Iron Man 3

  • Title:  Iron Man 3
  • Director:  Shane Black
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  NTSC, R1

When I saw Iron Man 3 in the theater last summer I was somewhat disappointed.  I bought the DVD anyway, and having watched it a couple of times, I still think it wasn’t as good as it could have been.  But I bought the film because I like Robert Downey Jr. and he does seem to be born to play the part of Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

The interesting part of the story is that Tony, after the events in New York, in The Avengers, is suffering from PTSD and panic attacks – not that he seems willing to deal with his trauma.  He and Pepper are living together, but arguing as ever.

The film uses a voice-over by Tony to try to connect and explain events.  In a tag during the credits, we’ll learn he’s talking to Dr. Bruce Banner.  However, even with the voice-over, this film is confusing and hard to follow.  And even after multiple viewings – that doesn’t improve matters, at all.  And that remains one of the prime problems with the film – without a good story, a story that grabs you with it’s characters – or an unique and meaningful plot, the best action sequences in the world can still seem boring.  So, the film doesn’t really work because it’s confusing, and the action sequences don’t really work because they have little meaning.

The plot involves a series of “terrorist” bombings – bombings which eventually turn out not to be the result of terrorist bombs at all, but a new, experimental military technology called Extremis.  Extremis was invented by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) a man Tony had met at a party before he became Iron Man.  Tony blew the guy off, causing him to obtain military contracts to develop Extremis – rather than using it as a genetic treatment for physical disabilities and medical illnesses.  Though, given the little we see of Killian’s character, it’s doubtful he would have used Extremis for purely “peaceful” means even if Stark Industries had backed his research.

The terrorist bombings, by a man called, The Mandarin, turn out to be a charade – The Mandarin is Trevor Slattery, a British actor, hired by Killian to put a false face on the bombings – which are actually a side effect of Extremis going wrong.  S.H.I.E.L.D., meanwhile, had tried to get Tony to work with them to stop The Mandarin – but he refuses as he thinks it’s none of his business.  When Happy is injured in an random Mandarin attack, however, Tony takes it personally – and not only threatens the Mandarin but gives out his home address in a public press conference.

Tony’s actions prove to be as dumb as that sounds – as the Mandarin attacks and destroys his Malibu home.  Tony, in escaping, ends-up in Tennessee, where he is given help by a young, geeky, know-it-all kid.  And yes, that part of the plot was extremely annoying. Pepper disappears for the vast majority of the plot – and Tony’s running around with a kid.

Tony is in Tennessee for a reason, though – before the public threats of the Mandarin started, there was another explosion with the same heat signature.  Tony figures there’s a connection, and in Tennessee – he finds it, thus leading him to Trevor, and then to Killian. But Killian meanwhile has taken Pepper and exposed her to Extremis.  Thus, Tony ‘s final battle is more about saving the woman he loves than about stopping Killian and Extremis. This should have made the film work better – however, not only is Tony helped by Rhody, now the “Iron Patriot” but about 30 remotely activated Iron Man suits join in the final battle. Therefore, in the final battle – it’s very difficult to figure out who’s who and what’s going on (both Tony and Rhody get in and out of various suits throughout the battle).

Still, at the end, Pepper almost dies, but Extremis saves her.  Tony realises how much he loves Pepper, and even has the shrapnel and electromagnet removed from his chest, and one is left with the idea that he might, finally, become a better person without relying on his suit of iron.  Well, until the next Avengers film.

The problem with Iron Man 3 is twofold – it doesn’t expand the universe at all, it simply introduces yet another villain, and this villain isn’t even real – the Mandarin is a sham.  An Killian, though nasty, is somewhat finite as a villain – Extremis doesn’t work.  It, temporarily, does as promised – even regrowing limbs, but eventually the patient blows-up.  Not exactly a medical miracle.  And secondly, it becomes just another chapter in an on-going story that never ends.  There’s no beginning, middle, end structure to the Iron Man films – so there’s no growth.  In the second film, I felt Tony had slid backwards to his original party self; in this one – Party Tony is in a flashback, but there’s still no real growth or change.  And the end scenes, which do hint at change — Tony realising his feelings for Pepper, Tony having the shrapnel and magnet removed, etc., all seem fake and short-lived.  We know Iron Man will be back, so what’s the point?

I did like the scenes between Pepper and Tony at the beginning and end of the film, but overall, Gwyneth Paltrow is almost criminally under-used in this film.  She needed either, her own storyline, or to be with Tony in Tennessee doing research – not simply arguing with Tony at the beginning, and being a victim at the end, until Tony tries to rescue her and she ends up rescuing herself instead.

Recommendation:  For die-hard Marvel fans Only
Rating:  3 Stars
Next Film:  Justice League:  Flashpoint Paradox

The Avengers

  • Title:  The Avengers
  • Director:  Joss Whedon
  • Date:  2012
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel Studios
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy, SF
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisoff, Clark Gregg
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
“The cube is a doorway to the other end of space, right?  Doors open from both sides.” — Clint Barton
 
“I’d like to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction.”  — Dr. Bruce Banner
 
“Is this the first time you lost a soldier?”  — Capt. Steve Rogers
“We are not soldiers!” — Tony Stark
The Avengers takes several heroes from previous Marvel films and brings them together into a team-up movie, as a new super-hero group, The Avengers, is assembled to combat Loki’s challenge, find the mysterious Tesseract cube Loki has stolen,  and ultimately to fight an army of creatures from another galaxy.
The film opens with an attack by Loki on a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility.  He uses his staff to take control of Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye) and succeeds in taking the Tesseract cube.  In the chaos, the facility is destroyed.  Recognising that the special circumstances call for a special team and a special response, Nick Fury calls for Agent Phil Coulson to assemble a team who will become The Avengers.  The beginning of the film introduces and assembles this team, all of whom are in the midst of their own problems, but they put their own problems aside to combat Loki’s threat.  The team is:  Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) an assassin, Dr. Bruce Banner (the Hulk), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Capt. Steve Rogers (Captain America), Thor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself.
Once the team is assembled, they begin to look for Loki and the Tesseract.  They easily find Loki in Stuttgart, Germany.  Captain America and Ironman fight and capture Loki, with some help from Black Widow, a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter, and Thor.  However, once they take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s heli-carrier (remember the Valiant from the Doctor Who episodes:  “The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky”? – it looks like that.) it seems that Loki wanted to be taken.  He plays the team, attempting to get Dr. Bruce Banner so angry that he turns into the Hulk and smashes the carrier in flight.  Despite the Avengers figuring out this plan, it works. Hawkeye, still under Loki’s control, also attacks the carrier.  Stark and Rogers have to work together to prevent the entire carrier from crashing.  Agent Phil Coulson is killed by Loki.  Both Thor and Hulk fall out of the heli-carrier, but are un-hurt when they land.  Prior to his turning into the Hulk, Banner and Stark both got along very well.  Stark treated Banner well, complimented his scientific work and papers, and even inviting Banner to Stark Tower to work in R&D.  The same cannot be said of Stark and Rogers – who strongly dislike each other at first.  Loki successfully escapes, though Stark and Rogers are able to prevent the carrier from crashing.
Recovering from their losses, and the death of  Agent Coulson, the Avengers plan their next move.  After a discussion with Rogers, Tony realises that Loki will use the new Arc Reactor self-perpetuating green power source at Stark Tower to accomplish his plans.
The film moves to New York, where Loki has already opened a portal to another galaxy.  Alien creatures go through the portal and start causing chaos – attacking everything, destroying buildings, and killing people.  Tony first challenges Loki, then co-ordinates the counter-attack. Eventually all the Avengers join the fight. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s shadowy cabinet decides to cut their losses and target a nuclear missile on the city.  Fury is, well, furious, at the very idea and refuses to comply with the order.  The cabinet sends out a fighter jet to send in the nuke anyway.  Fury informs Ironman, who informs the other Avengers.  Tony then takes the missile and carries it into the portal.  He sees it blow-up, cutting off  the alien’s power, then falls to earth.  Stark barely makes it through the portal before Natasha closes it with Loki’s staff.  Hulk catches the powerless, falling Stark.
Tony and Pepper are adorable and cute together at the beginning of the film, when Coulson comes to bring Ironman into the mission.  When he’s heading for the portal and thinking he will probably die, Tony agrees, at Jarvis’s suggestion, to call Pepper.  She, however, misses his call.
News clips round-up the story, with man-on-the-street type interviews with those saved by the Avengers, as well as political pundits who criticize the destruction of the city.  Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract; Tony and Banner ride off together, Steve leaves on his own motorcycle, and later Tony and Pepper are in his lab re-designing Stark Tower.  The Avengers have split apart but they will draw together again when needed.
The film is a great ensemble piece, with crackling, snappy dialogue.  I enjoyed it very much.  I really liked the “science bromance” of  Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner.  Stark is a genuine admirer of  the other man, and is not in fear of  the green “rage monster” as he calls it.  He’s shocked when Banner admits he had once attempted to shoot himself, only to have “the other guy” spit out the bullet. Natasha and Clint also seemed to have a history, though Hawkeye spends most of the film in Loki’s thrall, she is, eventually able to break that and he joins the Avengers for the final battle.  Overall, this was a great summer “popcorn” movie.  It’s fun, the actors all did a great job, and the characters were very cool.  When I saw it last year, the only other Marvel films I’d seen were some of the X-men movies and the (Tobey McGuire) Spiderman films (which aren’t connected at all), and Thor (which was).  This film got me to see the Ironman films, largely due to Robert Downey Jr.’s excellent performance, which I enjoyed (see reviews on this blog).  The Avengers shows that an ensemble piece with several characters with elaborate backstorys can still work as a film.  Warner Brothers are you listening?  Make Justice League!  Anyway, it’s recommended.
Recommendation:  Go see it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Third Man

Spider-man

  • Title:  Spiderman
  • Director:  Sam Raimi
  • Date:  2001
  • Studio:  Columbia (Marvel Productions)
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Tobey MaGuire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem DaFoe, Cliff Robertson, James Franco, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Some spiders change colors to blend in with their environment, it’s a defense mechanism.” — Peter Parker
“Peter, What makes you think I would want to know that?”  — Harry Osborn
“Who wouldn’t?” — Peter Parker

“This guy, Flash Thompson, he probably deserved what happened, but just because you can beat him up, doesn’t give you the right to.  Remember — with great power, comes great responsibility.” — Uncle Ben

Peter Parker is painfully shy, and a bit of a nerd but he’s also a talented photographer and has the mind of a scientist — curious about the world and always wanting to know more.  He’s being raised by his aunt and uncle, and no mention is made of what became of his parents – I assumed they were dead.  Mary Jane, or MJ, is the proverbial girl next door, who’s harassed to the point of abuse by her father and boyfriend (MJ really doesn’t know how to stand up for herself).

One fateful day, Peter’s class, including MJ and Peter’s extremely wealthy friend, Harry, are on a field trip to a New York City genetics lab, which has been working on combining genetic traits from different spiders to create a “super spider”.  The spider gets loose and bites Peter.  Harry also starts talking to Mary Jane, at first to show Peter how easy it is — later, because he likes her.

That evening, Peter feels sick, but the next day he wakes up with extraordinary spider powers.  He and Mary Jane talk briefly (he’s bringing out the trash, she’s escaping her abusive father) only to have MJ run off when her boyfriend Flash Thompson shows up with his new car which he received as a present. Peter thinks of getting a car, and makes himself a simple costume so he can enter a wrestling match to win some money.  He wins, but the fight promoter cheats him out of the majority of his cash prize.  Just after Peter leaves the manager’s office, another man rushes in and robs the guy at gunpoint.  Peter could have stopped the thief, but he lets him get away (in part because he’s mad at the loss of the prize money).  Later that night, Peter returns to the library where his Uncle Ben is supposed to pick him up and discovers Ben dying.  Peter, in his masked outfit, tracks his uncle’s murderer — it was the same man he let go.  Peter throws the man through a window and he falls several stories to his death.

But Peter, remembering Uncle Ben’s words about responsibility, decides to become the crime-fighter Spiderman.  He’s improved his costume, refined his techniques, graduated from high school, and moved to New York City with Harry.  MJ has also moved to New York, but her dreams of becoming an actress have hit the harsh reality of being a waitress, just to eat and pay rent.

Spiderman is introduced to New York by a montage of  scenes of him stopping crime, and “man-on-the-street” interviews.  Eventually always cash-poor Peter Parker sees an ad in the Daily Bugle requesting pictures of Spiderman.  Peter rigs an automatic shooting camera and sells his pics to Jameson, the Bugle’s cigar-smoking editor.  He gets a $300 freelance fee.  Well, it’s a start.

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, Harry’s father, is having troubles.  His company is about to lose a lucrative military contract.  Seeing no other choice, Norman tests the human enhancing formula on himself.  He nearly dies and it gives him a “split” personality — turning him into the evil green goblin.  The Goblin bombs his company’s rival, Quest, destroying their Ironman-like exoskeleton (not to mention several people who work there, a pilot, and the general who wanted to take away Oscorp’s military contracts). Upon returning, as himself, to Oscorp, Norman Osborn discovers his board is ready to sell the company to his rival and oust him as CEO.  Osborn goes bananas.

During the “World Unity Festival” the Green Goblin attacks, threatening and killing innocents as well as members of the Oscorp board.  Spiderman arrives and tries to save as many people as possible (and he saves Mary Jane, who is now dating Harry Osborn).

Aunt May gets Harry, Norman, MJ, and Peter together at Harry and Peter’s New York apartment for Thanksgiving.  It’s a disaster.  Everyone nearly finds out who Peter is; Norman accuses MJ of only being interested in Harry for his money; and MJ hears Norman’s accusations and Harry’s lack of protests.  A good time is not had by all.  Shortly thereafter, the Green Goblin puts it together that Peter is Spiderman and attacks MJ and May.  Both survive but only just.

In the final conflict between Spiderman and Green Goblin, the Goblin gives Spidey a choice — save MJ or save a tramcar full of kids.  Spiderman manages to save both.  Goblin and Spidey fight.  Spidey loses half  his mask, Norman takes his off  and tries to convince Peter he’s somehow not in control.  But, it’s a trick — Peter’s Spidey-sense warns him in time and he moves out of the way and the glider’s spikes miss him.  Norman Osborn isn’t so lucky, host by his own petard, he dies.

At the funeral, Harry blames Spiderman for his father’s death, but promises to remain friends with Peter. Mary Jane also tells Peter she loves him, but he tells her he only wants to be her friend.

For some reason, the first Spiderman film seemed better the first couple of times I saw it, but in later viewings, including this one, I saw it’s faults.  Going backwards through the film — the scene between MJ and Peter at the cemetery seemed so fake that I almost expected Peter to wake-up and realize it was a dream.  Peter’s pined after MJ since he met her (at the age of  six), yet when she tells him she’s completely in love with him, he tells her “let’s just be friends”?  Uh-huh, right.  And Mary Jane’s throwing of herself at Peter also didn’t feel right.  Second, Jameson is a bit of  a cardboard/cartoony secondary villain — sure, we know he only wants to sell papers, and painting Spiderman as a villain will do that — but it makes no sense, given the evidence.  Third — I have never bought Spiderman’s origin story.  A bite from a genetically-enhanced spider would probably kill you from it’s venom.  (Or a radioactive spider would give you cancer).  I really don’t think it would transfer “spider powers” to a teenager.  But I can suspend disbelief on that, you often have to for superhero movies.

The performances, on the other hand, are good.  I liked Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker — he made the nerdy photographer/science student seem real, as well as flawed.  Kristin Dunst did the best she could given how Mary Jane was written.  And honestly, she often lights-up the screen.  MJ often seems like a victim of everyone around her, but it’s not her fault she’s given three boyfriends, an abusive father, and a complete inability to stand up for herself or fight for the right to own her life.  I also enjoyed the bit players and cameo artists, especially Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben, and Aunt May.

Recommendation:  See it.
Rating:  3.5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Spider-man II

Ironman 2

  • Title:  Ironman 2
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You want my property, you can’t have it.  But I did you a big favor, I’ve successfully privatized world peace.”  — Tony Stark

“You are running out of both time and options.  Unfortunately, the device that’s keeping you alive is also killing you.”  — Jarvis

“You want to do this whole lone gunslinger act, and it’s unnecessary.  You don’t have to do this alone.” — Rhodey
“You know, I wish I could believe that, I really do.  But you gotta trust me.  Contrary to popular belief, I know exactly what I’m doing.”  — Tony

The film does open with a re-cap of the audio from Tony’s press conference at the end of the first Ironman film — played out against a man in Russia assembling his own arc reactor and Ironman-like suit. We will later discover this is Whiplash.

Tony, as Ironman, literally drops in to a rock concert-like opening for Stark Expo, complete with screaming fans and Rocketts.  He’s back to the arrogent, egomaniac — wild, and irresponsible, challenging anyone and everyone who is in his way, including a Senate sub-committee.

Normally, in a sequel to a heroic adventure, I would expect that the hero, having learned his true path in the first film (or book) would spend the second film facing down a bigger, badder, meaner challenge.  It’s nice if there’s more character interaction and development; or if  the world opens up, so to speak, widening the area where the hero plays.  However, in Ironman 2, Tony seems to have slipped backwards — once again becoming the irresponsible playboy, without a thought for how his actions affect others.

It’s soon revealed that Tony is dying.  The Palladium core of the arc reactor in his chest that keeps him alive, is also slowly poisoning him.  Tony begins to give away his things, such as donating his modern art collection to the Boy Scouts of America.  He also makes Pepper the CEO and chairman of his company. Their conversation when he does so, is at breakneck speed and great fun to watch.

Tony then goes to the Grand Prix race in Monaco.  Pepper, Happy, and a new Stark Industries employee named Natalie Rushman (later revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, named Natasha) accompany Tony to Monaco. There he’s challenged by Justin Hammer, CEO of Hammer Industries – a weapons manufacturing company and former business rival of Stark’s.  Hammer wants to build his own Ironman suits as well, to sell to the US Armed Forces.

Tony slips away from the meeting, and tests his blood toxicity (with a device that looks very much like the type of portable blood sugar monitor used by diabetics).  Next you see him, he’s preparing to drive the race car he was only supposed to be sponsoring for the Grand Prix.  Pepper is livid and has Natalie find Happy so they can try to stop Tony from getting himself  killed.   During the race, Whiplash arrives and causes havoc — attacking cars and then deliberately crashing Tony’s race car.  Tony manages to free himself, and with a little intervention from Happy and Pepper is briefly rescued.  Pepper throws him a red suitcase, and Tony steps into the Ironman suit and challenges Whiplash.  He wins and the villian is carted off by the police.

On the flight back to the US, Pepper does ask Tony what he’s not telling her.  He talks about cancelling his birthday party and going with her to Venice.  Again, their dialogue together is cute, but Tony isn’t really telling her what’s going on.

Whiplash escapes prison, and is convinced to work for Justin Hammer.  He, does, however, have his own agenda.

Meanwhile, the night of  his birthday party, Rhodey finds Tony in his workroom, alone, and in bad shape. Tony gives a wild birthday party, and when Pepper tries to stop him — he goes even more wild, destroying things.  Rhodey shows up in one of Tony’s old Ironman suits and the two go at it.  In the end, Rhodey escapes with the suit and takes it to the Air Force.

The next day, Fury, of S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives and gives Tony lithium dioxide to counter the effects of  the Palladium poisoning.  He also introduces a more important part of the plot; that Howard Stark said the arc reactor was only a stepping stone to something greater, and Tony was the key.  Tony’s confused by this, but takes his father’s trunk and returns to the Orphanage (his home) where he discovers Agent Phil Coulson will be his body guard and babysitter.

Going through he father’s things, he discovers an old 16mm film of his father’s speech for the opening of Stark Expo.  At the end of his practicing the speech, Howard Stark addresses Tony directly.

Tony goes to see Pepper at Stark Industries and again is incapable of telling her how he feels (partially because she cuts him off) or that he’s dying.  But when he sees the Stark Expo model leaning against a wall, he realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye.  He brings it back to his workshop, and has Jarvis render it into a 3-D working model.  Working with the model, he realizes it’s an atom for a new element. Tony builds a Large Hadron Collider in his workshop and creates the new element.

As before, Tony is at his best, when he is alone and working on a problem or to build something.  The man is most definitely an engineer.  And I still love Jarvis and the 3-D holographic displays as Tony figures stuff out and manipulates parts of the rendered drawing with his hands.  (I use AutoCAD at work — I wish it was that easy!)  The final shot of Tony surrounded by dots of blue light, representing his new element is absolutely gorgeous!  I loved it!  Tony puts the new element in his arc reactor core which will help his “dying” problem.  In other words, he’s no longer being poisoned slowly.

Justin Hammer turns out to be a bully — taking Whiplash’s pet bird when he isn’t delivering fast enough on making suits that imitate Tony’s Ironman.  Rhodey delivers his suit to the Air Force who deliver it to Hammer.

At Stark Expo, Hammer introduces his battle drones, and his VTRB (Variable Threat Response Battlesuit).  But Wisplash takes control of the suits remotely and chaos reigns.  Even Rhodey in his own VTRB suit can’t control it.  Tony has Jarvis hack into Rhodey’s suit, granting him control at least.  Pepper contacts the police to try to bring some control to the chaos.  Eventually, Tony and Rhodey defeat Whiplash and his drones, but Whiplash has one final act to play — all the drones contain bombs.  Tony rushes off and rescues Pepper.  She quits as  CEO of Stark Industries.

Ironman 2 has some fun moments, and I liked the advancement of  Tony and Pepper’s relationship.  I also found the one step forward two steps back approach to Tony and Pepper’s relationship to be frustrating almost to the point of annoyance.  Tony and Pepper are cute together.  She can improve him, but they also seem to be always moving in opposite directions, unable to stand still long enough to really meet and know what the other is saying.  But I also found it odd that dying was used by Tony as an excuse to go back to his irresponsible playboy ways.  And, in a sense there was too many “big action scenes” and not enough character development (even for the villian — the only place his name was used was the back of the DVD box).  A sequel should further develop the main character’s arc, but in this film it seems to go backwards instead.   However, Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow again knock it out of the park, doing their best with what they are given.  And I like Tony when he’s alone and acting as an engineer.  But overall, a little disappointing.

Recommendation:  See it.  May as well to keep up with the various Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers.
Rating:  3.8 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of  Shadows

Ironman

  • Title:  Ironman
  • Director:  Jon Favreau
  • Date:  2008
  • Studio:  Paramount, Marvel
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“So you’re a man who has everything and nothing.”  — Yinsen (when Tony tells him he has no family)

“Thank you for saving me.”  — Tony Stark
“Don’t waste it.  Don’t waste your life.”  — Yinsen

“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them.  And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”  — Tony Stark

When we first meet Tony Stark, well, when we first meet him — he’s getting blown up by one of his own weapons manufacturing company’s weapons — but the film quickly flashes back and shows us the previous thirty-six hours of Tony’s life.  Tony Stark is rich, powerful, irresponsible, a playboy, and a bit of a jerk.  He has no idea what his own company is doing, though he thinks he does, and he probably doesn’t care.  On a publicity trip to Iraq or Afghanistan to demonstrate his company new weapon, the Jericho missile (a multi-warhead missile that reminds me of the “probes” in Stargate:  Atlantis), Tony’s convoy home is attacked.  And thus we are back where the teaser to the film starts – the convoy is blown-up, and Tony is blown-up by a Stark Industries weapon.

Tony wakes in a rebel camp, the multi-national Ten Rings group.  He’s tortured, but his life is also saved by an electro-magnet installed in his chest by a man also being held captive, Yinsen.  Yinsen is learnéd, a doctor, and had met Tony before at a lecture, though Tony doesn’t remember him.  The rebels demand that Tony build them a Jericho rocket.  Tony refuses.  Then he agrees, but instead of building the rebels a weapon, he builds a suit (and a miniature arc reactor to power the electro-magnet in his chest keeping the shrapnel from entering his heart).  His plan is for he and Yinsen to get out of there.  Yinsen dies in the attempt, but Tony not only gets out, he uses a flame-thrower to burn-up the cache of weapons and several of the rebels.

Rhodey, Tony’s friend from the Air Force, rescues him and returns him to Pepper Potts, his administrative assistant.  Tony refuses medical attention, asks for a cheeseburger, and has Pepper arrange a press conference.  At the conference, he announces Stark Industries will no longer manufacture weapons.  Obadiah steps in and shuts him up.  Tony isn’t pleased.

Tony has shown himself  to be an excellent engineer — with the ability to not only plan how to make something, but to actually assemble it — with skills in welding, forging metal, building things, and improving things.  He uses the paladium from some of the weapons in the rebel cave to forge a ring that powers his arc reactor, as well as making the Mark I  Ironman suit.

Tony returns to “The Orphanage”, his home in presumably California, and begins working on improving his Arc Reactor.  Obadiah tells him “the board” thinks he has PTSD, and orders an injunction against him, freezing him out.  Tony still insists Stark Industries will no longer make weapons.  He returns to his workshop and starts the Mark II Ironman suit.  Tony, again, is an excellent engineer — and some of the best scenes in the film are of him working, by himself, to solve a problem.

And by the bye — I WANT a Jarvis!  A computerized butler, assistant, and 3-D computer interface.  Jarvis goes on my short list of SF inventions I want (along with, say a TARDIS), but I digress.

Tony goes to the Fire-Fighters ball that one of  his charities sponsors, and dances with Pepper, but then discovers (a) Stark Industries is selling weapons to the enemy, (b) Obadiah froze Tony out so he could continue to do so.  Finding about about Stark weapons being used to target Gulmira, Yinsen’s home town, Tony gets into the Ironman gear and decides to do something.  He kicks butt, basically.

More confirmation that Obadiah is not Tony’s friend:  he’s paying the rebels (in cash and weapons), and asked them to kill Tony Stark.  And this was before Tony becomes Ironman.  Obadiah takes the pieces of Tony’s original survival suit (which were left in the desert) to Level 16 of Stark Industries, so he can make more suits.  Tony needs proof of this so he sends in Pepper to get that proof.  But she doesn’t immediately agree — that their conversation says a lot about both characters and their relationship.

“There is the next mission and nothing else.”  — Tony
“Is that so?  Well, then, I quit.”  — Pepper
“You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction.  And now that I’m trying to protect the people I put in harm’s way; You’re going to walk out?” — Tony
“You’re going to kill yourself, Tony.  I’m not going to be a part of  it.” — Pepper
“I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason.  I’m not crazy, Pepper.  I just finally know what I have to do.  And I know in my heart that it’s right.” — Tony

Tony is learning responsibility, and he’s starting to acknowledge his feelings for Pepper.  Feelings she’s returned but for the fact that he’s her boss.  But there is a caring between the two.

Pepper gets the info and runs into Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.  But Obadiah gets to Tony first, stuns him, takes the arc reactor, threatens to kill Pepper, and informs Tony he’s going to make an army of Ironman suits to sell to the highest bidder.  Dying, Tony tries to get to his workshop to put the old arc reactor in his chest.  Meanwhile, Pepper is frantic — worrying about Tony.  She sends Rhodey to him.

Tony is able to get in the Ironman suit and fight Obadiah.  Though S.H.I.E.L.D. prepares an alibi for Tony – he admits before a press conference that he is Ironman – cut to end credits.

Ironman walks the path of many more traditional hero stories — the hero (to be) is a jerk, with problems understanding the real world.  The hero faces a life-altering threat.  A mentor helps the hero see his true path, but dies.  The hero emerges in a new guise but isn’t quite ready or the completed/perfect hero yet. There’s another crisis.  By walking through the fire of  the second crisis — the hero becomes the final, complete, perfected hero he is meant to be.  However, the film does it with style — and the artful talents of Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow — both of whom are excellent in this.  Enjoyable and fun!

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Ironman II

DareDevil

  • Title:  DareDevil
  • Director:  Mark Johnson
  • Date:  2002
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Ben Affleck, Jennifer Gardner, Colin Farrell, David Keith
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“We made each other a silent promise to never give up, to be fearless, to stick-up for the long shots like us.  We were two fighters on the come back trail.”  — Matt Murdock

“You killed the only two people I ever loved.  Why?”  — DareDevil
“Business.  That’s all it ever is, is business.” — Kingpin

“That this city is born of heroes.  That one man can make a difference.”  — DareDevil

DareDevil is of course based on the Marvel character of the same name.  I’m a DC gal, not Marvel so much, so I’m not that familiar with the source material, though I think I read a DareDevil graphic novel once.  The movie though explains what you need to know about the character’s background and shows us Matt Murdock’s journey.  Matt grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, the son of a former boxer.  His father, Jack, is washed-up now, but urges Matt to not fight but to get good grades so he can become a doctor or a lawyer.

Matt, at 10 or so, loses his sight in a bio hazard chemical spill.  At 12, his father is killed, leaving him all alone in the world.  However, he manages to become a lawyer anyway and specializes in helping innocent people – ending-up doing a lot of pro-bono work, much to the chagrin of his best friend and partner.  Matt, also, at night is DareDevil, The Man Without Fear (formerly The Boy Without Fear), who uses his acute radar-like hearing and highly developed senses of touch and smell to fight crime and to seek vengeance.

I loved how this movie visualized the way Matt “sees” by sound.  It was innovative, and just plain cool-looking.  I also liked that the credits were in braille which transformed into letters, though I don’t know if the braille was accurate.  There are some other stunning visuals in the film as well – When Jack dies, it’s in a dark alley, with a yellow caution sign at one end that says, “End”.  Some symbolism there, don’t you think?  And the brilliant red rose dropped on Jack’s body is the only real color in the shot.  Actually, the color palette of the entire film is very muted and dark – emphasizing the darkness of the world Matt Murdock inhabits – both literally as a blind man, and figuratively as a masked vigilante.

Anyway, as an adult with a dual identity, Matt is working in the justice system by day, fighting criminals by night.  One day he meets Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) in a coffee shop, as Matt, and the two begin to date.  However, when The Kingpin (of crime), hires the assassin, Bullseye, to kill Elektra’s father, not only does he succeed, but it looks, even to Elektra, that DareDevil is the guilty one.  Elektra practices the martial arts she’s learned since she was five, dresses in black leather (of course) and sets out to find and kill DareDevil for killing her father.  They fight, and Elektra stabs him in the shoulder.  She pulls off his mask and is shocked to find it’s Matt – though she also now believes him – she knows Bullseye is to blame, not Matt.  Speaking of – Bullseye shows up, fights Elektra, and kills her.  Or does he?  The end of  the film makes one wonder.  DareDevil goes after Bullseye, they fight, he kills Bullseye (by throwing him through a church Rose window no less), then he goes after Kingpin.  But during his fight with Kingpin, he comes to a realization:  he no longer wants vengeance after seeing what it did to Elektra.  He leaves Kingpin to the police.  DareDevil will be the city’s protector, not a masked vigilante seeking random vengeance.

Again – I’m more of a DC gal, but I will say that the Marvel Comics characters make for good movies.  And, even though I see a lot of similarities between DareDevil and Batman, I still think DareDevil is a good movie – the visuals are very, very cool.  I particularly liked the ghostly images and white-on-blue or sparkly dots (e.g. rain) used to visualize how Matt “sees” – unusual, visually stunning, and something that makes you think.  How unusual is that in a “comic book” fantasy movie?  This also is a fairly dark film, really.  Matt’s life is grim, and Elektra’s is about as bad.

Recommendation:  See it – at least once.
Rating:  3.5
Next Film:  Date Night