Review: Peter David’s Iron Man Movie Novelization FIGHTS! and FIGHTS! with Repulsor Rays!

March 26th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A year ago, I bought, read and reviewed Peter David’s novelization of Spider-Man 3. I thought it was pretty good and went on record to say that Sam Raimi would have to go out of his way to fuck up that movie. Wouldn’t you know it, he did exactly that. He deleted a handful of scenes that would have turned the movie’s three villains into more than ridiculous, one-dimensional jokes. While he removed all the valuable Eddie Brock and Sandman scenes, he made it even worse by hardly shaving off any whiny Mary Jane moments.

I made the decision to go for round two. This time Peter David writes a novelization based on the upcoming Iron Man film. More than anything, I was curious. The build-up has been nice. Not just with the trailers, but the feeling that there’s love in the movie. I recall Jon Favreau saying that in preparation, he had been reading every single issue of Iron Man from the 60’s on. So would love be enough to make this story work?

Yes. Yes it really would.

I’m not going to give out explicit spoilers, but if you really want an absolute blank slate to the point that you didn’t even watch the trailers, by all means don’t read this and instead just give me $5.

The overall story is something you could almost stitch together based on the trailers. Obviously, Tony Stark gets captured by terrorists shortly after a weapons demonstration. He hooks up with Yinsen, creates the Mark 1 armor and escapes. Then stuff happens involving two evolved versions of the armor and several potentially awesome action sequences. This includes fighting Iron Monger.

It’s very Batman Begins. As good as that sounds, it may also come off as a complaint by a lot of people. A lot of it feels almost parallel to that movie. Not just with the billionaire playboy superhero, but with the paths he takes. He leaves the country and gets into an adventure that changes his outlook on things and shapes how he wants to live on after coming back home. All of his toys and technologies are explained away at great lengths to give it a real down-to-earth feel. A villain begets a bigger villain, who begets a bigger villain, who begets a bigger villain.

I figure it would be best to cover the movie via the characters. What’s great here is that nearly everyone comes off as really likeable. Even Stane. That’s a step up from Spider-Man 3, where everyone came off as so whiny and petty that even Anakin Skywalker was like, “Dude, lighten up.”

Tony Stark is written really well here. Remember that scene in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne acts like a drunken ass and swims with the two women? That’s every other day for Stark. All the aspects of Tony’s personality are played well here. He’s got the dry sense of humor, which I’m sure will be amplified in the actual movie. I know that Favreau pushed for more improv, which is pretty evident in the trailers. Downey’s notable lines, such as, “Oh, yeah. I can fly,” and, “Let’s be honest, this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing in here,” are absent here. So it looks like he’ll be adding even more personality.

There were two things I was a bit wary of when in the middle of reading this. Two things about Stark are that he’s a womanizer and a drunk, at least in the early days. I was afraid that they were going to thoroughly damage both of these bits by the conclusion of the movie. It’s a very Hollywood thing to do. Luckily, both are handled very well. I can’t really go into detail about the womanizing bit, since that means going into the Tony/Pepper stuff, but I can touch on the drinking.

It’s been mentioned that Tony will deal with his drinking habits more in the sequel. Up until his capture, he’s shown drinking (heavily in some cases) in nearly every scene he’s in. Sometime after coming back home, when meeting with Stane, he refuses a drink. That’s thankfully not the end of that, though, as later, when things aren’t going his way, he turns back to drinking. Not as a glamorous way to have fun, but as a crutch. Exactly the way it should be done.

Obadiah Stane is an interesting portrayal. We know he’s the villain. We’re comic nerds. He’s shown as Iron Monger in the trailer. The thing is, even saying that makes me feel uneasy, as if I’m saying a major spoiler. We know that he’s the bad guy, but most non-comic fans won’t. That’s a good way to pull it off. The kind of people who could tell that Norman Osborn and Eddie Brock were going to become major villains based on their first scenes will be shocked to find out that Obadiah is really an asshole.

The best way I can describe him here is what it would be like if Lucius Fox was secretly a greedy sadist. For much of the story he acts like almost a father figure to Tony, having been the high-ranking associate of both Tony and his late father Howard Stark for years. He’s supportive and understanding, but once we get into the thick of things, comic fans should be more satisfied with his actions.

He also has a cool way of codename-dropping in the middle of his dialogue. I don’t know if these bits will make it into the movie, but I thought they were cool and less tacky that they should be:

“Tony, Tony. We’re iron mongers. We make weapons. That’s what we do. We’re weapons manufacturers.”

Later in the story, after Tony and Rhodey have something of an argument…

“Why? Because of what you told me about Rhodey’s reaction? Look, it’s just like you told me. He wouldn’t understand it. He’s part of the war machine. He’s not a man of vision.”

I admit I don’t know too much about Pepper Potts outside of the Order, but from what I do know, she fits fine here. She is used as Tony Stark’s personal assistant. She’s very bold and sure of herself, but finds herself falling to pieces based on Tony’s kidnapping and his fragile state of mind after that. She barely plays the damsel in distress in this. I mean, yes, she does for a little, but she does far more than just that. She’s definitely more likeable than Mary Jane and Rachel Dawes, really coming into her own after the discovery of what Tony Stark is really up to.

There’s a flashback in the book about how Pepper became Tony’s personal assistant. Considering the odd placement of the scene, it’s pretty suspect and likely something Peter David just wrote up and tossed in there for the hell of it. Not too much is missed from removing it, other than an explanation of why Tony calls her “Pepper” and why she’s so perfect for the job.

If you’re expecting to see War Machine, you’re going to have to wait. But it should be worth the wait, since Jim Rhodes shines like a beacon. It isn’t said how long he and Stark have been friends, but it’s assumed that it’s a friendship built out of their working relationship. Rhodes is the guy who mainly deals with Stark on behalf of the military for weapon dealings. That being said, they share a fun dynamic. You can tell that they’re best friends, but most of the time there’s this hilarious borderline hatred for each other, where you wonder why they’re even friends in the first place.

I won’t give the context, but Rhodes screaming, “Son of a bitch!” might as well turn out to be the moment of the movie. I know I laughed pretty hard when I read it.

Jarvis is in the movie, sort of. He isn’t so much Jarvis, as he’s J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark’s computer AI assistant. He’s essentially HAL from 2001, but with a sometimes sarcastic English accent. This is going to be to the movie as organic webshooters was to Spider-Man. It makes a ton more sense to go with it (come on, there are enough Batman comparisons as is and his movie is coming out a month later), but fanboys will rage against it to no end.

Happy Hogan is exact from the comics. He’s going to be played by Favreau himself, which I suppose explains his downplay. For the first third of the story, he’s there in the background of most scenes and later has his own starring scene, where he practically begs Rhodey into trying harder to find Stark. But once Tony comes back from Afghanistan, Happy is totally dropped from the story without a single mention.

Yinsen is a more elaborate take than the original comics version, but hits all the main points. He isn’t another brilliant scientist; rather he’s a brilliant surgeon from a village decimated by terrorists using Stark weaponry. The only reason he’s kept alive is to tend to Stark’s condition and be his cellmate. He kisses up to his captors a lot, but it’s a ruse to work towards helping Tony. His part is very Uncle Ben-like, to the point of eventually meeting up with Tony in a dream vision. Though that part could easily be removed.

The terrorists, as expected, lack any redeeming qualities. They’re mainly portrayed through Abu and Raza. Abu is an incompetent terrorist soldier in charge of taking care of Stark and Yinsen. He’s a bit easy to fool, allowing Stark to get some leverage in his big escape plan. Raza is Abu’s superior and is very no-nonsense.

The terrorists appear to be henchmen of the Mandarin. Favreau made mention of the Mandarin being more like Emperor Palpatine or Sauron, in that he’s more of an ominous presence looming over the story. A better comparison would be Shao Kahn in the first Mortal Kombat movie, if you were to ignore the last minute of it. He’s never shown, nor even mentioned by name, yet fans of the source material know exactly who is being talked about. Notable mention goes to the terrorists’ flag, which features ten rings interlocked and an X.

Also in the movie is Phil Coulson. I know what you’re thinking. “THE Phil Coulson?! No way!” The rest of you, which I guess would be all of you, are wondering who the hell Phil Coulson is. Phil is an agent with a certain government branch known as the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. He tries to get a word with Tony Stark throughout the story, but always gets brushed away for one reason or another. Sadly, there’s not a single mention of Nick Fury.

There are cameos in it by Jim Cramer, Stan Lee and what looks to be the appearance by Ghostface Killah. The Stan Lee one could either be funny or groan-worthy.

I couldn’t get over how much better this whole thing is compared to the Invincible Iron Man animated movie. Any of you guys see that piece of crap? It was just a lot of boring, boring talking followed by bad CGI and Iron Man getting his ass handed to him for 95% of each fight scene. I will tell you this, the movie will NOT feature a hackneyed “remember who you are!” resolution.

If anything, I could compare it to Marvel Adventures: Iron Man, but with more drinking and sleeping around. It’s a quality retelling of Tony’s origin, which, I’m glad to say, has nothing to do with him being made of brains. Stupid Orson Scott Card.

As for the best exchange? It takes place when Tony is hanging out with the soldiers, as shown in the trailers.

“I have a question, sir.”


“Is it true you’re twelve for twelve with last year’s Maxim cover girls?”

“Excellent question. Yes and no. March and I had a schedule conflict but, thankfully, the Christmas cover was twins.”

I don’t want to incriminate myself as much as I did with the Spider-Man 3 novelization by fawning over how great this is, only to have it neutered by hammy acting and bad post-production. I’m still incredibly optimistic over how this will turn out. Especially with the final scene. Oh my God, the final scene is absolutely, totally 100% perfect. With the possible exception of the “escalation” scene in Batman Begins, this may be the best ender for any superhero movie.

The only thing the movie is truly missing is a scene of shirtless Tony Stark with a mullet, forging his armor with a hammer.

Goddamn, that’s manly.

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11 comments to “Review: Peter David’s Iron Man Movie Novelization FIGHTS! and FIGHTS! with Repulsor Rays!”

  1. Oh man they need to bring back that rocking mullet for Tony.

  2. I may have to pick up the novelization. I’ve been out of the loop for a bit but when I saw the trailer for this I immediately went full bore fanboy. I’ve always loved Iron Man, and from what I saw Downey Jr is perfect for playing Tony the Lush. He’s swarmy, arrogant and pretty damn witty. I loved the fact that virtually every shot had him toting a gin and tonic or equivalent up to the capture. And as cheesy as it was, him busting through the door to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man actually got the theater I was in cheering.

  3. man that nineties cartoon intro gets me every time.

    Sounds like the movie is packed with all the little details that will have us nudging our friends in the ribs, to their confusion.

  4. It sounds like J.A.R.V.I.S. actually is based on the cartoon, cause he had a computerized assistant there.

  5. […] a month back, I read through Peter David’s novelization, so I got the gist of how good this would be. Like Spider-Man 3, it was based on an earlier or […]

  6. Having seen the film, and being a fan of novelizations in general, I am somewhat wary of this one. I had such an incredible time at the film itself that I’m not sure I even want to read the novelization.

    But it’s Peter David. I have never read anything of his that I didn’t like.

    The film had concrete Objectivist undertones, and I don’t want to read it if those have been stripped away. How well does Peter David take on the philosophy of Ayn Rand?

  7. And now I’m scared to see “The Hulk”. Randisms? Really?

  8. Oh wait this is about “Iron Man”. Its been too long since I bothered trying out Rand’s brand of crazy. Which bits of Iron Man fit Objectivism?

  9. I guess the whole billionaire super-intelligent businessman part . . . but when he, you know, goes off and becomes a superhero and helps people, he pretty firmly rejects Objectivism which is very much against helping other people.

  10. Yeah, I know, I’m a year late, but for some inexcusable reason I’ve just recently started frequenting this fine site.

    Great review and I love the Iron Man intro clip. That is indeed a perfect example of sheer manliness that I can only dream of achieving. Even if all these situps give me the six pack and I find a mallet and some steel to hammer, I will never have a mullet like that.

  11. I am even later to the party than Wendell!
    Ironman 2 is now just around the corner.
    re the Youtube video – Love the really imaginative lyrics in the 80’s metal Ironman theme 🙂