Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, May 02, 2008

When I saw this picture on the front page of the NYTimes Arts section today I knew I was lost. The trailer was great, but great trailers for comic book movies don't always mean that I'm there for the opening night-- sometimes I want to share the experience with my daughters, sometimes I'm traveling and my faithless family sees the movie without me-- what I'm saying is, circumstances can intervene, but for "Iron Man" I was going to be there.

"Well, it was funny, and explode-y," said A. when we walked out tonight. I'm not sure how she ranks comic book movies, because she never really read the source texts. "Iron Man" is certainly funny, and explode-y. It is a terrific piece of acting by Robert Downey, Jr., and it has some mighty nice work by Gwyneth Paltrow as well. It's funny to think that a character like Iron Man might be make coolest Marvel movie-- Shellhead is not really as iconic as Spiderman, or the Fantastic Four, but that is part of what makes the movie work. The mistakes most superhero movies make are things that "Iron Man" skates by. Is it true to the canonical text? No, it is not, but who cares? You really have to be way more into comics than anyone should be to think that the best way to make a movie about Iron Man would be to have Tony Stark captured by the Red Chinese-- having him held prisoner in a cave in Afghanistan works fine. The shrapnel near the heart thing-- about as subtle as Stan Lee or Jack Kirby ever got-- is beautifully done here, and if the advanced armor Stark invents once he is home doesn't fit into a briefcase, well, who ever thought that was "realistic"? There are loads of other details that don't really fir into what the strict frame of the comic books, but they get the main stuff right-- Stark is kind of an asshole, but he's trying to do do the right thing, too. Also, the tin suit is cool, and there are many explosions. There are also a lot of good jokes-- A. didn't catch it, but I laughed aloud when I heard Stark's ringtone. And even though he was a big idea stealer, at this point watching for Stan Lee has become like watching for Alfred Hitchcock, and Stan's cameo is a good joke in this one.

It's funny-- in order to make Iron Make work as a movie I think you really do need to have an actor with the ability of Robert Downey, Jr.-- you just wouldn't care otherwise. Iron Man is an impassive appearing suit of armor without that-- it would be a movie about a robot. The other thing that is interesting to think about is that in a lot of ways a charater that looks like a robot is more interesting to us than a lot of other superhero characters because the armor is, in a funny way, more realistic than what most superheros wear. As a fantasy the idea of climbing into a kind of space suit is a lot more appealing than getting a special ring and wearing a spandex unitard, even if the unitard is mostly slimming black. We may never see a good movie about the Hulk-- there is a new one coming this summer, and it looks like it is probably going to make the same mistakes as the last one-- but Iron Man, for all that he's probably not anyone's real favorite, works well in the movies. In a way he is sort of the ultimate James Bond.

"Iron Man" is explode-y and good. Go see it.

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