It has long been an established bad habit of mine when I like a thing, to dismiss the opinion of everyone who disagrees with me, with
you just don't get it
. As I've matured, I like to think this tendency has faded, so something has to be really really good to invoke that same reaction again.
Something like Iron Man
When I knew there was going to be an Iron Man
movie, I admit I was a little apprehensive. I'd defy anyone to be, if the last Marvelverse movie they'd allowed themselves to be persuaded to see was 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
. But I committed myself on the strength of steely_glint
's gay crush on Robert Downey jr, and you've got to hand it to Sam - he done well on this one.
I don't really think this film can be spoiled - it's just not that type of story. But I'll cut anyway.
So: Reasons why Iron Man rocked, and why people who say it didn't are just wrong
1. It understands comics.
My worries about the movie gave way to excited apprehension when I read the London Paper
's review. They were very complimentary about it as a story and a visual treat, but ended with the sentiment (and I paraphrase from memory):
But with the focus on characterisation over adrenaline-fuelled action sequences, the fanboys may find themselves disappointed.
That's just it, and what some superhero movies seem to not understand about 'fanboys' - and for 'fanboys', read 'me': this is my opinion here. We don't read and re-read and obsess about decades worth of stories revolving around a limited number of characters because we like the one or two pages per comic of fighting. Some of us might, but that's not what we end up talking about afterwards. Comics are about
the characters. They're also about the fantastic: even comics that don't feature superpowered aliens or gadget-loving multimillionaires have some 'concept' that required some suspension of disbelief; but by the time a character has been written by dozens of writers over forty years, his draw is not 'let's watch a man in a metal suit beat up some bad guys' but 'I can't get enough of this guy.'
I don't know much about the comicsverse Iron Man - I tried to read Civil War
and my brain melted. I'm a DC girl through and through, although at some point I'm sure I'll read all those Marvel comics that have been recommended to me. The point is, I can't judge whether or not the movie was a true and fair representation of the Tony, Pepper, Jim and Obadiah of the comics. I'd never even heard
of War Machine before a quick wiki search to prove the hunch given by that one throwaway line. But I am a comic fanboy, and I loved the emphasis on character growth and themes over robot fights. I love robot fights, but I like to know there's a person involved, and from the very first line of the movie, I knew Tony Stark was a person.
As (hopefully) the first movie in a series, or at the least a standalone superhero movie, Iron Man is an origin story, which can be both a good and bad thing - good, because origin stories are very popular and often make good stories, but bad because everyone knows the major origin stories, and there are precedents to follow. The standard trope goes like this: a person with unusual resources undergoes an epiphany and starts to use those resources in a particular way to fight bad guys. The resources are important, and not always 'super' - Peter Parker was bitten by a spider, but Bruce Wayne had a brain and lots of money, as does Stark - the suit is merely a result of that brain and money. But it's not the abilities that make the hero, or the origin story, but second part: the epiphany. As Stephen Couchman
explains on the Pharyngula
The bit in these superhero films that always interests me is where the protagonist stops being the character we've slowly been getting to know and believe in for the duration of the first act, and suddenly becomes the iconic figure whose name is in the title.
Spiderman was not born when Peter Parker was bitten, but when Uncle Ben died. Oliver Queen had to live as a hermit before he realised he could use his archery skills for more that distraction. In the same way, while the seeds of Iron Man might have been planted by Jensen in the cave, it wasn't until Tony Stark made the decision to return to his old companion's home village to right the travesties being committed there, that the hero was born. Jon Favreau understands
how important is that part of the story, and he gives it the importance it deserves - setting it right in the narrative centre of the film with appropriate lead up and suitable follow through. This wasn't a story of 'hero fights bad guys', but the personal story of Tony Stark.
2. Tony Stark
Talking of which - holy crap it's nice to have a flawed hero who's still a hero. The movie may be called Iron Man
, but really it's the Tony Stark show, and that's no bad thing. Tony's frivolous, self-important and utterly utterly selfish, and the movie reflects it. There's not a single scene that's not about Tony Stark. Even if he's not on-screen people are talking about him. The motivations of every single character
revolves around Tony Stark, including his own. He builds the suit to save his own life. He stops his company producing weapons in order to cleanse his own conscience. He flies off to Afghanistan not (just) to save lives, but because those are his
weapons being used and he won't stand for it. The difference between pre- and post-epiphany Tonys is not one of selflessness, but that his drive for self-gratification has been converted to a drive for redemption. Not once does he actually consider someone else: observe his treatment of Pepper when she's afraid for his life. Even at the end, when he rejects the possibility of a secret identity, it's do bask in the glory of being Iron Man
, because it's fantastic. The whole thing acknowledges that even good deeds can be done for selfish reasons, and a 'good guy' is not the same as a 'nice guy'.
And unlike with Batman, who's really not a nice guy despite pursuing a noble crusade for justice - Tony's just so Bobdamn likeable
. That awesome, cute bastard.
3. That Line.
You know the one. If you've read to this point you've either seen the movie or don't mind spoilers so have read it elsewhere. You know it rocked. you've probably said it yourself.
4. Pepper Potts.Lisa Kansas on Punkassblog
This is the most misogynist comic-book-superhero movie I’ve seen in years.
And honestly, I don't know whether to pity the person who never got to see the awesome parts of Batman Begins
: the ones that don't include the unbearable Katie holmes character (who the hell was she, again?), or envy her for not ever having to sit through Fantastic Four
. I'll just wonder whether she's seen any superhero movies at all ever.
Pepper was amazing on so very many levels: and I'm the person these days who sits back and looks
for problems from a feminist front. I wanted to get angry and bitter, but I couldn't. And when I got back and looked at reaction posts, I found everything I had to say nicely summed up on the Hathor Legacy
. Pepper has the narrative role of being the non-heroic foil to Tony Stark: the Alfred to his Batman, the Xander to his Buffy, the Ando to his Hiro, and- actually, I can't think of a female example, although maybe season 1 and 2 Willow comes close. Neither sidekick nor damsel, she rejects the role of love-interest because Tony's not just her boss, but also a well established womanising jerk, and she shows her contempt for women who let him treat them like that very early on.
She has her flaws - the most significant one being that she's so fond of an utter git like Tony Stark - but she makes up for them by being so invaluably sensible in everything except not taking off her watch and gold ring before performing open heart surgery near a powerful electromagnet.but you can't have everything.
It's an important role, and as pointed out, again on Pharyngula
, Pepper's sense and intelligence actually save the day:
When [Stane] walked in on her, I was expecting the standard plot development - the bad guy takes the girl sidekick/love interest hostage, and the hero has to rescue her. Nope! She conceals what she's doing long enough to bluff her way out of the office, and then walks straight to the SHIELD agent in the lobby. That was the moment Stane was defeated - everything that followed from then on was just damage control.
Yes, the movie fails the Dykes to Watch Out For litmus test, but I've covered that: the movie was about Tony Stark's ego to the point where no one, ever
, male or female talks about anything
other than Tony Stark. That's clearly of dramatic significance and just makes the ride more thrilling.
I just don't understand why people are therefore complaining that Pepper sucks because she didn't put on a suit and fly around
- yes, it's a shame that people aren't making movies out Birds of Prey (TV adaptations in which Dinah's a teenage psychic not withstanding) or Batgirl, but that's not Iron Man
's fault. It's not even Iron Man's
problem. The non-heroic foil is such a generally great character and to reduce her to a sidekick would be insulting, and unnecessary. From what I understand of the comics from the internet discussions, they've taken a minor comic character and given her actual agency. This is a great thing, and a vast improvement on Marvel movies' current record with female characters (X3, anyone?)
I'm sure we were supposed to come out shipping Pepper/Tony, but I sure as Hells didn't. Not only was her rejection of him sensible and responsible, but any attraction they seemed to have anyway seemed to come of the fact that they lived such insulated lives. Personally, I saw the contrast between misogynistic-frivolous pre-cave promiscuous Tony and dedicated, redemption seeking Tony trying to ask Pepper out, and all I saw was a man trying to be 'good' for the first time in his life and mistaking nobility with monogamy, and friendship for love. I don't know if I was meat to see it that way, but the movie didn't contradict it.
Now all I need is for the sequels to confirm that they're wrong together and I'll be happy.
5. The Soundtrack
It started with AC/DC, it ended with Black Sabbath, and in the meantime we had an amazing adrenaline fuelled score that on occasion had me playing half-arsed air guitar in my seat. I don't usually give much thought to film scores, but this was amazing
6. You will believe a man can fly!
I don't just mean the special effects here - although the special effects were of that top notch
can't tell where the real dinosaurs end and the fake ones begin
smoothness. No, I mean the way the story was told around the crappy comic fantaskiffy* in a way that made you accept it. The suit moved in realistic ways: it reacted to gravity and explosions and bullets in ways you could buy, and the way each manufacturing scene showed him working on a different part, I could see the suit grow up organically around his body and in his mind. People walked seamlessly in this supertech home, and it was obvious how the suit worked and what Tony was doing in it.
And not just the suit- Jarvis and the robots were characters in their own right, but still computers. there was no 'man on intercom' feel like you get with Red Dwarf
's Holly or the Heart of Gold
's Eddie. Jarvis was very obviously a computer, albeit one with a sarcasm chip. By ignoring the crap science, or mentioning it in passing where necessary, the movie integrated it in perfectly, so not only did I accept that Tony Stark could be kept alive by a glowing blue thing (that he built in a... you know the rest), but I started wondering why we don't have iron suits to go flying in. Stupid real world physics.
7. Robert Downey Jr's Arse
Oh come on, allow me a little
8. The end-credit sequence.*Fanta-sci-fi
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