5/31/08

R064 Iron Man

(2008, Action-Superhero, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Oil can replaced by can of whoopass.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:


A playboy millionaire genius fights crime in a robotic suit.

Summary:

The 'Pyramid of Faces' is only slightly better than the standard 'Row of Faces'.Playboy millionaire genius weapons tycoon Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) chats up soldiers as they Hum-Vee him across a Middle Eastern landscape. A sudden terrorist attack decimates his escort. He tries to flee into the desert, but a rocket of his own design lands nearby. The subsequent explosion pierces his chest with shrapnel, sending him into unconsciousness. He wakes up, briefly, to see his captors make demands in an unknown language into a video camera. He passes out again.

Now it’s three days earlier in Las Vegas, where Colonel Rhodes (Terrence Howard) goes over Tony’s backstory with a glowing presentation at an awards ceremony. Tony isn’t there to accept the award, so his business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) accepts on his behalf. Afterwards, Rhodes tracks Tony down at a nearby casino to berate him for not showing up. Tony blows him off, picking up an accusatory female reporter on his way home.

Next day, Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) hustles the reporter out the door and hustles Tony to his appointment with Rhodes. After some resistance, Tony meets Rhodes three hours late, and they fly to an undefined region of the Middle East for a demonstration of some of Tony’s weapons. Everyone is suitably impressed with the super-missile he’s created, and they pile into Hum-Vees to go back to the airport. Terrorists attack, and we’re back at the beginning of the movie.

Tony wakes up in a cave with a car battery beside him. This has been hooked up to an electromagnet that has been surgically grafted to his chest. His surgeon, a Persian man named Yinsen, is also captive. He explains that the battery/magnet combo is all that’s keeping the shrapnel in Tony’s chest from entering his heart and killing him. Their captors burst in and demand that Tony build them a super-missile from pieces of other Stark weapons, of which they just happen to have an enormous supply. Tony refuses.

A few torture sessions and brainstorms later, Tony agrees. While the terrorists think he’s working on a missile, he recruits Yinsen to help him build a miniature arc reactor to keep the shrapnel out of his chest, and maybe power a mechanical suit to help them escape. When they’re almost ready, the terrorists become suspicious and come to investigate. Yinsen sacrifices himself to give Tony extra time. Finally, Tony stomps out in clumsy metal armor, throwing flames and explosives while he sends terrorists flying every which way with super-powered mechanical punches. Tony’s suit makes a short flight into the desert, where he struggles out of it and wanders off. A search party finds him shortly thereafter.

Back in the States, a newly humbled Tony announces that his company will no longer manufacture weapons, much to the dismay of his stockholders and business partners. Leaving the details of repurposing the company to Stane, Tony recruits Pepper to help him install a new, more powerful arc reactor in his chest. Thereafter, Tony and his robots work on a new version of the armor, with more weapons, better flight capability, prettier colors and so on. When he’s finally finished, he ventures out to a party where he flirts with Pepper and trade barbs with the accusatory female reporter from the beginning. During the latter conversation, it becomes clear to Tony that the terrorists have so many of his weapons because his company sells to them on the sly. When confronted, Stane admits as much, and declares that he’s had Tony locked out of the company’s decision-making process.

Talk to the repulsor.Tony dons his newly finished armor and flies to the Middle East, where he smashes several terrorist weapon caches and defeats the terrorist group’s second-in-command. On his way back, alarmed US Military fighter jets engage him. He accidentally damages one during the pursuit, forcing the pilot to bail out. The pilot’s chute gets stuck, so Tony uses his super strength to unstick it before flying off into the sunset. Rhodes gets wind of the situation and covers it up for him.

Even so, news reports of the incident are enough to rouse Stane’s suspicions, so he flies out to meet with the terrorist leader. The terrorist leader offers the reassembled bits of the original suit in exchange for samples of the finished product. Stane paralyzes him with some sort of sonic device and takes the suit, leaving his mercenaries to wipe out the terrorist leader and his troops.

Meanwhile, Tony recruits Pepper to break into his former office and steal records of Stane’s misdeeds, hoping to find out where all his weapons have been sold so that he can track them down and destroy them. Pepper does so, discovering in the process that Stane was the one who hired the terrorists to eliminate Tony. The only reason they let Tony live is because they got greedy for more weapons. Stane walks in on her near the end, but she puts him off long enough to escape with the data and run to a nearby federal agent.

Stane realizes his peril and hurries to his weapons development department to check on the progress of his prototype. The technicians in charge reply that it’s finished except for the miniature arc reactor that makes it go. They have a giant arc reactor, and they know how it works, but only Tony has the expertise to make one that fits in the suit’s chest plate. Stane shows up at Tony’s place to paralyze him with his sonic device and yank the miniature arc reactor out of his chest. One interminable gloating session later, Stane wanders out again, leaving the reactor-less Tony to die.

With his last bit of strength and a little help from his robots, Tony crawls into his basement laboratory and reinstalls the underpowered arc reactor he made in the terrorist cave. It’s not enough to completely power the new suit, but Tony puts it on anyway to pursue Stane. Pepper, in the meantime, has gathered a cadre of agents, leading them to the weapons factory to arrest Stane. Stane has installed the arc reactor in his giant robotic suit; he uses it to swat the agents aside and go after her. Tony arrives, and the metal-suited nemeses do battle across the freeway and up into the sky. They end up on the roof of the factory, where Tony’s suit finally runs out of power. He instructs Pepper to overload the giant arc reactor below them. She does so; it blows Tony out of the way while frying Stane.

Later, with the media dying to know who this new hero “Iron Man” really is, federal agents provide Tony with an alibi to protect his secret identity. Tony announces “I am Iron Man” at the press conference anyway. Waiting through approximately ten minutes worth of end credits will net you an additional scene (also riffed) where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives to recruit Iron Man/Tony into the Avengers.

Thoughts:

Cue Black Sabbath.Lots of summary for this one, but it’s only two hours long, which is actually pretty short for a superhero epic. And it’s good, too. Iron Man gives us reasonably well-developed characters that talk more or less like real people, a hero more focused on fixing his own mistakes than on an ambiguously general goal of “fighting crime”, and a villain who would rather maintain stock prices and earn decent profits than take over the world. Yeah, it’s a bit silly that they would have to dress in high-tech jousting armor and throw each other through walls to accomplish these goals, and several of the character names pass well beyond the borders of absurdity, but would the film have been quite as much fun if they didn’t? For a comic book movie, this is just about as good as it gets.

The above elements are both the Rifftrax commentary’s downfall and salvation. Mike, Bill and Kevin do lots of this kind of movie in no small part because any superhero film, no matter how much you drape it in seriousness, is hilariously dumb at its heart. Iron Man provides all kinds of opportunities for merriment. When Tony reveals his plans to bust out of the terrorist hideout with a robotic suit, Bill says, “He got those plans from Wile E. Coyote.” As Tony plays with his finished suit while he contemplates going after the terrorists himself, Kevin says, “The toughest part of gaining any power: deciding whether or not to go mad with it.” As Tony crawls to his basement with a gaping metal hole in his chest, Mike says, “If only he had a can of spinach to jam in that hole.” My viewing was only slightly marred by a stylistic problem. The rambling, semi-realistic dialog of Iron Man doesn’t seem to mesh with riffing quite as well as the more standard style employed by most films, as it often forces the riffers to talk over the top of the characters. It only happens every ten to fifteen minutes or so, just often enough to merit the warning. Every other part of it is funny as hell.