Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nit-Picking Iron Man

Iron Man is pretty good. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance is excellent, as has been widely reported, and director Jon Favreau perfectly balances the right level of seriousness with action thrills and lighthearted fun. Favreau also displays a rare knack for deploying special effects in a realistic, unassuming way that allows you to forget that they're effects (and surely it doesn't hurt that a metal suit is easier to render convincingly than a man in spandex).

Given all that went right, it seems churlish to dwell on the few nagging details that bugged me, but in a movie so otherwise solid, they stick out even more:


1. When Pepper Potts accidentally pulls out the copper magnet from Tony Stark's chest, why don't they replace it before installing the new arc unit? Isn't the arc just a power supply, and the magnet the necessary component to keep him alive? Stark explicitly warns her not to remove the magnet, and when it's out, he starts crashing, yet they quickly install the new arc without the magnet and everything is fine. You might argue that his new arc unit contains a built in magnet, but then why would he warn her not to remove the old magnet, and why wouldn't he still need it when he later re-installs the old one?

2. When Stark crawls to the basement (having fortunately not died yet during his fifteen minutes of paralysis) and re-installs the original arc unit (still sans magnet) how is he able to do so without Pepper's tiny hands to help him? Previously the movie made a point of establishing that Stark was unable to install an arc without Pepper's help, yet when the plot demands it he is able do it himself despite being in a debilitated, less-coordinated state.

3. After Iron Man wins the final battle and is lying unconscious with the arc unit about to flicker out, we cut straight to him being fine at the press conference. How did they save him? Presumably the other arc was destroyed with Obediah, which means there are no arc units left. Did the guy from S.H.I.E.L.D. just hook him up to another car battery until he could build another one?

This third point is the easiest to explain away. It's a bit of a cheat, but I can understand why for pacing reasons you don't want to pause to watch Stark build another arc unit.

However, the first two bother me specifically because the movie goes out of its way to establish that 1) the magnet is important and 2) Stark needs Pepper, or someone with small hands, to help install his arc unit, and then these points are disregarded just when you think they are going to pay off. Why even include the magnet just to ignore it? I would have bought that the magnets were in the arc units if I hadn't been specifically told otherwise. And wouldn't it have been a great, tense scene and a satisfying payoff to have Pepper racing to get there in time to help, then finding Stark unconscious with the arc in hand but unable to use it, but luckily, thanks to that earlier scene, she knows how to install it and saves him?

Did this stuff bother anyone else or am I the only party pooper? Were there explanations that I missed somehow?



Anonymous said...

Here's how I saw that scene:

Hey Pepper, I need you to argle blargle mcflargle.

Why Me?

I can't trust anyone else. Plus you have small hands.


Oh no! You accidentally bloogle floogle groogle! You need to wumba fumba mumba right away, or I'll die! This involves you doing something disgusting yet somehow intimate.

I'm scared!

I believe in you.

[She does it.]

See. This experience has brought us closer together.

I see your point that the arbitrary technobabble they chose to fill in the meaningless nonsense seemed to set up some information that was contradicted later on the film. But I think of that as a minor error in how they phrased the meaningless technobabble, rather than an overall logic problem with the movie.

When I was working on The Blink Project, I received one particularly frustrating note from someone who wanted more information about how the teleportation suit works. The thing is, it doesn't work. There's no such thing as a teleportation suit. I just made it up. I could provide more exposition explaining *what* it can do, and lay out the rules for its use. But as for *how* it works, the best I could do is provide some sort of convincing sounding nonsense.

jerk said...

Yeah, didn't bother me. That movie is perfect.

I'd assumed in the first situation that, as you said, the new arc had a magnet built-in. He warned her to not remove the magnet from the old one I'm guessing because step 1 was take out the arc without touching the cylinder sides, and, once done with that, the riskier step 2 was to super-quickly remove the magnet. Then swap in the new, complete unit. She panicked and so they had to work fast to get it on the fly.

As far as the second concern. Yeah, small hands are ideal and much safer, but in a jam, he can do it, probably with some severe pain (touching sides) to himself. The same way you'd ideally have a doctor deliver your baby but, it's not necessary.

Kelley said...

Yeah, I thought there was a magnet built in, just that if you pulled it out, it made it URGENT to get that sucker in asap so he didn't die the slow death of the shrapnel going to his heart. AND I thought that the reason he needed the "tiny hands" wasn't because it was necessary to install but because he messed it up and disconnected the wire when he pulled it out to put the new one in. Also, I think that his need for Pepper was already very present in the scene because she saved the first power supplier for him instead of destroying it like he asked.

What bothered me was Obediah HIRED people to kill Tony, but then he just takes out his power-charger and stuns him into paralysis for 15 minutes. What? He wants him dead. Kill him! I wanted him to also plant a bomb in the house so that he could get away in say 10 minutes to have an alibi, and then Tony in paralysis would explode...only he doesn't because Obediah didn't count on how motivated he can be and how he is able to disable the bomb and get his Pepper-saved power supplier back in first. Anyway, it felt a little too "I'm an evil villain who wants to tell you about my evil ways in the hopes that you will come back to me and battle me to the death." I kinda hate when they do that and love with Scott makes fun of this technique in Austin Powers. I would have even bought the "I want you to see Pepper die because she means so much to you" argument, but he acted like a nice guy who didn't even want to kill Pepper, but now he had to. Bummer.

Kenny said...

Okay, but still, even if there's a magnet in the new arc reactor, that still doesn't explain how he lives when he has to resort to using the old one.