'Iron Man 2' Full Of Easter Eggs For Fans Iron Man 2, the sequel to the hugely popular story of Tony Stark, continues to dominate at the box office. NPR's comic book blogger, Glen Weldon, says the blockbuster is full of "Easter eggs," or inside jokes for longtime fans.
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'Iron Man 2' Full Of Easter Eggs For Fans

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'Iron Man 2' Full Of Easter Eggs For Fans

'Iron Man 2' Full Of Easter Eggs For Fans

'Iron Man 2' Full Of Easter Eggs For Fans

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126887033/126887020" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Scarlett Johansson plays Natalie Rushman, new assistant to Iron Man Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr. Industrial Light & Magic hide caption

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Industrial Light & Magic

Scarlett Johansson plays Natalie Rushman, new assistant to Iron Man Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr.

Industrial Light & Magic

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'Suitcase Suit'


'I Need An Assistant'

Iron Man 2, the sequel to the hugely popular story of Tony Stark, continues to dominate at the box office.

NPR's comic book blogger, Glen Weldon, says the blockbuster is full of "Easter eggs" -- inside jokes for longtime fans.

From the outset, NPR's Neal Conan discloses that he and Weldon are unabashed comic-book geeks. Neither thought "C-lister" Stark would be such a hit.

"He's got a huge impact in the comics because he's the wealthiest guy in the Marvel universe," explains Weldon, "he bankrolls a lot of stuff."

But Stark isn't obviously appealing. Weldon describes him as "a weapons manufacturer, basically. He's a drunk, he's a womanizer" -- not the kind of guy you'd usually build a summer tent-pole movie around.

But in the Iron Man movies, Weldon thinks, the character works, largely due to Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal.

"Downey is Tony Stark, in a way that very rarely happens in superhero movies," Weldon explains.

Still, Weldon still thinks Iron Man has the edge over its sequel. "The origin movie is always going to be better," he says, "because the origin story is the hero's story" (with the exception of Wolverine). Telling the story of who the hero is and how he came to be is naturally compelling. "Once you get past that, you just have a bunch of dudes in suits whaling on each other."

But Weldon credits director Jon Favreau's indie sensibility for keeping Iron Man 2 interesting. "[It's] a big stupid summer action film, sure. It's got big explosions, sure," says Weldon. But he thinks it's different from a movie like Transformers because Favreau, an actor himself, "would much rather aim his camera at a couple of actors talking" than focus on the big action set pieces.

Weldon says scenes like that -- which would end up on Transformers' cutting room floor -- are a strength in Iron Man 2, thanks to actors like Downey and Sam Rockwell.


"Iron Man 2" topped the box office charts for the second week in a row. It's the first certified blockbuster of the summer. And this sequel is bigger, better and even more portable day viewing. And "Iron Man 2" is Tony Stark's new suitcase armor.

(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man 2")

CONAN: And that's the sound of "Iron Man's" armor, popping out of Tony Stark's carry-on bag and assembling itself around its inventor. And good news, the bad guy waits until his 40-year-old before they finally get into it. As all fan boys know, "Iron Man 2" is based on a long-running "Marvel" comic book.

And we want to hear today from fans what do you think of the show had second shot on the silver screen. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. you can join the conversation at our website too. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Glen Weldon blogs about comic books for NPR's Monkey See. And you can find a link to that, plus several clips from "Iron Man 2" at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. But he's with us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you with us.

GLEN WELDON: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And you and I are both are, in full disclosure, comic geeks.


CONAN: Did you ever think that you'd be sitting here talking about an "Iron Man" movie?

WELDON: I know. We're seeing "Iron Man" backpacks and pencil cases on the streets. It's great. I mean it's a he's a C-lister, let's face it.

CONAN: Yeah.

WELDON: He always has been.

CONAN: Always has been.

WELDON: Low profile. He's got a huge impact in the comics because he's sort of he's the wealthiest guy in the Marvel Universe. He bankrolls a lot of stuff.

CONAN: And has had various personas on various iterations...

WELDON: Absolutely.

CONAN: ...comic book characters. I dont want to break it to you badly. But they change depending on who's writing and who's drawing.

WELDON: Absolutely. But at the center, you have this guy who, let's remember, is a weapon's manufacturer basically. He's a drunk. He's a womanizer. And yet he's not the kind of guy you would go to build summer tent pole movie around necessarily.

CONAN: No, never.

WELDON: But he works here. And the reason, it works here in "Iron Man 2" just as it did in "Iron Man" the first one is because you've got, at the center of it, perhaps the most inevitable piece of casting in film history. You've got Robert Downey, Jr. as iron man who is Tony Stark in a way that very rarely happens. And certainly in superhero movies, you haven't seen it since Christopher Reeve that sort of affinity between the character and the actor.

CONAN: And it he has such fun with the role. And as you say, now in some iterations, Tony Stark has been the military industrial complex.

WELDON: Right.

CONAN: So we should and here he's much more of a libertarian anti-hero.

WELDON: Right.

CONAN: But he comes to life in this film. He really brings the character to life.

WELDON: He really does. He's smirking without being smug. He had the sort of central charm which is the one thing that the comics always have a three-line. And in fact right now, you talked about various iterations, there is a comic called the "Invisible Iron Man," which launched pretty much at the same time as "Iron Man" came out. It's written by Matt Fraction. It's a great series that captures the same sensibility. It's just a lot of fun. It's the best comic -best "Iron Man" comic to come around in a long time.

CONAN: Oh, that's I have to say I dont read a lot of capes. So, you know, busted. But nevertheless, I have all the early "Iron Man" comics from, you know, late 60s, early 70s. And those are worth 10, 15, 5 cents.

WELDON: Yeah, right.

CONAN: So but there is so much in this movie that speaks to people like you and me who read these comic books.

WELDON: Right.

CONAN: That, for example, the suitcase armor. All right. It does picky-picky, violate the laws of physics.

WELDON: It just a little bit, yeah. Okay. It's A, physically impossible. It is B, seriously cool.

CONAN: Yeah.

WELDON: And, in fact, I got into a little back and forth with a guy, Ian Buckwalter who reviews movies for the NPR website. In his review, and to my face, he was dissing the suitcase, saying yes, exactly what you said. It defies the laws of physics. I figured I thought that it was funny that he would choose to draw this battle line there. But...

CONAN: As opposed to the suit, then, flying through the air doing lots...

WELDON: Exactly. And zaps people with its hands. Okay, look...

CONAN: The repulsor ray.

WELDON: The thank you nicely done, nicely done. But it's just in fact, it's such a central part. It has a long and storied history in the comics...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: ...let's not ignore that.

CONAN: The suitcase.

Mr. WELDON: The suitcase, right. And in the movie, you know, he puts it on and it's not a major, central part of the NPR - of the "Iron Man" mythos. But it is - it's like NPR without the tote bags. You need it. It's part of...

CONAN: It's part of the deal.

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: It's like you can't do "Iron Man" without Pepper Potts.

Mr. WELDON: Exactly. And, you know, actually when the trailer came out and you glimpsed the briefcase in passing...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: I got a text from a friend of mine which is the single, nerdiest text I have ever received which, trust me, is saying something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WELDON: And all it said was suitcase, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point. It hits a nerve. But there are a lot of those kinds of things in the movie. Some of them bring the movie to a dead stop, all the stuff about building the "Avengers," you know, the...

CONAN: Well, that's towards the end of the film.

Mr. WELDON: Towards the end of the film, right, that's fine.

CONAN: That's sort of a Ford promotion as we call it in radio.

Mr. WELDON: Yeah. Those scenes are not really servicing this business. They're servicing the movies to come, which is, you know, I'm of two minds about. When you just glimpse Captain America's shield in the background, that's fine.

CONAN: Mm-hmm, that's fine.

Mr. WELDON: When you see the Captain America comic book, that's fine. It's for us. I eat that up with a big spoon. But I'm not - if you're just appealing to me, you're not going to be - you're not going to make your money back on this money.

CONAN: Well, there is also then the character of Nick Fury...

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: ...who is a - plays a pretty substantial part in this picture. Now, I first met Nick Fury as the top kick of "Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos."

Mr. WELDON: Exactly.

CONAN: And he's gone on to live a very, very, very long life...

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: ...became "Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." and is now the top kick of S.H.I.E.L.D. played by, of all people, Sam Jackson.

Mr. WELDON: I know. I know, but he's great. He and Downey Jr. kind of know what movie they're in and they're having a lot of fun.


Mr. WELDON: It's not so much winking at the camera but almost.

CONAN: Almost.

Mr. WELDON: And...

CONAN: Well, part (unintelligible) he's got a patch.

Mr. WELDON: If he was, you wouldnt be able to tell. But, you know, I'm not sure that Mickey Rourke is in the same movie as the other two people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WELDON: But he commits, man.

CONAN: He does.

Mr. WELDON: He is really...

CONAN: He works very hard.

Mr. WELDON: He works very, very hard. And even though he - his scene - there's a scene in this movie which I think we can do without from now on, which is the scene where somebody stands over a dead body and shouts, no...


Mr. WELDON: ...we've had enough of those.

CONAN: Yes. Well, it's giving motivation...

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: ...to the bad guy.

Mr. WELDON: Exactly.

CONAN: But, of course, he's not really the bad guy. The bad guy is Sam Rockwell who plays Justin Hammer.

Mr. WELDON: See, here's an interesting distinction to make. This is a big, stupid summer action film, sure. It's got big explosions, sure. But it has a different sensibility of even something like "Transformers," than something like "2012" because Favreau, the director, came from indie films. He's an actor himself. So he would much rather - you can tell in the opening minutes of this film that he would much rather aim his camera at a couple of actors talking than the big action set pieces.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: There's a scene in this movie where Sam Rockwell talks about guns for what seemed like three minutes of screen time. And it would not - it would be on the cutting room floor of something like "Transformers," but it's great. Favreau trusts Sam Rockwell to do something with that scene and he does it.

CONAN: Here's an email from Matt(ph), short and sweet, "Iron Man 2" was a decent sequel. Notable pros: Sam Rockwell's performance steals the show, complemented by Mickey Rourke's incredible screen presence. Notable cons: Don Cheadle's Rhodey - just wasnt buying it.

Mr. WELDON: Yeah.

CONAN: This is our second Rhodey.

Mr. WELDON: This is our second Rhodey, yes. Don Cheadle is an immensely likeable actor, nothing wrong with him. But, again, because of Favreau, they spent a lot of time in the first movie just showing that these two guys like each other - it was played by Terrence Howard. That's all those scenes we're doing, and you still have some of those scenes. But, again, the origin movie is always going to be, in my humble opinion, the origin movie is always going to be better because the origin story is the hero story so it's...

CONAN: So even with "Wolverine"?

Mr. WELDON: Even - well, well, well...

CONAN: All right.

Mr. WELDON: ...it's a notable, notable exception. That movie, by the way, had three no shots.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WELDON: So I think that's three-too-many. But, yeah, telling us the hero's origin, who is now he came to be, is compelling. Once you get past that, you just have punching dudes in suits wailing on each other, and that's tough to keep compelling but, yeah.

CONAN: Even in comic books sometimes.

Mr. WELDON: Exactly.

CONAN: We're talking today with Glen Weldon who blogs about comic for NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See. 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. James(ph) is on the line from San Antonio.

JAMES (Caller): Yeah. I really enjoyed the sequel. I was worried they were going to overload it and just make it terrible, but I really enjoyed it. I think Robert Downey Jr. kind of ties these movies together because without him they just be kind of more popcorn fair.

Mr. WELDON: Exactly.

CONAN: Well, that seems to be the formula that has, in general, worked: get at A-list actors.

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: We're talking Scarlett Johansson in this movie.

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: We're talking - who else - of course, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, even as the voice of the computer, Paul Bettany.

Mr. WELDON: Yeah. Yeah.

CONAN: I mean, he's great.

Mr. WELDON: It goes against - it's exactly the same thing where, okay, a lot of this movie is going to be robots fighting each other, a lot of this movie is going to be explosions. But you need to give people something else to look at when that's not happening. And if you have Sam Rockwell up there, Sam Rockwelling around like he does, you're going to stay in the seat.

CONAN: And, of course, the real bad guy is Garry Shandling who plays...

Mr. WELDON: Oh, yeah.

CONAN: Well, anyway, James, thanks very much for the phone call.

JAMES: Definitely. Yeah. I just want to say I love the way they put the armor wars. They wove it in there. That was great.

Mr. WELDON: Yeah, that was great.

CONAN: Okay. Geek boy.

Mr. WELDON: Yeah. There we go.

CONAN: Thanks very much.

Mr. WELDON: My people.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to Mark(ph), Mark with us from Columbia, South Carolina.

MARK (Caller): How you all fellows doing? How are you all doing?

CONAN: Not too bad.

MARK: Hey, I will be - I'm going to tell you just like the last caller said, it's like Robert Downey Jr. - he almost, like, make that suit just seem almost human.

CONAN: Didnt you love the scene when he gets drunk and dances in the suit?

Mr. WELDON: Yes, again.

MARK: He's evidently smooth with it though. He's like - how he can make it -make the suit just come alive.

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

MARK: I was like - "Iron Man" is not like Superman per se, he has like super powers.

CONAN: Right.

MARK: But you got to know how to maneuver and use this suit to your advantage. He just - it doesnt matter how the other characters was able to put their powers together. He knows exactly how to get in there and just get in there and stop them from overcoming him. And it's like they have the lady that is with S.H.E.I.L.D. It's so much in this movie because I think - I felt like it was like a guy movie but me and my wife and kids, we went to go see it and my wife was like - when they had that briefcase, they were trying to get to on the race tracks...

CONAN: Right.

MARK: ...and we know what the briefcase was for. But when they finally got it to him, it's like just, you know, just - almost like infuse itself into his body, like, wow, this is awesome, man. It's a great movie. Everybody that go see part two and part one, it almost like complements each other. Once they get the whole sequel together and bring all these other different heroes in there, like, they have different little places in the movie, I don't know where (unintelligible)...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

MARK: ...S.H.I.E.L.D. and the H.A.M.M.E.R. And I know people know who all (unintelligible) and how they all we're trying to put it together. Once they put this comic together, it's going to be awesome. So I can't wait until they get to the climax of this, so...

CONAN: Mark, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. We're talking about "Iron Man 2," made from a C-list Marvel character. You're talking - listening to TALK OF THE NATION, an A-list show from talk - from NPR News. And again, we're with Glen Weldon. And as you look at these films, clearly some of them have been like "Iron Man 1(ph)" and "2" now, tremendous successes...

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: ..."2" already a tremendous success.

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: You look at others, "Daredevil," another C-list character, enchantingly drawn and written sometimes by the likes of Frank Miller among others...

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: ...and indeed...

(Soundbite of whistling)

Mr. WELDON: Oh, boy. Well, there's a sense of fun in "Iron Man," in the "Iron Man's" franchise now. There is no sense of fun in "Daredevil." It took itself so seriously. And I think that's something that can doom a comic as well. You know, we love comics, that's great, but there's a sensibility sometimes that people who make the comics, people who make the comic book movies have to say, no, take them seriously, this is serious...

CONAN: Well, they got away with it with "Batman."

Mr. WELDON: Well, yeah, but again, that's Chris Nolan who understands what things are about. It's dark, sure...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: ...and it's grim, yes. But I mean, Chris Nolan also comes from indie films. He trusts actors. He's not just throwing a lot of stuff together. The "Daredevil" movie, I mean, when you put Ben Affleck in a red pleather suit and you have him stare down into the streets saying, you know, I am the night, whatever it was he said...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: ...I mean, that's never going to work.

CONAN: Yeah. But then you have Tony Stark literally saying I am trying to cure my heart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WELDON: Yeah, I know. Yes. Yeah, yeah. Again, but that's done with playfulness. There was no playfulness in "Elektra," there's no playfulness in "Daredevil." Yeah, it's - this movie has a sensibility about it that separates it from a lot of others.

CONAN: Let's go next to Chris(ph). Chris, with us from Columbus.

CHRIS (Caller): Hi. A couple of things occurred to me, but at any rate, one thing a friend of mine said that I feel is pretty important, a lot of filmmakers tend to forget that comic book fans don't read comic books for the action, I mean especially if you get past a certain age. Post-adolescents and whatnot, you know, you're going for the drama, the angst and that. And I feel that the first "Iron Man" was far more interesting because it showed what Stark had to go through in order to become Iron Man.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS: And in this film, not - that kind of attention was not paid even to the development of Whiplash...

Mr. WHELDON: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS: ...what his story was all about. And I felt the film had just too many tedious action sequences. And when you know that filmmakers can - they can see anything they want you to see, it just becomes a little bit enervating. The second thing I thought of is now I know what was in the suitcase that they were chasing after in "Ronin."

Mr. WELDON: All right. And in "Pulp Fiction" maybe.

CONAN: In "Pulp Fiction" too. "Ronin" another - and another film going to the screen, as I understand.

Mr. WELDON: Right.

CONAN: Another comic book going to the screen.

Mr. WELDON: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: And I think everything Frank Miller ever wrote is going to the screen.

Mr. WELDON: That's right.

CONAN: Including the ones he doesn't get credit for.

Mr. WELDON: That's right.

CONAN: All right, Chris, thanks very much for the call.

CHRIS: Thanks for having me on.

CONAN: And is it important that these films take their nods to the fan boys or is it simply saying, look, 99 percent of the people who are going to see this picture we hope never read "Iron Man"?

Mr. WELDON: Right. No, I mean, I think you can do a little bit of a nod, a bit of a wink. But if you are bending yourself over backwards to kind of have -insert all these scenes which don't really service the movie you're making but the movie you plan on making...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: ...I mean, I'm of two minds about this whole creating a single, unified world for all these films to exist in because that just gets you into a whole thing of another layer of, well, continuity has to be consistent between this one and this one. And that's...

CONAN: Well, they're not in the comic books.

Mr. WELDON: Exactly. And - but even in the comics, when people get - people like my fellow fan boys and girls get really their knickers in a twist over continuity and this has to be true in this book and this book, story dies.

CONAN: Well, you know, Peter Parker actually invented the web fluid.

Mr. WELDON: Oh, here we go.

CONAN: Come on. You know...

Mr. WELDON: Neal, Neal...

CONAN: Of course, the only other thing - it's the only thing he ever invented, though he was a genius.

Mr. WELDON: He was a genius. Then they've gone to organic web shooters and they've gone back. It'll...

CONAN: Back and forth. But in any case the - "Spider-Man" really ran out of gas since "Spider-Man 3."

Mr. WELDON: They threw in a lot of villains and that's usually the sign of death throe of a franchise.

CONAN: And got really, really super serious with the...

Mr. WELDON: Exactly.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. WELDON: Although "Spider-Man 3" did have that dance scene, which is universally hated among the fan boy community. I dug it. I loved it. It was a lot of fun. It's what Sam Raimi should be doing. It's that kind of silliness. But, yeah, they're rebooting it. Again, my point earlier, that you tell the origin over and over again.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WELDON: They certainly do this in the comic ever five years.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. WELDON: They just kind of say, here he is again, here's the secret origin yet again, not so secret anymore but we're going to keep telling you it. So, yeah, they're rebooting the franchise and I guess they're going to bring it into the whole universe that they're doing, this building the common universe now. If it works, it works.

CONAN: And in the meantime, we can wait for "Avengers."

Mr. WELDON: That's right. That's right.

CONAN: And I guess it's going to be another - you know, we don't even have to go to the comic book store.

Mr. WELDON: Well, actually, you should. As I say, the "Iron Man" comic by Matt Fraction is really good.

CONAN: Wednesday, new comics day.

Mr. WELDON: That's right.

CONAN: Glen Weldon blogs about comics for NPR's pop culture site Monkey See, npr.org. You can read him there. Thanks very much. Tomorrow, from Islam to America, we'll talk with Ayaan Hirsi Ali about her new book "Nomad." Be with us for that.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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