The summer movie season is underway, and we've been making our way through some of the initial entries. Iron Man
is definitely the best of the bunch so far. They did a great job capturing the character of Tony Stark. There were also two surprisingly enjoyable things about the movie. The first is how much time Stark spends onscreen talking to automated entities, both the robots in his lab and Jarvis, his household AI, and how effectively these scenes work. The second is the sheer thrill of seeing the suit in flight, something that I've never gotten from reading the comics. The scenes of the red and gold suit in-flight off the coast of Malibu brought this image to mind:
This image of the flying-man has been cited as a seminal influence in the creation of science fiction on the 20th Century. The sight of the flying man reportedly prompted endless imaginative speculation and the flourishing of the science fiction pulps. With Iron Man
, it seems like we've come back full circle, even if we have missed out on the Gernsback Continuum
.Indiana Jones and the Gray Lensman
is a rollicking good time and is probably the second best film in the series. The characters are strong, there are some thrilling sequences, and it is amazing to see such excellence in set design and effects. But, I've long thought that the Indiana Jones stories worked best when they stayed closer to the Pulp adventures and stayed away from the mystical. Despite all of these thrills, this merger of the Indiana Jones and the Close Encounters movies while visually stunning is ultimately too much of a fantasy.
Which brings up the third move, Prince Caspian
. Another movie that is stunningly gorgeous in its settings and costumes but lacking in its ability to engage us. In large part, this seems to be a problem with Caspian himself and with the film's failure to explore and expand upon the political intrigues among the Telmarines. The film seems to set-up an opportunity for Prince Caspian to lead a rebellion against the usurper Miraz in league with Sopesian, but the movie does not explore the interplay of factions within the Telmarines, electing instead to use Sopesian as a two-dimensional villain. At the end of the movie, you wonder why the Telmarines are so happy to welcome Caspian to the city when he has done nothing to appeal to their loyalty. Still, some of the sequences in the movie are breathtaking, particularly the transition from the London train platform to Narnia.
The other interesting thing about these movies is how the War on Terror runs as a theme through each of them. It is explicit in Iron Man
when it shows Tony Stark as a corporate weapons dealer in Afgahanistan, seemlessly updating the character's Vietnam era origins to the present. In Indiana Jones
, the parallel is drawn between the Red Scare of the 50s and the guilty-until-proven innocent approach of our own Department of Homeland Security. In Prince Caspian
, it is expressed through Miraz's use of fear and suspicion to unite the Telmarines behind him. It is interesting seeing these themes raised in summer movies from major studios, no matter how obliquely they are addressed.