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BY The Editors
The Impossible (2012) PICK
Iron Man (2008) PICK
Iron Man 2 (2010) PICK
Should you watch (or rewatch) the first two Iron Man movies before seeing the new one?
After the mega-spectacle of last summer’s The Avengers, the original Iron Man (available on both Blu-ray and DVD) looks and feels a little lightweight. Yet its strengths, which kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe as well as the Iron Man franchise — and made Iron Man the clear star of that universe — still hold up well. Iron Man 2 is less focused, but better in the villain department, with an intimidating Mickey Rourke as a mystery opponent with an old family quarrel against our hero.
In both films, Robert Downey Jr. is a blast as Tony Stark, a brilliant entrepreneur who starts out as a glib, shallow, selfish playboy until he gets a reality check in morality and mortality when he’s nearly killed in a terrorist attack with one of his own weapons.
Equally important to the franchise (but underutilized in Iron Man 2) is Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s sensible, grounded assistant. She’s the series’ heart — and heart is precisely where Tony is deficient, figuratively as well as literally. "The head rules the belly through the chest," C.S. Lewis wrote, but Tony tends to be all brains and appetite, lacking the magnanimity, conscience and sentiment that completes the human person — though he makes progress during the films.
Among new films making their home-video debut, one worth checking out is The Impossible, a grueling but ultimately life-affirming disaster/survival story starring Naomi Watts and Ewan MacGregor in a fictionalized account of one family’s experiences in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
After the initial impact of the tsunami separates them, Watts’ character, a physician, pushes herself, despite horrific injuries, to incredible lengths to save and reunite whatever is left of her family. It’s an overwhelming vision of the awesome, sometimes terrifying, power of nature — and also the power of family.
Based on a true story of a Spanish family, the film is a Spanish production, stylishly directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, but shot in English, with mostly British stars, in order to maximize its audience. That’s an understandable decision, though too much of The Impossible — a story set in the Third World — is seen through the eyes of white characters. Still worth seeing, if you can take it.
Content Advisory: The Iron Man movies both contain action violence and mayhem, immoderate drinking and suggestive material (nothing explicit), as well as limited profanity and crude language. Iron Man contains a brief bedroom scene; Iron Man 2 includes a couple of shots of a woman in states of undress and a suggestive chorus-line dance number. Both are okay for teens and up. The Impossible contains harrowing, explicit scenes of disaster imagery and mayhem, wince-inducing depictions of gory injuries and bodily damage, a few scenes of nonsexual nudity and limited cursing. Mature viewing.