In which we witness the power of this armed and fully operational superhero!
2) Iron Man vs The Ten Rings (round two)
- Tony Stark, the creatively goatee’d billionaire genius etc etc we already know. Still played marvelously by Robert Downey Jr, though he’s pretty much all special effects in this scene.
- Armed with: the Iron Man “Mark III” armor. More agile & durable than the clunky grey prototype we saw in the previous fight, sporting all sorts of fancy weaponry and a wicked paint job. Besides its advanced physical strength, this armor’s most useful weapon is Stark’s proprietary “repulsor” technology, which double as jets that enable extended flight and palm-mounted weapons which fire non-projectile concussive blasts (in an earlier scene Tony finds he can modulate their range, blasting the windows out of his garage without even singing the walls a few feet farther).
- The Ten Rings, again. The current ringleader is a goofy-looking beardo (surprisingly chubby for a guy who lives off the grid in a cave network). Played by more bit performers and stunt men.
- Armed with: various small arms, though there is a tank nearby which picks a fight with the wrong superhero.
There are also a lot of Afghani civilians around, complicating things.
The Setup: Since getting back from the desert Tony Stark has largely withdrawn from public life, cancelled all his company’s weapons contracts, and quietly worked on improving the armor he made his awesome escape in. Unfortunately, ace reporter Ricky Bobby’s Ex-Wife confronts Tony at a party about how more of his weapons are being used by surviving members of the Ten Rings in Afghanistan. Even worse, they’re being deployed in an operation (not really specified, but it looks like a mix of ethnic cleansing of the adult males and kidnapping of the women & children) against Gulmira, the village Stark’s dead cave-buddy Yinsen is from.
Tony puts his Revenge Face on, and proceeds to suit up in a way that would make even Barney Stinson envious.
A quick word about the general design of the finished Iron Man suit the film producers ultimately went with it: They nailed it. First of all, it does help that this is a character whose outfit lends itself well to looking cool on screen; compare the struggles of various Spider-Man and Superman movie franchises as they tried not to make their protagonist look like someone wearing unflattering cartoon pajamas. But also, the comic book armor has undergone a surprising number of transformations over the years, and whoever designed the basic look that appears in these movies did an excellent job of fusing what worked visually with the more iconic red & gold designs, while also making it distinctively their own. My favorite part is one I think is an original touch, namely, the way the face plate locks down on the rest of the shell sets the armor’s face into a permanently angry/determined grimace, as if the man inside is perpetually giving his best “aw, HAYULL NAW!”
And that works for scenes like this one, because Stark is definitely, legitimately pissed. As are we, the audience, because as much as we hate the Ten Rings already, we’re now treated to a few minutes of the terrorists doing their bad guy thing on a bunch of hapless villagers: blowing up houses, executing people, separating families, and terrorizing children. In a nice touch, the whine of Stark’s approaching engines are mixed in with a child’s fearful scream, so that we don’t even hear it immediately, but soon it drowns everything out and Iron Man does his signature one-knee landing. Ricky is home, and Lucy has some splainin’ to do.
The Fight: Tony wastes no time, uppercutting one chump and repulsor-blasting several more. The remaining ones display a bit of canny cowardice and use the nearby civilians as hostages, putting guns to their heads until Tony powers down his hand lasers. This presents a perfect opportunity for Iron Man to deploy several “smart darts” from his hidden shoulder compartments. They hone in on the bad guys exclusively, after we see that the suit’s onboard computer can identify individual targets once Tony picks them out. In fact, the various views of the suit’s HUD are quite a nice touch, if not exactly original (it’s reminiscent of the Terminator’s POV shots), and Favreau also frames many shots from inside the helmet looking at Tony’s face– a good way to keep showing the audience the handsome actor the studio paid a lot for while still keeping him fully covered in the iconic armor.
The chubby ringleader has run away and is frantically dialing for help when Iron Man seizes him by smashing through the stone wall he was hiding behind and ripping him through. This plays out even more awesomely than it sounds, and shows that Tony Stark has a penchant for the theatrical.
Even though he’s the sub-boss here, Beardo is no match for a treadmill, let alone a superhero, so instead of taking him out personally, Tony delivers a more fitting punishment: leaving him unarmed and at the mercy of the angry mob he’d been terrorizing just a few minutes ago. Iron Man jets off with a raspy “He’s all yours,” which most of the Afghanis probably didn’t understand since it was in English, but whatever.
Tony also tangles with a tank (terrorists have those? ruh roh), one shot from which is able to knock him out of the sky, leaving him bruised and his paint job scratched. He dodges the second blast and counters with a wrist-mounted rocket of his own, then does the Action Hero thing: he turns around & stomps off before the explosion happens, because Iron Man is a cool guy and cool guys don’t look at explosions.
This is pretty much it, actually. Iron Man blows some stuff up and flies off for good, though he should have stuck around because his old adversary, Raza, happened to be en route. Stark is then hassled by some US fighter jets in the area, but I’m not counting that as part of the fight because it’s not really a “fight.” They shoot at Tony but he never retaliates, spending all the time trying to escape from or avoid them. He even saves one of them at one point.
I love everything about this scene, except for the fact that it’s too short. You get a ridiculous adrenaline rush watching this amazing superhero brutally and creatively take down all these evil thugs, but it’s all over within minutes. The movie does a good job tapering off that adrenaline with the extended sequence of Iron Man dealing with the Air Force, but that doesn’t really count as part of the fight.
Still, what is here is darn near miraculous. Iron Man looks, moves and behaves exactly like Iron Man should. Even with this upgraded armor he’s not invincible– the tank shell took him down– but he is extremely durable, fast, crafty and lethal. The terrorists’ use of human shields presented a situation that mere brute force couldn’t solve, and the aforementioned tank provided an opportunity to show off some more of the armor’s weapons. This is quite the promising debut for the fully-powered and prepared Iron Man.
Coming Attractions: We finish up the first movie (don’t worry, we won’t go straight to the second) and Iron Man must, at his weakest moment, face his most powerful foe.