Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jason watches "Iron Man"

and it's the worst J-horror remake ever.

A few years back it looked like J-horror remakes would make a big splash in Hollywood, as the first few were pretty good ("The Ring", "The Grudge"). Then the disappointments came--"Dark Water", "The Ring 2". And then I stopped caring "The Eye" (although that's actually Hong Kong horror, but in a similar vein). Now they've reached way back to 1989 to remake the techno-erotic cult nightmare "Tetsuo, the Iron Man" by Shinya Tsukamoto, and quite possibly killed J-horror remakes forever (good riddance, at this point).

"Tetsuo" seemed like an odd choice, kind of like re-making "Eraserhead" (don't get any ideas, Hollywood!). But at least I figured if Jon Favreau thinks it deserves a remake, he must be a true fan. Nobody would look at "Tetsuo" and figure a remake would be a good way to make a quick buck.

Okay, I'm not upset about renaming Tetsuo to Tony Stark. I understand he needs an American name now, and keeping a semblance of the "T" and "S" sounds is a nice touch. And I understand the commercial choice to change from black and white to color--understand, but don't necessarily approve. But that's about all that didn't upset me.

The original Tetsuo was a simple salary man trapped in a nightmare of mechanization, as his body slowly transforms to a hideous metal beast. Tony Stark is possibly more closely aligned with the "metal fetishist" in the beginning who jams iron rods into his legs to run faster. But even that comparison breaks down. Instead he's portrayed as a billionaire playboy arms dealer--the cause of the very nightmare Tetsuo was stuck in. Perhaps they're trying a bit of role reversal, but Stark is far from the everyman of Tetsuo. He couldn't possibly understand the plight of a middle-class salary man, and in fact embraces mechanization in his robot-run Malibu mega-mansion.

When the metal body emerges, it's an actual suit, not organically growing out of his body. There's a little nod to the original in a bit of shrapnel stuck near his heart, and an implanted electromagnet that keeps it from hitting his heart and killing him, but it's not much. Rather than the metal body taking him over against his will, he builds it by hand to escape from Afghan terrorists. Then he later builds a fancier, shinier one. Perhaps it's making a counterpoint by making Tony Stark a willing and enthusiastic participant in his own metal form, but in doing so they completely lose the nightmarish quality of the organic misshapen beast Tetsuo becomes.

As for the love interest, are you freakin' kidding me!? Instead of a demonic metal she-beast, she's his personal assistant? Instead of raping him up the but with a gigantic prehensile metal snake, she serves him coffee and saves his life? She doesn't even get any giant phallic drill action from him? He doesn't even have a gigantic mechanical drill for a penis? I'm downright confused.

And to top it all off (I'm sorry there's a spoiler here, but I'm too annoyed to care) instead of ending by giving into his rage and turning the whole world to metal and rusting it to death, he becomes some sort of superhero and fights against bad guys? It's like the makers never even saw Tetsuo! What the hell!?

[Note: After drafting this review I learned that "Iron Man" (2008) is not a remake of "Tetsuo, the Iron Man" (1989). In fact, it's based on a Marvel comic of the same name, and I now have it on the authority of my comic geek friends that it is in fact a reasonably faithful adaptation, with lots of geeky treats thrown in. I'm sorry I'm not a comic geek. Judged on this criteria, it's actually a pretty fun adventure flick. But I don't feel like rewriting this review, so that's that. And I still say he should've had a gigantic mechanical drill for a penis. --Jason]


Anonymous said...

Wow are you retareded? You didn't know that Iron Man is a super hero in the marvel universe and actually thought this movie was a remake of a j-horror film from 1989? Do you live under a god damn rock? Your blog sucks and I'm not reading it anymore until you re-write your review of this movie. Good day.

Brian Darr said...

As someone who, in childhood, preferred Iron Man over all other superheroes, and who has become something of a Shinya Tsukamoto fan later in life, I waiting for someone to write this post. Good job.

puppymeat said...

Thank you Brian, I knew I had an audience for this.

Mr. Anonymous, I'm sorry I've lost you as a reader. But I'm more disappointed in myself. Truly, I have failed you. You trusted this blog written by an amateur who has absolutely no connection to the film or comic industries to give you a thoughtful, intelligent review, and I have truly failed you. I only hope you can find a better review of Iron Man somewhere on the internet. I know it will be difficult.


Dan said...

It is amazing that you weren't aware of Iron Man the comic book and cartoon series. Didn't you watch the Marvel cartoons on TV as a kid? Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Spiderman (great orchestral music), Fantastic Four, etc.?

The readers of this blog need Jason flashbacks to fill in the holes about the man and his cinematic/cultural pedigree. What were you watching as a young boy? Sonny Chiba action films and the original Speed Racer with English subtitles?

Now that you have been abused and disabused of your belief that Iron Man is a remake of a Japanese horror film, how does your opinion of the film change? How does Iron Man stack up against recent films of that genre? I won't confuse you with DC vs. Marvel comics debate but simply ask how the film compares against other recent adaptations such as Fantastic Four, the latest reincarnations of Batman, Superman and Hulk, the delicious Jennifer Garner as Electra, etc.

Iron Man has received good reviews based on the performance of Downey whose major contribution is one-liners delivered by Tony Stark but also fitting for Downey. Downey basically makes Stark into the alter ego of himself or at least his media defined self. That's a dicey proposition but Downey has the bona fides and acting ability to pull it off. Jeff Bridges also delivers an attention grabbing performance with the bald pate, goatee, and sinister but reassuring voice.

Overall, I enjoyed Iron Man quite a bit although I did not watch it through the prism of comparison with a Japanese horror film.

puppymeat said...

Okay, I have to come clean. This was a joke!

It's true that I did not read comic books as a kid, but I have seen the Iron Man cartoon and am casually familiar with the character. However, I'm also a big fan of "Tetsuo: the Iron Man" and in my hipster-asshole 'I know more than you about obscure movies' way, every time anyone mentioned Iron Man, I'd bring up Tetsuo.

When I heard they were finally making an Iron Man movie, I immediately hoped someone would do a side-by-side comparison of the two. As it came closer, I realized 'somebody? I'm somebody!' So I did it.

I know I cheated my readers out of my true opinion of "Iron Man", but I figured there are thousands of opinions on the internet, most of them more qualified than I (either from a film criticism standpoint or a familiarity with the source material standpoint). In reality, no one is cheated out of a useful opinion about the movie.
So here's my honest opinion, in a nutshell--it's awesome! Dan, I do know the DC/Marvel difference (although I might be hard pressed to identify the universe of some more obscure heroes). And as for the movies you've listed, it's better than all of them. In fairness, I didn't see "Electra." "Fantastic 4" and "Superman Returns" kinda sucked. "The Hulk" was a very interesting failure, and if they hadn't thrown in the extra villain it would've been much better. "Batman Begins" is often cited as the smartest comic book movie. I really liked it, but I missed the fun of Tim Burton's Batman. I'm trying to think of the latest comic superhero movie I liked more, and maybe it's the first two Spiderman movies (before he got all Jesus-y in part 3).

Oh yeah, and I did stick through the end of the credits to see Sam Jackson as Nick Fury.

As for what I watched as a kid...Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, Transformers, whatever. I didn't get into Asian cinema/culture until college (Caltech does that to you). Come to think of it, I didn't get into film in general until college. So I did employ a little sleight of hand implying that I saw "Tetsuo" in 1989, when in fact it wasn't until the mid-90's.

baceman007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
baceman007 said...

Wow is anonymous retarded? Why doesn't he grow a pair of fucking balls before he rips other people apart? At least he could have posted with a fake internet name. EARTH TO ANONYMOUS, JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE DOESN'T READ COMIC BOOKS DOES'T MEAN THEY'RE RETARDED. I however did read Iron Man, and found this adaptation to be very good. Robert Downey Jr. basically plays himself, you know, a womanizer, etc. so it works out well in this movie. The whole Jarvis as a computer thing is fine with me too.
By the way anonymous, why don't you learn how to spell before ripping someone else apart. Or maybe you can just fucking die and stop using up all of the good resources that are allotted to you that can be being used for someone that isn't an asshole. Did you type your smug post from an Apple computer? It would just make more sense that you're an asshole and an Apple user that's all. I'm still amazed that people get so angry when someone misses a pop culture reference or has a different idea of what two wimple words mean. We would probably all be better off if we didn't live our lives tied to big corporate symbols and pop culture anyway. I mean Iron Man is just battle armor. In many ways it is a played out idea anyway. Jason don't apologize to that douche bag. He's a waste of fucking sperm, even the sperm he probably shoots on pictures of fake women like old pictures of Jean Grey that he has. I wonder if anonymous says something like, "Oh Marvel, oh corporate America, fuck my brains out like you fucked the average worker and the economy. Oh corporate America I promise I'll go ape shit if someone misses a pop culture reference." Fucking loser. Keep on posting Jason. Your reviews are great, and your FREE REVIEW SERVICE, provides the internet community with much needed diversity even if you got the whole Iron Man thing wrong, or played a joke on some people or whatever. Besides it's kind of a lame character anyway, especially when compared with Robotech and Gundam battle armor. I will say that I did appreciate the fact that the movie tried to show many off the battle armors that do show up in the comic series throughout its history.

puppymeat said...

This is by far my favorite post ever. I think I'll routinely post joke misinterpretations of movies. At least for the big releases, where you can find legitimate reviews all over the net.

I just watched the new Narnia movie. Any ideas how I could misinterpret that? I'm thinking "Prince Casper the Friendly Ghost" or argue that it's a poor adaptation of Hamlet (with some MacBeth thrown in).

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
See you soon,

zombiebot said...

have to say, I loved your review, but I think the funniest part is people not getting the joke... But wait, what if they got the joke, and their posts meant to be ironic. Damn you, sneaky commenters!