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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I Just Saw Iron Man...

...and really enjoyed it.

That being said, I just have one question. How is it that a movie that was as formulaic -- down to every last detail and plot point -- as Iron Man was, was still such a damned enjoyable flick? Your thoughts?

Minor Spoilers (both for Iron Man and Hulk):

Okay, I guess I have a second question as well. One of the trailers before Iron Man was for the upcoming Hulk movie. Not great buzz on this movie yet. But I have to wonder if it was wise to show that trailer before this one, when the core element of the plot -- revealed in the trailer -- was virtually identical to that of Iron Man. The villain takes the technology of the hero and creates a bigger, uglier and presumably more powerful version of the hero. Iron Man vs. Obidaiah (sp?). Hulk vs. Tim Roth's monstrous persona.

Even if the rest of the film is different, is it wise to show a trailer showcasing that key plot point before a movie from the same studio that uses an almost identical plot point? Rather than building interest for this troubled picture, I think it is merely hammering in a nail. Your thoughts on this as well...

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Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

First, I saw Iron Man and enjoyed the hell out of it too.

Joel, your question presupposes that formulaic somehow equals bad and unenjoyable.

I just don't think that's true.

That said, I didn't find Iron Man terribly "formulaic" in the sense that, say, Fantastic Four was -- stupid, stupid one-liners, paper-thin characterizations, and over-the-top villains.

Iron Man broke added some freshness and fun in the character of Tony Stark -- a superhero that was, basically, a total dickwad for much of the movie, yet still charming thanks mostly to Robert Downey Jr. They made the alter-ego more fun and interesting than the superhero -- and that's a really smart thing to do with a superhero movie.

Talk about breaking the mold, what about Tony Starks last line? Stuff like that just made it really fun.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Thanks, Dave, for your comment. Let me respond.

To me, there is a difference between formula and formulaic. Formula is what works -- e.g. Three-Act Structure, Hero's Journey, etc. But when things become formulaic (and I'm not even talking about the things you mention in Fantastic Four which I would say were examples of bad writing, more than being formulaic), I mean that they've gotten to the point of predictability and lack of surprise.

That is the way I felt about Iron Man -- I felt it was highly predictable and I knew most of what was going to happen.

But I do think you're right, that the Tony Stark character, and Downey's portrayal thereof, went a long way here. And the effects were great as well, which also helps.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua James said...

Holy snikeys, Fun Joel is back!

I haven't seen Iron Man. I haven't seen anything. Such is life with baby.

I am still writing. Just nothing else.

1:43 AM  
Blogger James Moen said...

Glad to see your back Fun Joel. You are one of the few blogs I take the time to post on.

As for Iron Man, it was all Robert Downey Jr. Without him we'd be talking about the overly long act 2 with the tedious suit construction, or about the not very fleshed out bad guys.

Hulk is slightly different. It is about controlling the internal conflicts because they become the external...

However, it still looks like an awful movie. To bad too. I liked the TV series.

2:37 AM  
Blogger James said...

Totally agree with your Formula vs Formulaic, Joel.

I think what Iron Man has that's your missing "why it works" is something that is innate to the Iron Man story which isn't to many comicbook stories.

It's the "I want to/and if I had enough money -- COULD -- possibly be that guy.

Iron Man has a similar appeal that Batman has... rich, normal guy that is a super-hero because of his toys -- not some strange accident (or birth).

And a plus in Iron Man's favor is that he is an everyman's Superman. He flies, is bulletproof, kicks ass, takes names -- and doesn't need to be born on Krypton in order to do so.

I think this is a big part of the appeal of the original Star Wars, as well.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Fun Joel,

I watched "Poseidon" last night and had the same question flying around my head. How come I liked this?!
Should I finally lose my fear of kitsch?
A couple of moments later I started wondering, in fact... whether I have ever loved anything but a solid formula.
I'm following Jung here. Aren't good writers those who have their formulae so ingrained that they are able to come up with many a facets of their truths?
And then good stories that stick close to their formula could be called, simply, concise!
That's crazy fun.

9:06 PM  

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