I don’t know if you’ve noticed from the constant promotion, but Iron Man 2 seems to be coming out soon. Normally, you don’t get to a sequel unless the first movie did well. Of course, when a movie does as well as the first Iron Man did, they back up the money truck to make sure there’s a second, third, and fourth installment from all the relevant players.
And it’s fair to say that Iron Man did very well. Myself, Ron, and Conor were all big fans, and we were certainly not alone. The movie was a huge success, both commercially and critically. They took a character who is arguably a B-level character, with very little public recognition, handed the reigns to a director who was unproven with big action blockbusters, and placed the hopes of the movie in the hands of Robert Downey Jr. Those bets all paid off, and the first movie was almost universally loved by comic fans.
Before you head off to the sequel, let’s take a look back at the first version.
THE TOP FIVE THINGS IRON MAN GOT RIGHT
1) Tony Stark – Stark isn’t the typical Marvel sad sack character. He’s a winner. He’s an industrialist. He’s got the world on a string. He’s charming and fun, and you want him at your party. But he’s got his flaws, and likes the drink a little too much, something they only hinted at in the first movie. He’s got a bit of an ego, and hubris hangs out just behind him, and now it’s clear that Robert Downey Jr. is exactly the right guy for that. Imagine how much different the movie would have gone had they gone for a 25 year old new star? RDJ was a bit of a box office gamble, in terms of being a little old, but he owned every second of it.
2) Iron Man Armor – All 3 phases of the armor in the first movie are spot on. They could have redesigned the armor for the suit, or done all sorts of horrible things, but they got it just right. With designs from Adi Granov, the armor looked just right. The early armor worked, all chunky and homemade,and the final product looked like it actually could contain all the gizmos to make it go. They also made a good effort at explaining at least some of the physics and science governing how it would actually work, helped by some well played comedic crashes.
3) Pepper Potts – When I heard Gwyneth Paltrow was going to be in the movie, I thought, “Hunh? Her?” But Paltrow was a perfect fit, and a perfect foil for Downey Jr. She made geekdom fall in love with a character most of us had forgotten. She didn’t play up as a sex kitten, but by being totally competent, slightly awkward, and totally charming. You’d almost forget she’s an Oscar winning actress married to one of the biggest rock stars in the world with a child whose name a lot of people make jokes about.
4) Origin Story – The thing about making movies from comic books is that the writer has to figure out the perfect balance of staying true to the original story, and making it work for the screen. Obviously, had they set this movie story back in the Vietnam war, it wouldn’t have made any sense. At the same time, had they placed it smack dab in the middle of Baghdad, a lot of people would have been taken out of the movie, so instead, they made it a vaguely random, war torn, Middle Eastern-esque area. But the set up of the battery device powering the magnet keeping the shrapnel in Stark’s heart, and eventually his armor was tied right to the original stories in Marvel Comics, but it wasn’t so faithful to the source material that it was goofy.
5) Humor - While I loved Dark Knight and Batman Begins, they are bleak bleak bleak. They are relentlessly bleak, and when I left the theater, I was exhausted rather than exhilarated. Iron Man, on the other hand, was a fun time. From the robotic helpers in Stark’s lab to the stripper/flight attendants to the free drinks cart with a massive missile purchase, this movie was nothing but a good time. A game of human operation was much more fun than it had any right to be, and the script had just the right balance.
TOP FIVE THINGS IRON MAN GOT WRONG
1) The Last Act – For some reason, I think the movie is a touch too long. By the time they get to the Iron Monger fight, I’m just a little bored. I can’t think of anything outwardly wrong with it but watching the two CGI metal suits bang on each other doesn’t hold quite as much sway for me as it does with others, and I just want to be done with it.
2) Mandarin – If you’re going to do the Mandarin, do the Mandarin, I say. While there was a nod to Iron Man’s main bad guy, it would have been really cool to see a way to transform the Mandarin into a real onscreen threat. It certainly wouldn’t have been easy to do the rings in such a way to make them believable, but the leader of the Ten Rings wasn’t even close, except for that title.
3) The Mark I crash – Other crashes in the movie might have been silly, but when Stark crashed the Mark I suit in the desert, he fell from hundreds of feet in the air, and I can’t figure out how he could have ever survived that. Little moments like that can yank me right out of a movie. Luckily it grabs you and brings you back in.
4) Burger King - I understand that in today’s movie marketplace, product placement is par for the course, and it helps pay the bills in some movies. In fact, when it happens in Back the Future, it’s downright charming now. (“All I wanted was a Pepsi.”) But when Stark asks Happy to make a run to the BK Lounge, it sticks out like a sore corporate thumb. Then again, some dudes really like the King.
5) I Got Nothin’ - Like when Conor did this for Batman Begins, he ran out of steam here too, so I’m citing precedence. They're also all pretty trifling aren't they?
If you feel so inclined, you can go back and listen to the Special Edition Podcast we did for Iron Man. Be on the lookout for another for Iron Man 2, as well as an Iron Man video show next week.
I hope this is another good one. It looks like it might just be.