Robert Downey Jr’s performance in Iron Man was very entertaining, I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Saw it twice and both times was among the few people in the theatre, and the fewer people laughing. The best jokes were throwaway lines, like him belittling the helper robot, or demanding a cheeseburger upon release from Talibanistan. Hence, they don’t translate that well to international (non-English) audiences. I guess that’s why Spiderman, anchored by the one-note (and inadequate) Tobey McGuire can do well while be a much dumber movie. Not that Iron Man doesn’t have its share of dumb, by the end of the movie he’s used his powers to save a grand total of like 15 Afghan villagers. The movie and the character are both very self-centered, but that’s what makes it interesting beyond watching things explode.
I think a lot of modern have forgotten that what makes effects amazing is not the explosions themselves, but that they have an emotional impact centered around real characters. When Luke Skywalker blew up the deathstar (YouTube) in a New Hope I was actually invested in caring about him and Han Solo and all the other characters. Hence that explosion was important to me on an emotional rather than pyrotechnic level. In the later Star Wars, however, the effects were ‘better’, but I found myself just wishing that the characters would die and let me go. It’s amazing that George Lucas managed to make Darth Vader a whiny bitch, thus ruining a small portion of my childhood. I’m not even going to go see Indiana Jones out of fear of paying money to ruin my memories.
But I digress. Spiderman, the bigger brother to Iron Man, is – IMHO – an incredibly dull and two-dimensional series. Tobey McGuire’s entire emotional range consists of befuddled (sad) and befuddled (happy), with a touch of incredulity. And the rest of the time he’s, thankfully, wearing a mask. I loved the Spiderman comics as a kid and Spiderman was, above all, funny. I think Topher Grace (cast as Venom) would have been way better as Spiderman – self-deprecating and sly. As it is, all the scenes with Peter Parker bore me senseless. Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, however, is flawed, hilarious, and incredibly compelling. This is partly due to the character Tony Stark (an alcoholic, womanizing playboy) being inherently more interesting, but Robert Downey Jr is simply a much better actor. He’s dominant, humorous, and chews the hell out of even the most average lines. And, throughout the film, he’s always obviously having fun, whereas Tobey McGuire generally looks constipated.
I don’t know what the next Spidey is about, but I think they totally wasted the Venom character by giving it only like a third of the last film. Venom is enough for a movie of his own, and Spidey in the dark suit had much deeper character issues than making Peter Parker walk down the street like a gigolo.
But I digress, Spiderman will be international sacharrine, bland and unoffensive, whereas I hope Iron Man will be a series for the rest of us. I’m actually quite looking forward to the next one. The first dealt with the terrorism/Afghanistan thing in an extremely peripheral manner (to the self-absorption on character), but it’s still an interesting touch in these days and times. Thing is, in the comic – and I just read this – Obadiah (big clunky Iron Man) isn’t the nemesis. The nemesis is a Chinese character named, wait for it, The Mandarin. The Mandarin is an occult/alien-influenced technologist from the other side of the world. China, like terrorism, is one of the great ‘new things’ of this century, and it’ll be interesting to see how the issues are played on, even in the background. I mean, you’ll have an American industry (effectively) squaring off against a Chinese one. Perhaps the Mandarin will flood the market with cheap Plastic Men, or corrupt Iron Man’s own supply chain with lethal paint. I can’t wait to sit in a nearly empty Majestic City and watch it. You can even buy scotch in the movie theaters here, which Tony Start would love.
I stopped reading comics a long time ago, though I would if they were readily available. Learned a few things just reading around though. Apparently, recently, Iron Man designed a suit for Spiderman (Iron Spidey) with all the computing power and metallic wizardry. And it seems that there’s some tension between the pair, with Iron Man installing a secret override to the suit and stuff. The fight above is Spiderman in that new suit.
Popular Science has an interesting article on the technology behind an ‘iron suit’ (Video). It’s pretty advanced in that the system can support a human to carry heavy loads, though it still seems to be wired. There are some Japanese models with the commercial goal of helping nurses lift patients and stuff.