Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

May 6, 2008

Iron Man

It's a bit difficult for me to review this latest Marvel movie because I became so excited on seeing the trailer that I actually badgered my housemate into taking me to see it the day it came out. You have to understand that, since I am broke and jobless, it takes a lot for me to descend to that level of badgering. He's paying for my groceries, for crying out loud, and movies are expensive now!

The final result: disappointment on my part. Oh, there's lots to love in this movie. The special effects are great, and what's more they are done in an effectively subtle manner that makes them something more than simple eye candy. The plot is sensible, the acting is fairly good, and the theme is important.

That last one is what got me. Here you have a movie--and not just any movie, a popular, big-budget movie!--tackling a deep philosophical theme. Here was an opportunity to shed the heavy weight of "safety" and "conventionality" and really say something profound that struck at the core and heart of the conflict that has raged through civilization for centuries and made wreckage of so many lives. And what do we get? A "safe", "conventional" movie that seems to be attempting to apologize for its own message.

If you go to see Iron Man, be prepared for the fact that you will only take away what you already brought in with you. If all you seek is a couple of hours' entertainment, you will not be disappointed. But if you were hoping for the kind of soul-filling experience you would get from a work of art, you will go away still bearing the emptiness that yearns for the sight of someone else's achievement.


BlueNight said...

You are correct that you will only take away what you already brought in with you. I brought in a desire to see RDJr as a superhero and an egotistical snarky jerk; in that, I was supremely satisfied.

But it was what I brought in without knowing that made the big payoff. I read The Fountainhead about two years ago, and spent last year reading Atlas Shrugged. I came away from Iron Man grinning like a madman. For thirty minutes I grinned, because I saw Objectivism, pure and strong.

What theme was it you saw? I saw a theme of Ideamakers Are Good And Thieves Are Bad; in this film, those who steal the physical fruit of Ideas are puppets to those who steal the Ideas themselves.

What message is being apologized for? I saw a message of Strength Is Good But Brains Are Better. I saw an Ideal Man turn a battle within minutes of arrival. I saw his grotesquely gorillaish imitator beaten through the unleashed power of the mind (as embodied by the reactor).

What kind of soul-filling experience were you seeking? I have had a deep and empty ache for the last seven years. For five of those years, two "friends" perfectly reminiscient of Reardon's brother have sucked every bit of self-confidence out of me. For two years, I haven't spent more than a few minutes with either, but the ache remained. The ache is no longer there.

The film did say something profound. It said, "Dream Big." It said, "You Can Do It." It said don't listen to the naysayers and those who want you to take it safe and conventional. Ride that rocket into outer space, reach for the moon, and don't let anyone drag you down!

The last time I saw Storytelling this good was Brad Bird's The Incredibles and Ratatouille. They revel in skill, strength, and striving for success.

I want Angelina to hook up with these screenwriters and this director to make Atlas Shrugged. They took 126 minutes to say what Ayn Rand took the entirety of The Fountainhead to say.

Jennifer Snow said...

It's not the theme of the movie that is problematical, but the *scale* on which they chose to present that theme.

I suspect that if you are desperate for any sign of achievement then you will find it in Iron Man, just as a cheeseburger is a feast to a starving man.

If you've become tired of never having anything better than cheeseburgers, though, then Iron Man will not sate your hunger for something better.

Flibbert said...

I saw the movie and really enjoyed it for exactly the reasons you've named, but I have a confession to make: I didn't want them to try to tackle a bigger theme with the movie.

I was really worried that Tony Stark was going to advocate violent pacifism or some other such nonsense. I was afraid it would get too preachy about the "evil" of guns and all that.

Perhaps it's because I'm growing cynical, but I don't trust Hollywood to do anything right.

Jim May said...

Flibbert: I work in Hollywood, and I have no reason to be any more optimistic than you... your mistrust is well earned.

Stephen said...

Neat, I think I'll go see the movie after all.

Thanks for the review, it and these comments really answered my questions.

drow said...

mmm... cheeseburger.

RadCap said...

Sorry to come late to this conversation, but I just discovered your blog.

I am curious as to what you believe the theme of the story was - and at what "scale" you believe that theme should have been presented. As I understood it, this film was one of personal self-discovery (iow, an 'origins' story). So what exactly was wrong (or too small) about the way the theme was presented? Did you want him to resolve the problem for the world that he had discovered for himself?

Jennifer Snow said...

RadCap--I'm not sure whether you're familiar with the story of Project X from Atlas Shrugged. Briefly, the them of Iron Man was the importance of a creative genius refusing to design weapons for brutes. There is very little so evil as a scientist putting his mind in the service of Atilla.

Tony Stark discovered that he'd been doing evil because he wasn't paying attention to who was using his weapons and for what purpose. That was great. It was well-dramatized. However, the actions he took as a result were still scattered, direction-less, unprincipled . . . as was the remainder of the movie. The theme still came through, but it was buried under a heap of irrelevancies.

RadCap said...

So the complaint isn't really about the scale but rather is about the clarity in the realization of that theme. That make more sense to me.