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]