Movies Don’t Give Out No-Prizes

WARNING: This article contains many Iron Man 2 spoilers, half a spoiler from Lost, and the plot summary for a fifteen year old music video. Prioritize all of this in the context of your own day-to-day life and decide how to proceed.

I don’t feel like a nitpicker. But then, nitpickers probably don’t.

Sure, there are people out there who intentionally watch things they know are going to be bad. (Generally speaking, I think those people are called “twentysomethings.” Unless you go into that lifelong personality spiral that turns you into the old man who keeps all the Frisbees that land in your yard, you eventually reach a point where it dawns on you how much money you’ve spent trying to live an episode of MST3K, and how many hours, and at that point you start liking things you like instead of liking things to be better than them.)

By and large, though, I imagine the most steadfast nitpicker would tell you he’s someone who’s sincerely out to enjoy his life. He doesn’t hate fun; he did the chicken dance at his sister’s wedding. He believes he keeps on seeing these films and buying these books with an open heart, with every intention of enjoying them, but then he gets them home and oh my God the whole thing is just covered in nits. It happened again.

I know it can feel that way for me sometimes. It felt that way as I watched Iron Man 2. The countdown app on my phone has been ticking down the days until this movie’s release since the days numbered in the 180s. I pored over the early Whiplash photos months ago, reading the comments and hissing, “You shut your lying mouths, you philistines!” like I was self-medicating while the other people at Panera ushered their children away from me. As much as I can look forward to anything post-Phantom Menace not related to sleep, I looked forward to Iron Man 2. And yet, at least for the first third of the movie, my inner monologue started sounding like people I roll my eyes at before clicking “Ignore” on a comic book forum.

“Oh, no! Vanko is going to kill Tony by sneaking onto the track!… which he would have no reason to do, since they just made a huge point of how Tony wasn’t supposed to be driving the car until seconds ago.”

“Well, sure. His dad invented a new element and then built it as a model train in the hopes that he’d watch the entire blooper reel from a TV special thirty years later, and that the model would still be intact in his office. Or I guess Howard Stark could have, like, written the formula down and left it to him, and then used all that excess energy to actually write The Da Vinci Code. Either way.”

“The Armed Services Committee demands the suit on national television for the future of national security, and when they finally get it they just leave Rhodey alone in a hangar with it to putter around? ‘Well, we were really worried about people using these things willy-nilly, but Don Cheadle flew a plane once and looks like he knows what he’s doing. Don, just weld on some more guns, or whatever. I assume you can reprogram it.’”

“This confrontation between Rhodey and Tony is too interesting and exciting. Is there a jarringly awful, emotionally tone-deaf DJ AM megamix we could drop into this scene?”

And I really liked this movie. Even as I was thinking these things, another voice was thinking back, “You shut up right now. I didn’t count down for six months and stay out until 3:00 so you could pull this shit on me now. You go into a back room of the subconscious and complain about Deadpool some more until we get home.”

Do you think you’re harder on comic book movies, or easier? As bad a light as it paints me in, I think actually I nitpicked IM2 less because of its roots. I am ready to forgive and forget when it comes to comics. I grew up trying to earn No-Prizes; whenever I read a “mistake” in a comic, I worked overtime to think of a plausible explanation for it because I was reading to have a good time. I watch things for the same reason, but somehow I’m never as forgiving.

On Lost last week, Jack had a time bomb in his backpack. The countdown timer beeped every second… but it was completely silent until the moment they saw that they had a bomb. When the emotional, pivotal episode was over, the thing that stayed with me about it was that idiotic beeping. If that had happened in a comic?: Maybe it was set to only start beeping when it got to three minutes. Maybe it was light sensitive. Maybe it was a sentient bomb that knew when people were looking at it. Could be anything.

I’ll bet if I’d read Iron Man 2 as a comic, I would have done the same with those nitpicks. In fact, I’ll bet I wouldn’t have noticed them until I read the comments here. There’s something about comics that transport me to an age when I wasn’t as hypervigilant, when I didn’t insist so doggedly on “reality.” Mind you, they only just barely do that, but it counts.


Many years ago, there was a beloved Blind Melon video (you know it; it’s the one for the only Blind Melon song you remember) about a tap-dancing bumblebee girl who wanders the earth being laughed at and misunderstood by everyone she encounters. Finally, when she is tired, filthy, and at her lowest, the girl walks through a gate to discover a meadow full of nothing but tap-dancing bumblebee people in an ecstatic frolic. That is how Jim Mroczkowski felt going to Thursday’s midnight screening of Iron Man 2. Just replace the bumblebee people with ponytailed Robert Kirkmans.


  1. Sooo… what’s the problem with Vanko attacking Tony on the track again? A huge deal was made of the fact that he was going for a drive. Obviously, Vanko picked up on it and realized making a mess out of a public spectacle would only help his cause.

    And I hope you didn’t just call a Queen song "jarryingly awful". -_-

  2. I had a problem with the Whiplash thing until i remembered he wrecked that other car before tony’s and that to me said that he was just there to mess up this event and show the world that "Yes i made an arc reactor and yes i know how to use it." I think he would have done the same thing regardless of Stark driving his own car or not. The point of the attack was to show that Tony is not as unique as he claims.

  3. well i guess the level of my nitpicker-y varies on the amount of enjoyment im getting from product im consuming. Overall I enjoyed IM2 hell of a lot which allowed me to forgive the little nit picks but if something AS A WHOLE doesn’t work, then those nitpicks are made all the worse. If i read a bad comic that gets little details wrong on top of being poorly written/drawn, then those nitpicks just end up really pissing me off. In general though i try not to get too hung up on small details and focus more on the overall experience. You could nitpick almost anything to death, nothings perfect

  4. Yeah I figured Vanko had planned on attacking the cars to draw Tony out to fight him, then it just turned out Tony was driving one of the cars too so it worked out better for him….

  5. @cubman987 yeah that was my feeling as well otherwise he wouldn’t have even bothered with that first car. it was like a nice treat that tony was driving

  6. Yeah, Vanko attacking the cars was fine. I did have a problem with him being repeatedly slammed against the wall by a car, though, and it not really seeming to bother him much.

  7. I’m typically harder on comic movies.  Recently, I haven’t really had much to complain about.  With this movie, I do have a lot to complain about.  I really want to be easy on it, but I can’t.  There are multiple gaping wounds in this movie that are difficult to look over.

  8. I had a similar reaction to this movie, as I think many people did. I was having fun, but those tiny bugs just kept on piling up. I think I gave up and turned off my brain when I actually caught myself getting upset over the fact that the plastic bench in the donut shop could support a (what must be) incredibly heavy suit of armor with no trouble.

    And lucky I was to turn it off then, because that’s when "Black Widow" came in and sat down.

    Oh, and I pity anyone who can’t enjoy a good horrible movie! I defy you to sit and watch Catwoman with a few good friends and a bottle of wine and not have a smile on your face all evening! 

  9. To me nitpicks, need to be picked when things are glaringly wrong, but more on a technical end (like boom mikes dropping into frame) The things happen in the story are the story and they exist within that logic.  I always cringe at stuff like Flakbait mentions, when a character gets hit by a car multiple times and still have the strength to go toe to toe with a dude in a robot suit, but I have to remind myself that if I’m willing to believe in stuff like guys in robot suits exist in this story, then I’m going to have to suspend my belief a little further to the fantasy realm of dudes getting hit by a cars and walking away, because that’s the way things go down in Iron Man 2 world.  


  10. mikegraham6: Someone– I think it was Roger Ebert– summed up what you’re talking about in a way I’ve been stealing for years: "When it’s working, those little things don’t matter. When it’s not working, they’re all that matter."

    I should clarify that I’m a big Queen fan, but "Another One Bites the Dust Megamix" had no place in that part of the movie and utterly derailed the impact of that scene. Tony’s desperate bravado finally comes to a head, and Rhodey steps in, and just as I was saying, "Yes! All that Downeying around before now was building up to this payoff," they start fighting to "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang and "Wipeout." Not literally, but that’s how it felt. Only Watchmen had a more distracting soundtrack.

  11. Unless it’s a really….REALLY bad film (Wolverine, Punisher) then I don’t grade too harshly on a comic film.

    I try to review it without having ‘comic book fan’ glasses on. So on a whole, Iron Man is a great film if you’ve never read a comic in your life. Are there some nitpicky things about it? Sure, lord knows everyone has nitpicked this film to death already. But that’s what they are: nitpicks. I’d rather have someone talk about something that does nothing to lower the quality of a film then letting the film just be a peice of shit.

    We’re talking about Vanko getting hit by a car for god sakes! It’s a comic film! Suspension of disbelief people!!

  12. You can say, "it’s a big dumb action movie" or "it’s a superhero movie" and then follow that with "what did you expect?" But I can’t stand when I hear "it’s a comic book movie. What did you expect." A comic book is not necessarily a mark of ill quality, or an excuse to deliver poor story.

  13. Wasn’t it Daft Punk that was playing during the Tony/Rhodey fight scene?

  14. @josh: See I didn’t say it was of ill quality nor is it an excuse to deliver poor story.

    I saw none of that, and I felt it was a great film. But I’m seeing your comments and others, with nitpicks that don’t diminish the film. All I’m saying is that barely anyone has anything truly negative to say about this film and can only find little nitpicks to complain. It’s like you’re trying to find something negative to talk about.

  15. @Jimski that Roger Ebert quote should be the mission statement for nitpicking. 

  16. A good enough film and you’ll forgive/gloss over the flaws

    A bad film will make youy focus on the flaws as why the film didn’t work

    Iron Man 2 is somewhere in the middle for me it’s an enjoyable film with some things that bugged me

  17. @TNC- I guess that’s one of the big questions, isn’t it: DO these nitpicks harm the movie, or at least your enjoyment of the movie? I think that everyone is going to have a different opinion about how much is too much when it comes to problems like these, but I can certainly see how tiny problems can blow big holes in a movie-going experience. Whether or not it made sense in the movie’s world, when Vanko got hit with that car 7 or 8 times, it pulled me out of the movie for a moment. Granted, it probably didn’t do that for everyone, but that tiny thing did affect my enjoyment of the movie.

    Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at this flick, but for a lot of fans this level of analysis is half the fun. Hell, we do it every week in the review section of iFanboy! And when a huge movie like this opens, and it has as many… questionable choices as this movie had (big fan, remember), it’s gonna be like blood in the water. But, y’know… fun, happy blood.

  18. @Casey: I guess I just find it hard to believe tiny (really tiny) things like that can bug people. When a film is bad, it’s because of everything and not just a tiny little moment or story beat.

    Did I notice that Vanko too a lot of hits with a car? Yes. Does the idea of War Machine seem a bit out there? I guess.

    I guess, unlike some, I thought about it for a split second and then just went on to enjoy the film. Again there is a suspension of disbelief here. Whether it’s a superhero film, comic film, or action film. Not everything is going to be realistic. Plus if we’re going to notice Vanko getting hit by a car inprobable, then the idea of Tony’s suitcase suit is out there…..No one seems to be complaining about the implusiblity of that.

  19. @TNC of all the criticisms, Paul probably had the most concrete and substantial critique of the film (found int he Iron Man 2 Day thread). He outlined the structural problems rather than small plot points/elements here and there that bothered him. Read his comment

  20. Ebert explains why I liked Star Trek, for sure.

  21. @TNC – I don’t mean to harp, just to explain my POV here. A friend of mine put it best: It would like someone walking up to Tony Stark, out of the suit, shooting him in the head, having the bullet ricochet off and never explaining it. The Iron Man stuff, that’s all explained in the context of the film. It may not be realistic, but it makes sense. A normal guy with no enhanced abilities other than his whip arms getting plowed by a sedan half-a-dozen times also isn’t realistic, but it doesn’t benefit from any sort of internal logic, when we’ve seen other people in the same movie get hurt much more by attacks much less devestating. That stuff always pulls me right out of a movie, comic or otherwise.

    Oddly, I didn’t care when Tony walked off a fall from half a mile up in the first one. Go figure.

  22. @mikegraham: Oh I think Paul’s assessment of the film was perfect. I totally understand his complaints and I may agree with them to a certain extent. It’s all about opinion really. I mean if you have nitpicks and they are totally destroying your opinion of the film….Then that’s fine and dandy. But I have seen few and far between real criticisms of the film.

    @Casey: That’s totally fine and I get it. *Harp away! :)* If we have to discuss that portion of the film. It really didn’t seem like Happy was hitting Vanko all that hard. Plus maybe, somehow (again suspension of disbelief) the ‘armor’ Vanko was wearing was protecting him. Him trying to destroy the car was somewhat realistic. He couldn’t reach anyone and he was flaying his arms wildly.

  23. My only problem with the movie was Scarlet Johansson.  We needed that particular "it girl" so badly it was worth having a lackluster Black Widow who apparently isn’t Russian (just hire someone who can pull off the accent for pete’s sake!)? 

  24. I think it was less about the accent and more about the fact that Black Widow was a cold war era creation and making her a former Russian spy who turned into a SHIELD agent just didn’t make sense anymore.

  25. I think those nitpicks are more misunderstandings really.

  26. Great article, Jimski.

    My biggest annoyance when it comes to reviews of the Iron Man films is when people bitch about it being robots fighting in the third act.

    It’s a superhero movie. There’s gonna be some third act fighting.

    It’s a film called Iron Man. There are going to be dudes in robot suits.

    Kvetching about being bored by dudes in robot suits fighting after understanding these two points just doesn’t make a lick of sense, does it?

  27. Those are terrible nitpicks because the movie explained them all even if not overtly.  No prizes are only for tenous explanations for obvious glaring errors whereas Jim’s nitpicks are examples of lacking critical viewing skills (leaping to conclusions not founded by the the film itself).  Take the legacy.  Why in the world would Howard hand over his legacy of free-energy meant to give his name, his company, and his son immortality free and clear to SHIELD?  By "encrypting" the knowledge he kept it out of the hands of Vanko, Stane, SHEILD, etc. (ALL of whom demonstrated the ability to get Stark IP).  Why then, have SHIELD be involved at all?  Simple… they act as a postumous-trust.  Howard could have given Tony the secret in life, but clearly didn’t think he was worthy.  SHIELD could’ve helped Tony along earlier too… but likewise didn’t find him worthy until he was on the brink of death (potentially wasting an Avengers asset).

    Nor did Howard rely purely on the model… but actually BUILT the thing.  So if Tony never proved worthy, only someone with the intelligence, insight, and interest in Howard’s affairs and legacy (to be examining his work, his City of Tomorrow) would be able to decode the higher yielding element beofre it became rote technology.

    As for the War Machine suit… the movie explains it.  Tony could have deactivated Rhodey’s suit at any time, but was allowing Rhodey to "steal" it.  As it was Tony’s choice and intent to bequeath it to Rhodey, it’s undoubtedly secured to Rhodey.

    The race track has already been explained.

    It’s one thing if it’s a glaring plot hole that can’t be reconciled upon which the whole of the movie hangs which is heavily rationalized or emphasized by the film… then nitpicking is reasonable… it’s another when the nitpick arises from failing to accept what the film itself is telling you about the situation and applying common sense and genre conventions during elements incidental to the film.

  28. Nice to meet you! Thanks for reading!

  29. @DrAwkward: Huh….even I didn’t think of it that hard. lol

    Seriously though it makes sense. I think your right, the film did answer any plot holes that might’ve occurred.

  30. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I like that Ebert quote a lot. It’s totally apt here. I went in wanting to love this movie. I ended up sort of liking it. Charm elevated the first film to an A. But the charm wasn’t enough to warrant more than say, a C+ or B- for this one. I liked parts (a lot!), but not the whole. 

  31. You know what’s funny? i actually read this article because i love disagreeing with Jimski and was looking forward to writing a snarky comment in the thread. oh, the irony

  32. I think I’m going to adopt "The racetrack has already been explained" as my new motto.  Just, work it into conversation as often as I can.


    Funny enough, the things I questioned about this movie were about character and about the creators’ intent, not so much the detail stuff.  Though I went with a friend who owns birds, who left the theater wanting to know what happened to Vanko’s bird.  I think I’m going to have to make something up and say I read it on Jon Favreau’s Twitter, or it’s going to keep bothering her for the rest of her life.  

    Everybody has their things. 

  33. You know who else was obsessed with the bird? Sam Rockwell. For at least one scene.

    "You like the bird now? Before, you didn’t like the bird, but now you like the bird? He likes the bird. Now he likes the bird." Sam Rockwell: shut up about the bird and read what’s in the script. Oy.

    The more I think about Dr. Awkward, the happier I am with the 200 words I deleted from this article.

  34. Wow! a nitpick about a nitpick about nitpicks…. i think my brain just exploded

  35. Jim’s really dishing out the spoilers these days. Ballsy move man. I like a person who takes a definite stand on an issue.

  36. I would have watched a whole movie just of Rockwell and Rourke and the bird, but I will concede I may be damaged on some fundamental level.

  37. I think Dr. Awkward missed the entire point about Howard leaving the secret in things that could have just as easily been thrown away as left in an office. Did Howard leave the trunk of home videos with Fury with the explicit instrauctions: "Only give this to Tony after he’s become a drunken buffoon and placed under house arrest!!"

  38. The piece wasn’t actually about the examples he cited, as much as the phenomenon he feels happens with movies.

    Am I nitpicking the nitpickers?

  39. We are down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass here.  This is a deep, deep well.

  40. Josh, I summed up my feelings on the topic in the last line which is that nitpicks only matter when the plot "hangs" on them and they’re brought into the forefront by the writing… that’s why the examples are hammered because he hung his article on them and brought them to the forefront (rather than using more general examples from, say, "Humans as batteries" from The Matrix which test the audience’s suspension of disbelief with respect to science, deus ex machina, or plot holes).

    Andrew, you missed my point that 1. Howard BUILT the thing. 2. Howard was ALIVE.  If Howard wanted Tony to have the secret to high yield arc reactor he could have given it in life… but Tony tells us how Howard felt about Tony as an adult.  Howard had no intention of using the model or old film as ways of making Tony uncover the element… Tony had already failed that test in Howard’s eyes.  Given Fury’s knowledge ("He [Howard] told me…"), it’s completely reasonable that they simply "acquired" any and all clues to the element after Howard’s death for SHIELD/national-security without Howard’s consent.  There’s little evidence Howard intended the clues for Tony as we know him.  Instead, he built a monument to it- the city of tomorrow- which would reveal its secret only to someone who was as brilliant as he and as interested in Howard’s non-weapon/war dreams.

    Likewise, SHIELD lacked the ability to uncover the element (even if they did JARVIS tells us it was impossible to manufacture) and only knew about it based on Fury’s conversation with Howard (who was a patriotic capitalist- happy to found SHIELD and assist… but while paid for it… not simply give it away).  Fury could have told Tony about his father, his relation to SHIELD, and Howard’s hopes for young Tony much earlier but- like Howard- didn’t trust Tony with it until it was a last resort. 

    It’s nice that reel Howard and hopes for young Tony, but let’s not forget that living Howard was disappointed in adult Tony.

  41. DrAwkward – I think your superpower is being able to take enormous leaps… of logic. You’re going out of your way to fill in the gaps in the same way that you’re accusing Jimski of avoiding them. Guess I wasn’t watching hard enough.

  42. Name one leap that isn’t based on a fact given in the film.

    The "plothole" is based entirely on assuming Howard’s desire to pass it on to Tony.  The critiques are all built on the assumption that there was an easier and better way to do this.  Guess what, there was… TELLING HIM.  Howard was alive into Tony’s adulthood but cold, distant, and disappointed in Tony.  Weapons Designer Howard either gave up the dream or gave up on Tony.  Either way he didn’t do the most simple thing of conveying the information- by simply telling Tony- in life… so it becomes silly to nitpick about him picking a slightly less difficult way of coveying something in death that he never passed on in life.

    With that flawed assumption disposed of you examine the circumstances under which Tony DID get the information.  He got it from a party which infiltrated both CEOs of Stark Enterprises and so compromised his data that Romanov was green flagged by a computer system capable of hijacking foreign video feeds during a Senate hearing (is it ANY wonder Howard encrypted his free-energy dream using more analog means?).  He got it from a party that had a superior symptom mitigator, a relationship to his father, and which held back potential free-energy for the world for their own means all while evaluating whether Tony was Avengers material.  It’s a leap to think they took Howard’s reels after Howard told Fury the tech was incomplete but would start a terrifying Energy Race?

  43. Jimski did point out that he really liked the movie, didn’t he?

  44. Yeah and I’m not here to champion to movie or attack Jim personally.  I think the film is top end for mainstream superhero films that aren’t Peter, Clark, or Bruce (but has definitely flaws that show from it being aggressively rewritten towards the end of the process)… expecting Citizen Kane isn’t realistic… expecting some of the plot holes smoothed out is certainly reasonable.

    I’m just attacking this particular "plot hole" which has popped up all over the place, not just Jim’s article specifically.

    The Rhodey one is common too.  But we have to remember that Tony believes in Iron Man and knows that he’s dying but doesn’t want to tell anyone.  So if anyone is going to be the next Iron Man (continuing what’s left of his legacy of peace for America) it’s going to be his trusted friend Rhodey… even if James works for the gov’t.  Short of bringing in Rescue, it’s a plausible way to pass on the tech to his sole trusted friend without revealing his impending death.

  45. I think most of us want quality entertainment comics, movies, etc. However as we mature and perhaps become more sophisticated we tend to become more critical of what we consume, at least that’s how it is with me. I’m far more critical now, of the comics I read and even more so of the movies derived from comics, than I was ten years ago. I have tried to ignore that vice of cold logic in my head like Jimski but to no avail. It gets louder with each passing year as my read stack shrinks. I shudder to think what the voice will do when when Jonah Hex hits the big screen.

  46. I’m neither harder on comic book movies than I am on anything else. I watch movies and television to enjoy them. Period. And I generally only consume media that I’m pretty sure I’m gonna like. I judge books by their cover, movies by their synopses and trailers, and TV shows by their premises and previews. Odds are, if I paid to see it, I’m going to like it. I don’t let nitpicky shit get to me.


  47. I’m tougher on comic book movies than most of my non-comic reading friends are, but I’m generally easier on them than most comic book die hards I know can be, just because I always try to make a point to enjoy it for what it is, and can appreciate a fun mindless film from times to time.