Iron Man 3: Reflections on Robert and Tony

Monday, May 6th, 2013
"Yes, I am Iron Man. I am also IN FRONT OF Iron Man. Think about that now, huh?"

Robert Downey Jr. promoting the first “Iron Man” film in 2008. He subsequently suited up and flew away from the red carpet, screaming out the “Money” theme from “The Apprentice” as he flew away.

The title of the movie may have been Iron Man 3, but I came away from it feeling that it could have also been titled Tony Stark: The Movie.  I went with my parents to see the newest comic book movie blockbuster last Friday and was naturally blown away by the special effects, but more than anything else, I was fascinated by the evolution throughout the film of Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, as he reevaluated what he had done with his life.  I don’t usually see this kind of exploration in superhero movies, or in most movies I like to watch, but here it was truly something special.  I am not going to spoil anything too deep about the movie’s plot for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.  I just wanted to talk about an aspect of the movie I thought was worth bringing up if you want to go see it and one which I felt was simply outstanding when I reflected on it afterward.

Robert Downey Jr.’s fifth go-around as Tony Stark (fifth if, in addition to the Iron Man series, you count his cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk and his co-starring role in Avengers) is once again a masterful performance which is stronger than just about any other performance in a superhero movie I’ve ever seen.  Robert and Tony have both been on the comeback trail for quite a while, and this film, in my view, represents both of their finest hours to date.  Robert’s performance has taken on an extra dimension; his character is no longer completely self-assured, but there’s still enough of his trademark confidence and swagger left over that it is still fascinating to me to see him in action.  Robert looks more comfortable in Tony’s shoes than he has ever been.  Tony says several times during the movie that it is virtually impossible to separate Tony Stark from the Iron Man identity; in the same light, I believe that it is clear that Robert and Tony are by now largely one and the same person.  I can’t really keep them separate in my mind.

I was glad to see a little teaser after the credits stating that Tony Stark (and Robert in the same role, I hope) will appear in future Marvel movies.  I think this is a great move considering that, in the comics, in addition to his association with Iron Man, Tony is just as well known for creating all sorts of fantastic high-tech stuff, particularly for SHIELD, the Avengers, and other big peacekeeping organizations.  I would like to see this role extend into the next set of Marvel movies, with Robert becoming across as a character between Howard Hughes and Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies.  He could be an eccentric inventor who gets on everyone’s nerves a little bit but makes up for it with cool and practical technology.  This kind of role could keep Robert busy for years in a position similar to Dame Judy Dench as M in the James Bond movies.  In my opinion though, Tony Stark seems a lot more fun to hang out with than Dench’s M; what do you think?

To me, Iron Man 3 was more about Tony Stark than it was about Iron Man.  Tony was the one who had to solve the most problems and he did so admirably.  Sure, Iron Man’s battles were fun to look at and very impressive on screen, but I was more interested in Tony’s personal story.  I’d like to see where both Robert and Tony go from here; it should be an engaging ride.

I highly recommend you go to see Iron Man 3 in the theaters.  It’s a big, action-packed, hilarious romp and one of the best “feel good” movies I’ve seen since Christmas.  It is an excellent end to an endlessly entertaining superhero movie saga, and I am interested in seeing if anyone can top it.  If you go to see the film, be sure to come back here and leave your thoughts about it in the comments.  I felt very happy and satisfied after seeing this film, and I hope you will, too.

Flying High with “Iron Man 3” on the iPad

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Iron Man 3 is coming out in theaters this week, and with it has also come a brand new game for the iPad which I have been exploring for the past few days.  One thing I like about this game is that it is a variation on an “endless runner” in the tradition of other iPad games like Temple Run.  Normally, in these types of games, you basically run continously on an endless path and try your best to not run into or get hit by anything in your way.  The Iron Man 3 game puts a twist on that formula; instead of running, you fly through the sunny skies of Malibu and the concrete jungles of New York and blast away enemies with your repulsor rays in what I think might be the world’s most awesome shooting gallery.  I think it is a very good game with some nice graphical details, particularly the myriad suits of armor you can dress your virtual Robert Downey Jr. character in, but there are a few tiny problems which have dampened my experience a bit so far.

I do like how the game’s story starts where the Iron Man 3 movie ends, but there are no details given as to the movie’s ending (I think it’s safe to assume Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man survives).  Tony spends his days doing test flights around Malibu and New York with his army of armors and attempting to figure out the plans of the A.I.M. terrorist organization.  Each new day you play brings with it a new mission related to the story, usually detailing the involvement of a new boss character who has a vendetta against Tony.  At the beginning of a boss fight, the boss character and Tony (who doesn’t sound like Robert Downey Jr. at all, by the way, but the guy doing the voice does have nice, dulcet tones) engage in a brief dialogue exchange revealing the boss’s motivations and reasons for working alongside A.I.M.  After you beat the boss, they typically taunt Tony with some variation of, “I’ll get you next time,” then fly off to goodness knows where to show up again on another day.  Outside of these missions, you probably wouldn’t even know the game had a story, but it has kept me coming back to the game every day to see what happens next.  It’s a little corny, but I like to think of it like an old movie serial; you get just enough characterization and plot twists keep you coming back.   

As I mentioned above, the visual details in this game are top-notch.  The various Iron Man armors stand out the most to me, no doubt because they are the one thing I have been staring at the most.  The way that light reflects off of the armors and how every detail of each armor, from bolts to weapon attachments and even helmet shapes, stand out making them a pleasure to play with and ogle at in the main menu screens (when you start up a new game session, you can also examine each armor in considerable detail like you were in the showroom of a car dealership, a very classy feature in my view).  The Malibu environments you fly through, including beaches, busy city streets, Air Force bases, and car tunnels, are slightly less detailed but I think they are just varied enough that your eyes won’t get too bored.  The New York areas, which I just recently discovered after a plot twist in one of the main storyline missions, are a bit prettier and more varied with gleaming glass skyscrapers (some of which are on fire or falling to the ground due to missile attacks from the sky; I wonder if those missiles are the result of what happens in the movie?), underground subway tunnels, and harbors teeming with boats, crates, and construction.  The enemies you’re blasting away are somewhat plain-looking, mostly flying bullseyes and guys with jetpacks and bulky armor.  They are designed to only be on screen for only a few seconds, so I guess I can’t complain about them too much.  However, this same design treatment seems to have been given to the boss enemies, including famous villains from the Iron Man comics such as Russian Iron Man clone the Crimson Dynamo and giant-head-on-a-chair MODOK.  When I first saw these guys in the comics, they were huge and menacing, but in the game, they’re as small as the regular enemies and don’t really stand out too much visually.  Also, the boss fights seem, to me, much less epic than I feel they should be.  I hope more compelling bosses will be included in updates to the game in the future.    

The bosses are a cakewalk compared to the regular enemies.  Many of these guys carry huge lasers with them which are tough to dodge at times.  In addition, a lot of missiles show up in large groups with only a small hole in between to fit through.  I cannot tell you how many times my runs have ended due to my being too inundated with constant bombardments to move out of the way of one of these things.  I think I’m supposed to move out of their way and fire back, but that’s hard for me to do because I have to hold the iPad with one hand and move around the screen with the other.  I just can’t find the dexterity to move and fire at the same time.  If the game was a little more generous with the amount of time it takes for enemies to fire their shots, I could move out of the way a little better.  I wouldn’t mind this high difficulty at an arcade, but since I’m playing on a mobile device, it just makes the whole process of starting my run for a high score all over again just a smidge more irksome. 

One issue which I feel might become more irritating if it becomes prolonged is the game’s insistence on making you wait for things to happen.  A small portion of my time in the game so far has been watching timers count down while my armor’s health meter recharged for another run, an upgrade to the amount of my armor’s health or increased damage or special attacks took its time to be implemented, or waiting for a whole day to see the next part of the game’s main storyline.  These timers are generally short but can also be bypassed by paying a certain amount of in-game currency (which can be replenished by either picking up more of it in the game or spending some real-world money to increase your coffers).  As I have unlocked more armors and upgrades through regular play, I have noticed that the time for certain things to happen has gotten noticeably longer.  Early on, I could start another run right after I had finished my previous run, but now I have to wait a minute or two to start again.  In other “endless” games like Temple Run, you can play again automatically without any delay.  I could do this in Iron Man 3 as well by playing with a less powerful armor while my preferred one recharges, but I don’t really have much desire to do this because the game practically encourages you to use your most powerful armor to get the most distance, currency, enemy elimination rate, etc.  Patience isn’t typically a virtue valued in the “endless runner” genre, so I have little idea why it would suddenly be embraced in Iron Man 3.

Overall, I do have a few complaints about the Iron Man 3 game, but there are some things I do like which keep me coming back for more.  The story is serviceable, the voices of all the characters work well for a quick thrill, and going for all the new missions and upgrades is a compelling pastime to me.  Difficulty and underwhelming enemies aside, this game isn’t half bad in my eyes.  I definitely want to see more of what this game has to offer, even if I have to get hit by more of those darn missiles.

I’ve played a bit of the Price is Right Bingo game and it’s better than I thought it would be, but I want to hold off on the full review until after I’ve explored it some more; I’m still on the opening Cliff Hangers room and there’s still two rooms left to play for now, so I’ll catch up to you on that front.  I’m also looking forward to watching the Iron Man 3 movie this weekend, so I might post a review of that next week as well.  What do you guys think of my plans?  If you’ve played the Iron Man 3 game, what do you think of it so far?  Are you planning on watching Iron Man 3, and if so, what are you most looking forward to seeing in it (personally, I want to see how the movie treats long-time comics villain the Mandarin)?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.