I. Am. (Fe) Man.

All right, everyone’s on about the new superhero movie Iron Man and I actually did go to see it opening weekend (rare for me, but it was the only thing playing at the time I could get away).

First things first: Take the f#$*(@ing bluetooth earpiece out of your (*#$*@ ear, jerkwad. That piercing blue LED makes watching the movie near you like watching it on an airport runway. OK?

OK, then.

Iron Man is apparently some sort of comic book hero–a guy in a waldo, by classic sci-fi terms. Because it’s the first movie (and, oh, yes, there will be more), we get an origin story: Arms dealer and man-about-town Tony Stark is captured on a middle east tour and held captive by terrorists who want him to build them one of these super-duper missiles he’s building for the US.

Instead, in comic book logic, he builds a super-suit and kicks their ass. Oh, and in the course of his kidnapping, he gets shot up and his co-prisoner saves his life by installing some sort of electromagnet that keeps the shrapnel out of his heart.

This is probably the most inspired comic book logic since Doc Ock preceded his work on a fusion reaction by building four artificially intelligent cyber-limbs (Spiderman 2).

Which is to say it’s delightfully insane.

Anyway, he frees himself with the help of his suit, and then gets rescued from the deserts of Terroristan. And then things sorta get murky.

In the first part of the movie, Stark is an unrepentant patriot–you ain’t seen patriotism like this since Starship Troopers, and in this movie, they aren’t kidding!–convinced he’s doing the right thing. After being kidnapped, and learning that the bad guys have his weapons, he sort of has an epiphany, and decides to stop making weapons. He devotes his time to his iron-man suit and the remarkable (also very comic-book) arc-generator that powers it.

Now, logically, Stark would be concerned with how the bad guys got his weapons and, to its credit, the movie does touch on this. But given the pro-military attitude, the idea that he would stop making weapons–jeopardizing his friends in the armed forces–seemed a little inconsistent. Some have interpreted the pause as tempoarary, until he found out who was supplying them.

But as I said, murky.

By the way, if you know anything about comic book logic, it’s apparent from the get-go who the bad guy is.

So, what’s the verdict?

Well, basically, it’s good. Robert Downey Jr. was an excellent choice, and director Jon Favreau is to be commended for this and his overall handling of the subject matter. As with Elf, he plays the story out sincerely, avoiding camp, cynical intellectualism, and any sort of “I’m too good for this” vibe.

The pacing is good, and although the action payoffs aren’t very big, they’re big enough, as the rest of the script is populated by interesting characters, funny situations and the usual stuff that makes movies fun to watch. The music is adequate, if not memorable.

The supporting cast includes Gwyneth Paltrow (looking like Kirsten Dunst and sounding like Lisa Kudrow), Terence Howard as an Air Force buddy, Leslie Bibb as an intermittently antagonistic reporter, Shaun Toub (of Kite Runner) as the cave-imprisoned heart surgeon, and–as an extra added bonus for any movie–Jeff Bridges as corporate chief of Stark Enterprises. (I didn’t actually recognize him–bald and gray-bearded–until he spoke, and kept hoping he’d say “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”)

Overall, it’s fun, but not quite great. To compare it further with Spiderman 2, which I think is in some ways the epitome of the comic book film, in that movie, everyone’s motivations were clear, even when distorted for comic book reasons. In this movie Tony Stark stops making weapons but becomes a weapon himself, giving us the message that, what, you can only count on or trust yourself?

Still, I suppose we can’t get the Salkinds/Donner vision of Superman, with Truth, Justice and the American Way presented without further comment (and even back then, there was a lot of camp in those phrases and actions). Shame, though, as it really suited this movie while it lasted.

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