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I disagreed with the screenwriter of "Iron Man 2," Justin Theroux, when he said that "origin" stories were always the best part of an ongoing comic-book franchise. I think "Superman II," for example, was far wittier than "Superman."

But Theroux and director Jon Favreau were onto something when they stuffed "Iron Man 2" so full of characters, including Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, and Don Cheadle's James Rhoades/War Machine.

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The most durable action heroes are often team leaders who welcome the help of fighters with talents different from their own.

In the first Robin Hood book I ever read -- the one by American storyteller and illustrator Howard Pyle -- the bandit of Sherwood Forest is already a folk hero when, in the prologue, Little John knocks hims down with a quarterstaff. Judging John to be a good fellow and great athlete, Robin welcomes him into the Merry Men. Reading that made a boy like me feel that anyone could achieve some kind of heroism; all it required was spirit, courage, and the mastery of a certain skill, not all skills.

The Russell Crowe "Robin Hood" veers so far from this storybook tradition that the comparison is more pertinent to "Iron Man 2." The second shellhead extravaganza is noisy and misshapen, but it makes me look forward to a third. With a simple course adjustment, another Iron Man movie could integrate its sprawling cast of characters, and overflow with life-giving camaraderie.

How do you feel about the Iron Man movies? Or, for that matter, the many versions of Robin Hood, written and filmed? (See "Let Us Now Praise Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," three posts down.)

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