Upfront: I confess that I only sought out the Iron Man films because… well, the dude look like he came out of a Metal Hero franchise, right?
There’s even a thematic common ground: weapon technology is great as long as it’s being applied by the righteous person, i.e. the hero (who may be an android fighting to save the world, or a Japanese police force; it depends). Usually the Japanese heroes are a bit more humble than Tony Stark; they tend not to be womanizing ultra-wealthy assholes who make their own gadgets. Rather they tend to be ‘forced’ into fighting because someone killed their dad and/or experimented on them to turn them into insectoid cyborgs and/or they were a monster all along and self-inflicted amnesia into thinking they were the person they murdered, that sort of thing. Because Metal Hero shows (and tokusatsu in general) are aimed at young children, it tends to be fairly bloodless, and fairly sexist (in the sense that women, if they show up, tend not to do very much but provide a sort of sexless romantic interest).
Er, and the average tokusatsu title isn’t as creepily imperialist.
Iron Man (2008). We establish early on that Tony Stark is an obnoxious pile of shit in every way you can imagine. Oh no – he’s talking about protecting America, that’s not going to be played straight, surely. The jingoistic lines are scarily plausible though, in the sense that powerful people IRL seriously say the same sort of thing. Tony Stark is like an embodiment of American foreign policies who then morphs into also being an embodiment of geek wish-fulfillment.
Wow, Shaun Toub is a fantastic actor! …he doesn’t survive. He literally sacrifices himself to save the white man, in as many words. Great, this is going so well. Isn’t ‘Ho Yinsen’ a Chinese name? Why is he being played by an Iranian actor, that’s not even next door to each other. Whatever. As I said, man can really act. So can Faran Tahir, shame about the racist ‘random terrorist’ role they stuck him in. (What are they doing, anyway? Is their raison d’tre seriously ‘brown people are terrorists, randomly, for no particular reason’?)
Tony Stark is supposed to be thirty-something in this film, but he looks more his actor’s age (forty-something). The metal suit looks just like one of those Japanese things! Very nostalgia. Ok, now he’s… now he’s dropping out from the sky to literally white savior nameless brown people even though he doesn’t understand a single word they’re saying, at least they don’t fall over to worship him – ok, that one boy gazes at him admiringly; this is really bad. The first third or so is great, and then instead of doing anything with the ‘America is a genocidal empire’ it switches to ‘two rich white men fight each other in mecha suits’. Given that Stark outs himself, why isn’t anyone billing him for destruction of public/state property including that fighter jet?
Still, nice scri-
“They had no script, man,” Bridges exclaims. “They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”
Bridges, director Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. would literally act out sequences during primitive rehearsals, Downey taking on Bridges’s role and vice versa, to find and essentially improvise their way to full scenes, the actor recounts. Bridges says that the entire production was probably saved by the improv prowess of the film’s director and star.
“You’ve got the suits from Marvel in the trailer with us saying, ‘No, you wouldn’t say that,’” Bridges remembers. “You would think with a $200 million movie you’d have the shit together, but it was just the opposite. And the reason for that is because they get ahead of themselves. They have a release date before the script, ‘Oh, we’ll have the script before that time,’ and they don’t have their shit together.
Well, it’s much better than Whedon. But so’s drinking laundry detergent.
Iron Man 2 (2010). Let’s see, the title scroll… ah shit, this one contains ScarJo; terrible. Let’s hope she will appear but briefly (don’t suppose dousing her in body paint until you can no longer see her face is an option?).
I don’t think that’s quite what Frantz Fanon was getting at. Stark’s also sounding a bit on edge, what with the palladium poisoning; it’s like really fancy cancer, I guess. The antagonist is Russian and white this time so we’re spared the racism – just xenophobia instead – and he has a toothpick in his mouth. Constantly. 24/7. Inexplicably. He also appears to never bathe, ever, and I can’t tell if this is a white people thing or a Russian stereotype thing. Now I think we’re supposed to see Justin Hammer as a wannabe who aspires to be like Stark but fails, because he’s dumb and bumbling, but honestly they’re exactly the same thing: ultra-rich white male war profiteers* who are also boring nerds and monolingual. Gwyneth Paltrow mostly screams a lot this time, and I still don’t know why she has such a bizarre nickname.
* I miss Jormungand. It’s an anime starring a woman arms dealer who is never subjected to fanservice unlike, say, Black Widow right here in this very movie.
The entire imperialism and military industrial complex is poked at, gently, and then the focus is back to ‘men in battle suits punching and shooting at each other’, only this time a black man gets to put it on too, except he’s also part of the US military so… yay, the US military now has access to ‘privatized world peace’. This particular moral dilemma goes unremarked upon entirely. But at least the black guy lives! Low bars, we’re clearing ’em with gusto.
Anyway, we get the Black Widow cameo, but not before she changes in the car and shows some skin (‘What are you wearing??’ Stark’s chauffeur asks, reasonably) so we can remember what it’s all about: tits and ass, and a skintight catsuit. Truly, the feminist victory we deserve. Speaking of which, is it just me or does ScarJo in this movie look exactly like Natalie Portman? It’s starting to creep me out how they all have a case of the clone.
Iron Man 3 (2013). Shaun Toub is back! For, like, five seconds. Jesus. Speaking of, the iron man suit appears to fit just about anyone of average-ish build and height, including the president and Gwyneth Paltrow. What do you know – boob plates are stupid after all. Tony Stark bonding with a random kid is sort of cute, and as close as he ever gets to being a human person. The Mandarin deal is fairly absurd but at least it is averted from being full-on racist (that low bar again! cleared!!!), but the obsession with ‘terroristic threat from outside’ is getting a bit much, though it comes this close to being self-aware.
For whatever reason, the third one made the least impression. It kind of skimmed by, being inoffensive and mildly entertaining, but not overly memorable. The army of suits controlled by AI was fun. I like the AI. It’s the best character out of all the surviving cast, really. The villain is awful and insipid; I no longer remember his name.