not for good movies in general. Would Miller's Crossing make any sense without the sound?

Lou Anders said...

Ah, but that's why I said a good movie script and not a good movie. Dan is an expert on the formula Hollywood film, and his maxim is that "film is a visual medium." He taught how to write screenplays that sold, not how to be an auteur (and since two of my four screenplays from the period were optioned, I'd say he taught it well). And the Coen brothers are very literary film makers, aren't they?

Rene said...

Ben and I really enjoyed this one. It was just so much fun. I love that 2008 brought us two such awesome and different comic book movies.

I loved the end. Still singing the song.

Lou Anders said...

Me too. Loved it. Was afraid they were going for something more traditional and his final words had me going "Yes!"

Joel Shepherd said...

I know this isn't the place to inject realism into a fan appreciation discussion, but I still found the magic-as-technology stuff jarring. Fun movie, but for me, it tries a little too hard to be 'real', when it's patently 'magic'.

My favorite of the comic book movies, Hellboy, is entirely consistent because it admits it's all magic, and magic is, well, magical. So anything goes. As soon as Ironman says 'technology', and invokes real world conflicts like Afghanistan, it puts a claim on realism that its main concept can't back up.

But judging popular response, that's probably just me...

Sex Mahoney for President said...

While most genre movies are formulaic by default, the recent comic book adaptations take it to a whole new level. While I liked Iron Man, if you started it and The Incredible Hulk at the same time, they would match up beat for beat.

Sex Mahoney for President

Joe Abercrombie said...

Funnily enough, the two most powerful sequences in Miller's Crossing - Albert Finney under the bed, and Gabriel Byrne stalks through the woods after John Turturro - probably would work pretty well without sound...

I mean, they're probably better with the sound...

Anonymous said...

So with you on Ironman. I do wonder though whether it would have been even a quarter of the film it was without Robert Downey jnr. Never has actor's escape from drug-fuelled self-destruction been more of a relief. Am reaching the point where I would just go and see a film because he was in it.
Simon

PS No I haven't seen Tropic Thunder yet . . .

Lou Anders said...

Agreed. I am planning on netflixing Tropic Thunder though.