Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Iron men

Being one of the last people on earth to have seen Iron Man 2, I may also be among the last to notice the nice tribute to sci-fi classic Silent Running during the final fight scene, in which Iron Man and War Machine (Tony Stark's friend Rhodey, also in a metal suit) battle robotic "drones" inside a geodesic bio-dome before fighting bad guy Ivan Vanko, decked out in his own super-charged suit of armor (and whose defeat echoes the demise of the villain in another film, the not-classic-but-persistent Predator). This is the second time in as many films that Iron Man has been challenged by a villain whose exceptional abilities are duplicates of his own, and it begs the question: "If the only villains capable of challenging Iron Man need to be outfitted in hi-tech battle suits, what kind of variety can we expect from future Iron Man films?"

The repetition in Iron Man 2 can be rationalized in a number of ways. With the advanced technology available in the world of Iron Man, it would perhaps not be surprising that Stark's suit would be co-opted, or at least imitated by, the military. This would require lots of invention and experimentation, a conceivable by-product of which could be criminals trying to unseat Tony Stark's alter-ego by salvaging scraps of the tech race into amateur super-suits. Perhaps, but also maybe boring. It could more generously be seen as the de facto terms of the Iron Man world: If you are going to be a hero or a villain, you need an iron suit, and what differentiates anyone is how they use the suit, or at least what modifications they make to it. Such a world would have the uniformity of robot anime, where giant robots like Mazinger team up and battle with...other giant robots.

But in the Marvel movies released so far, this is not the case. Unique villains are funneled through each film franchise at super-speed. Spider-Man, for example, has taken on Sandman, Venom, and Green Goblin 2 — all in the same movie. Each of these characters had very different abilities — one was genetically altered, one was the instrument of an alien life form, and one relied upon hi-tech weaponry — and each posed a different threat to Spider-Man, testing him in different ways. So far, it seems that any challenge to Iron Man must be made with the same form of energy and technology that drives his own abilities. But if variety dictates an end to metal-clad opposition, are there any foes worthy of Iron Man? Moreover, since both Iron Man films hint at a possible Avengers movie, what hope do any bad guys have against a team that includes not only the seemingly indomitable Iron Man, but the Norse god Thor and the...well, incredible Hulk, along with the relatively second-string abilities of Giant-Man, Wasp, and Captain America?

Since world-devouring baddie Galactus has already been used in The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, I imagine the only serious challenge to a team of super-powered super-heroes would be...a team of super-powered super-villains! It remains to be seen whether budget or strict adherence to the continuity of previous Marvel movies will preclude my Dream Team of Loki (who seems to be included, according to IMDB), Red Skull, Dr. Doom (I forget what happened to him in the FF movies; rather, I didn't make it through the FF movies to find out), and the Absorbing Man (I don't even know if he's current anymore — I just liked him as a kid), though I hope Iron Man, at least, is given an opponent whose flesh and blood is a match for his own nuts and bolts.


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