Remember that great super hero movie Iron Man? It comes out on DVD today and got me thinking back to the time I saw it in the theaters. There was this bizarre incident where the power went out 30min from the end of the movie. One member of the audience volunteered to go tell the theater officials of the mishap but then shouted back in, “the whole theater is blacked out!” After watching a movie featuring a lot of terrorism other members of the audience began to get a little freaked out. It’s kind of a perfect example of how the first hour and forty-five minutes of Iron Man have you sucked into a completely believable world.
The movie itself was really good, and from the very first scene it captures your attention. It’s the scene that you’ve watched in all the trailers where Tony is having fun in his Humvee and then it’s attacked by terrorists. When I first saw it in the trailers it convinced me to go see this movie. It’s a good blend of over the top character and reality that is perfect for a comic movie. What you don’t see in the trailer is the continuation of the scene. Tony’s army protectors get out of the Humvee as Tony is completely terrified trying to take hold of the situation. He spouts out lines that you’d hear in the movies, “What’s our situation?” and “How many we got?” The soldiers ignore him as Tony and the audience is plunged into the middle of the chaos of war. There’s no objective only shooting at the enemy. A hand held camera and close-ups of the soldiers help the feel of reality also. Tony watches each solider die not in the glory of battle but quick and real. Stark is taken prisoner and there is a shot of Tony captured by the terrorists that is reminiscent of the beheading videos. Then the ‘IRON MAN’ title screen followed by extended flashback of Tony being the celebrity playboy that we saw in the first couple of minutes. The movie continues to balance out moments of real terror with comedy and actual character development all the way through.
Tony’s character is the most interesting part of the movie. He pretends to be this celebrity jerk, but at his heart he’s part kid and part nerd. The exact combination that appeals to most comics’ fans. It’s also subtle which is important. The next morning after he gets this Vanity Fair reporter in bed he retreats into his basement to work on a hotrod engine and lets his secretary, Pepper Potts, deal with showing her out. He’s at least somewhat concerned for her because he asks how she took it and by working on something mechanical tries to take his mind off of it. It’s important to see how these parts of his personality are there all along because after he’s captured and comes back we see them emerge. When he comes back he’s not completely changed just slightly. One of the weirdest things about the Spiderman movie is how he changes so dramatically after his Uncle dies. Yeah, it’s a major life-altering event but the change in the movie feels way more contrived. He’s shown as a complete shut-in and then as soon as he gets super powers he gets adventurous. Stark is already crazy when the movie starts so when he is testing out experimental technology in his basement and fighting terrorists it’s believable. When he comes back the only thing that changes are his priorities not his personality.
It’s kind of impossible to ignore the political themes in the movie. The terrorists, even though their boss wants to rule Asia, and the soldiers all bring up thoughts of the war in Iraq. Tony’s attitude of: go in blow everyone up from the air and it will be just fine, has a similar feeling to the Bush administration’s going into the war. Then things go horribly wrong. Tony finds out that his company has been double-dealing to the enemy. It’s vaguely similar to the war profiteering Halliburton was accused of. Even the dorky guy from the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Division sounds like a Bush style government official with a needlessly long name and way behind in information. Iron Man has a hopeful vision of the future with a focus on armoring individual solider and corporate responsibility. By the end even the dorky guy is now a S.H.E.I.LD. liaison and in control of Tony’s situation. That’s why the end when Jeff Bridges goes nuts and becomes Iron Monger sucks so much. It doesn’t make any sense with all the other stuff going on in the movie. It makes thematic sense, but why not just let the terrorist guy pilot it and have Jeff stick around for Iron Man 2? It doesn’t take away from the movies message about corporate greed. If he stuck around to the second one it would be more effective because it would be show how hard it is to get rid of Obidiah Stane type guys.