Ironman (2009)


Ironman is easily the finest comic-book-hero adaptation by Hollywood I’ve yet seen.  It’s a dramatic monument to our dreams of technology today if likely not tomorrow when, Who knows? The movie flawlessly does two difficult things at the same time all the way through the familiar superman/superhero storyline, a storyline observing the three R’s of the genre, Romance, Rescue and Renewal, as with the hint of perverse humor Evil is barely vanquished by Good in still another latter-day version of the Armored Knight questing to save the Defenseless Deserving:  (1) Ironman captures uncannily, and hence brings back from a fade to Oblivion, the look and feel of the classic world of the old Marvel comic books; and (2) the movie magically, artistically, updates-yet-preserves the old Marvel world by reconfiguring it through inserting and dramatizing modern current and dreamed technology, a heroic technology, notably in artificial intelligence, holographic computer-aided design, indefatigable heart implants, nanotechnology, smart weaponry, robotics, exoskeletal multipliers of human strength and freedom-of-movement, intelligent houses, and many more wonders.

It’s a historic movie because it’s a present-day rival to 2001: A Space Odyssey in its comprehensive and brilliantly staged dramatization of modern technology, but here it’s technology not in a space opera about human destiny which  trails off in an inconclusive whiteness but a technology during our later time long past secret potions, magic wands, deals with the Devil and the like since now the transformational dream is based on something new, this magic technology of ours which might (choose “will,” if you will) turn human beings into super beings. Today’s personal technologies and the dreams they bring…that’s the central drama in Ironman rather than the ostensible plot of Good over Evil with Obstructed Romance then allowed fulfillment, that familiar old and Old-Reliable plot here being in some ways itself the exoskeleton of Ironman.

The sheer presentation of our latter-day dream of becoming super beings is truly a piece of art in Ironman. It’s lavish, beautiful, precise, stunning, wondrous–most probably the most dramatic and transfixing rendering of what we secretly imagine, perhaps not entirely consciously, we might become as human machines. Or, if you prefer, machine-like humans. Ironman is the first movie I’ve seen whose creators consciously have that drama in mind. And Ironman is a much more powerful presentation of that dream than you’ll find in any of the many visionary books hopeful of it–the imagined resurrecting convergence of personal technologies–over the past few years and usually written by technologists and scientists.

Ironman is myth-making, brilliant, beautiful, stamping and unforgettable. It is not really kin to Tolkien or movies about the Hulk which have one foot in the old stories of Mysterious Transformation; or Superman and Cryptomite; or Spiderman and the Webbing Hands borrowed from the natural world.

The principal actors–Robert Downey, Jr., Gweneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges–play their roles beautifully, acting just as they should, in just the right emotional range, in this primal, comic book-as-art, drama.

See it in a theater where it can surround you, and let part of your mind sleepily acknowledge the familiar comic book storyline as your concentration fixes on this splendid audiovisual drama of our technological deification, the marvelous staging of it both present and dreamt. Just let it take you over. It will.