Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 movie poster

Iron Man 2 movie poster

As you might have gathered from last week’s post about Invincible Iron Man #25, today is a very exciting day for me. Tomorrow is the official release date of the Iron Man 2 movie, which means that some theaters are showing advanced screenings at midnight tonight. You’d better believe I’m there.

Now, mind you, I’m not the sort of completist fanboy who will buy any comic, see any movie with Iron Man. There’s been a lot of crap churned out over the years on any Marvel title, and Iron Man is no exception. When I stop liking what I see, I stop buying. Marvel has done, on average, an exceptionally good job with its movies since the first X-Men movie in… 2000? My gosh, has it been that long? But they’ve had their duds, and I would not be going to see the second Iron Man if the first one had mishandled the character and disrespected the mythos.

But man, Favreau is something else. He did something unprecedented and brave: he trusted the source material. To a fan, witnessing this simple act of faith had nearly the intensity of the light on the road to Damascus. I’ve been reading Iron Man most of the time since 1979, and I know the 1,001 ways in which the movie could have sucked. Favreau utterly failed to make it suck in any of those ways. He made a movie to which you don’t have to assign a handicap because it’s a comic book movie. Iron Man isn’t just very good for a comic book movie, it’s a very good movie.

As if I needed any more reassurance than the first movie, the following trailer came out in March. Like many longtime fans, I just about jumped out of my chair at what happened during the last few seconds.

Briefcase armor! He’s got briefcase armor! Oh, joy! Rapture! Only someone with a finger on the pulse on the core Iron Man mythos would have put that in there. See, for a long time the comic book Tony Stark carried around this briefcase which had the Iron Man armor inside. This was plausible given the fundamental technological conceit of the time: the armor was made of a “micro-mesh” material which, when polarized, became rigid. The onboard computer would sense the wearer’s brainwaves and musculature and deform the shape of the armor hundreds of times per second. The net result was that, from the inside, it felt like wearing a silk body-stocking. From the outside, it was a hard metal shell that could shrug off artillery without a scratch.

A few years ago Marvel changed the design paradigm of the armor: it was no longer made of “micro-mesh” but of a series of interlocking and sliding plates. I don’t have any insider knowledge about why this happened, but I suspect that they thought that people would consider the former to be implausible, and that a more solid-looking armor would help them get onboard. I also suspect that the artistic conventions of the time had something to do with it. Prior to the nineties, comic book artists were very good at drawing muscles but not as good with machinery. But as more artists started using Photoshop, drawing rigid plates with the proper perspective suddenly became easier than drawing the muscles.

The change bugged me a lot, because I love the notion that Stark is so far beyond almost everyone else that what he builds seems like magic. But I understood the rationale behind it, especially where the movie is concerned. Movie viewers aren’t going to buy into a super-strong, near-impervious suit that looks like gold spandex. So Favreau gave the fans briefcase armor, but he did it in a way that looks as plausible as possible to the average viewer.

You know where I’m going with all this, right? I’m leaving work at 5:00 today, meeting my friend Eric before the movie, walking over some bridges for fun exercise, and seeing the movie with him at the Ziegfeld at midnight. Then I’m crashing with Eric at his place in Brooklyn, which means I’m not getting to sleep until upwards of 3:00 AM.

I’m going to be out on the town for nine or ten hours, including an hour or two during which Eric will be eating popcorn. I need something to occupy my mind so that I don’t think about all the things I shouldn’t eat that I want to go ahead and eat anyway. I am feeding the geek so that I give my brain something to occupy itself.


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