We are on the cusp of a humongous weekend in the Marvel Universe. This Friday, The Avengers movie begins rolling in theatres all over the country. Pre-release buzz has been good, and of course Russ and I are totally psyched up to see it. In fact, not that we need to do anything to get even more psyched up (we’ve been anticipating this new movie at least as much as, if not more than, the new Dark Shadows movie that comes out a week later) but we’ve decided to usher in the new Marvel film with an at-home “Movie Marathon” of the five films feeding into this newest venture.
We started last night by watching the original Iron Man and will continue by watching another movie in this sector of the Marvel Universe, each evening until Friday’s premiere of The Avengers. My plan is to deviate a bit from my usual blogging format by coming here after each movie to say a few words about it. These are all great movies, and they deserve every bit of attention they can get!
So we start with Iron Man, which to me is the best of the bunch. I remember seeing this in the theatre back in 2008 and being totally blown away. And watching it again last night was no different. For me, Iron Man still works, on so many different levels.
Now here’s where I’m going to get really girly on you. Why does Iron Man work? Well… Robert Downey Jr. Right? C’mon! I mean, yes, I’m a fan, always have been. He has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen on a man. But even moreso, I just don’t see how anyone else could have carried off the role of Tony Stark as well as he does. The look, the swagger, the understated humor…he’s got it all.
And I think Gwyneth Paltrow is equally as perfect as Pepper Potts. She has this sort of wholesome sex appeal, and yet also the required sharp edge (never sharper than when she is telling Tony’s one-night-stand, “I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires of me, including, occasionally, taking out the trash.” ) Zing!
I haven’t met Obidiah Stane in the comics yet, but I have always enjoyed Jeff Bridges, and I think he does a fabulous job as the villain. Of course, until I just looked up the movie now on IMDB, I always thought the last name was spelled “Stain.” That’s how good of a villain he is! I just automatically assumed his name would have some kind of nasty connotation!
I love the way the movie starts, with the attack in the desert, but then it goes immediately to a cleverly handled bit of exposition at the award ceremony, where we get to learn through a short video presentation about Tony Stark (in case you didn’t already know), exactly what our main character is all about. Every piece of fiction faces the challenge of providing the characters’ backstory, and every time I see this one, with all those gorgeous pictures of Tony Stark on the cover of so many popular magazines, I just have to marvel at how perfectly and how ingeniously this gets the job done. Quick, and to the point, so we can get on with the action!
And action there is, plenty of it. I was going to say “non-stop,” but that’s not exactly true, because we do stop every now and then for a touching or heartfelt moment. Sometimes you may see a movie where the action is indeed non-stop, and you just keep going, scene after scene after scene, and frankly, it gets a bit tiring. But Iron Man, for all its action, does not fall prey.
The first really touching moment for me is when Tony and Yinsen are breaking out of their prison in the cave, and Yinsen is shot and dying. Tony tries to encourage him to go on, reminding, “C’mon! You’ve got to go see your family, remember?”
And Yinsen says, “My family is dead. I’m going to see them now. This is what I want.”
I have to say, when that happened, I didn’t expect it. But it made so much sense, and it made it okay that Yinsen was dying. And of course, his last words, after Tony thanks him for saving his life: “Don’t waste it.”
It’s a turning point for Tony Stark, which sets the scene for the rest of the movie. This is his epiphany, which begins to transform him from a self-absorbed billionaire playboy into a potential super-hero.
But as for this being a “super-hero,” I think that’s one of the things I like so much about Iron Man. Sure he’s got that arc reactor on his heart, but when it comes right down to it, Tony Stark’s REAL super hero qualities are that he is incredibly smart, incredibly resourceful, and shows absolutely no fear. There is no magic, there is only technology. There is no accident, there is only a determined sense of purpose that keeps him moving in the right direction. It’s mostly personality, and very little hocus-pocus.
Not that there’s anything wrong with magic and accidents! But Iron Man is a different kind of hero, one that rises much more from a purely human level than some of our other super heros. Despite his overwhelming wealth and intelligence, social skills and good looks, I think in some ways Tony Stark is the hero with whom we can best identify.
But getting back to those heartfelt moments, I find that another particularly emotional scene is the one in Tony’s lab, where he needs Pepper’s help to change out the arc reactor. It’s extremely personal, almost intimate, and ends with Tony admitting, “I don’t have anybody but you.” So! Here is the man who has everything…and yet…
I recently read somewhere that the underlying thread between all these Avengers super heroes is their LONELINESS. If you stop and consider, I think you’ll have to agree that’s true about all of them. In the case of Tony Stark, anyway, there’s no doubt. And I think it’s this juxtaposition of “the man who has everything” against the sad reality that the only person on whom he can depend is a salaried personal assistant, that makes him a truly compelling character.
Of course Pepper is more than just a salaried personal assistant, and as the movie goes on we see her relationship with Tony developing, and will see it further develop in Iron Man 2. I haven’t heard, but I certainly hope she is going to be in The Avengers!
I really only wanted to say a few things about the movie—if for no other reason than the sooner I get this written and posted, the sooner we can move on to the next movie in our marathon! Now, I don’t think I can get away without mentioning how much humor there is in this first Iron Man movie. And the humor comes at the most opportune times, and truly evolves out of the characters and the situations, so that it never feels forced or artificial. I know I’ve seen action and super hero movies that have next to no humor, and it’s just no fun when there’s no fun. But Iron Man manages to be fun and exciting and suspenseful and touching, all at the same time.
Now finally this: in my estimation, Iron Man is simply a good bit of storytelling. Even if you are not a fan of super heroes (and if you’re not, what are you doing here? Right?) But even if you know someone who is not a fan of super heroes, or action-adventure, or science fiction, I think you could still easily recommend this movie, because the human drama carries the film above and beyond any specific genre.
The only thing I think might prevent someone from enjoying this film would be if they were squeamish about violence. Some of the violence is strictly comic book style, but a lot of it, especially the scenes in the Middle East, might be too disturbing for sensitive souls and old ladies.
But I’m not that sensitive, and I’m not an old lady. At least not yet! And I’m ready for my next adventure in the Marvelous Zone, as Russ and I sit down to rewatch The Incredible Hulk!