The Iron Man flick pressed my buttons from start to finish. Specifically, that little gadget nerd button over my heart, right where Tony Stark's arc reactor plugs in. On one hand, Stark's legendary womanizing, alcoholism and vanity are way underdeveloped. (Disappointingly, Downy Jr. looks too sober.) But if you're at all interested in the future of exoskeletons, holographic 3D CAD, advanced heads-up displays and stuff blowing up under the recoil-free power of repulsor beams, you're going to want to see this movie, well, just to see it.
The story, well, it's there. Stark, a wealthy playboy CEO and genius of his weapons company finds himself held hostage by terrorists using weapons he designed. The unbearable guilt and irony of the situation leads him to a change of heart and he wants to do the right thing. He builds an advanced exoskeleton suit, but it's not for the military. Oh no, he's done being a merchant of death. He's going to blow up evildoers using his weapons. It's believable to a nerd, like most comic books. (Because we want to believe.) But the tech, the tech is set up in a way that makes it unnecessary to suspend your disbelief. Just sit back and enjoy the techno porn. More or less.
There are blatant displays of advanced technology and engineering scattered in almost every moment of the movie. And not the cheesy kinds you'd find in shit like The Net or Hackers or Lawn Mower Man. It all looks so good and feels so good that know-it-all part of your geek brain won't trigger alarms at the fictional gadgets. Let me try to step through a few of 'em.
The heart of the film is the suit, whose beauty is only outweighed by its laundry list of abilities. Just know there's plenty of suit, and to good effect. When he first puts it on, the dialog between Stark and Jarvis reaches its nerdiest, with talk of suit compression leaks at altitude, Titanium gold alloys, air control surface test runs, and a lot more stuff I can't remember and shouldn't spoil.
The source of Iron Man's power is that little glowy ring in his chest, which creates massive power for its size (3.6 Kilajoules per second or something in its beta form). That too would be suspect since Tony micronized the company's room-sized Cold War arc reactor technology to fit in a watch box while being held captive in a cave. But hey, you're dealing with a genius here; the best engineers in Stark Enterprises attempt to re-create it in the labs, and call it impossible without Stark's spark.
Those are all very satisfying aspects of the suit, but you can find that in any superhero blockbuster. It was all the underlying geek subtext in between all the fights that made it worthwhile. There's a fun moment when Jarvis is giving Stark constant alerts of impending battery run-down and Stark yells back, "Shut up, just put it on my screen!" for an instant UI tweak. Watching the suit develop through trial and error helps to explain the power the exoskeleton has, and all the times he screws up while doing test runs make everything just a little more digestible of a fantasy.
The tech of Stark's house also hits us full in the face. The Malibu mansion's bedroom window doubles as an overwrought alarm clock with translucent touch interface spitting out dozens of metrics for the day including temperatures, news and other must-knows. As the camera pans away from the visuals, you see a unnecessary QWERTY on the side of the wall. Stark's one night stand, who awakes to this display of tech, looks half astounded. Rightfully so.
In his basement, Stark prototypes the primary Iron Man suit as a matter of obsession, and we're brought through the process. He's got multiple monitors, and a pen type stylus he uses the stylus to drag it all over, in real air, to another desk. The square is a holographic projector, but not some lame-ass one-way projector. He dips his hands into the well of light and the models in the air move with his touch. Bad designs get manually tossed into a digital bin on the side, one piece at a time. For the coup de grace, Stark reaches into the repulsor gauntlet design hologram, and wears it. Wears a hologram!
Tony's taste in real estate, women and weapon tech is high end, but the product placement of everyday brands didn't live up to the man's lifestyle. But I nitpick. Don't mind the wonderful Audi R8 in a dull silver (or those fake burnout noises), the S5, and a Q7 which plays as projectile in one urban battle. I mean, I like Audi, but this was overkill. The same complaint goes for the LG/Verizon handsets, which do video chat in the Afghani desert, and the Dell gear all over the place. At least I think I saw some Linux action going on in there. But I'd peg Stark for a guy who'd use a Nokia or Sony Ericsson, if not a hacked A-Phone.
Even the solution to the movie's final problem is a technical one, having to do with the suit's flight surfaces at altitude. The explosions and destruction are great, but it is the brains, via the fantasy gear's engineering that triumphs. And that's why Iron Man could be the perfect Gizmodo blockbuster.