The Technology and Security of Iron Man 2

17-May-10 10:49 AM by
Filed under Reviews; Comments Off on The Technology and Security of Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 Three years ago, my then-new employment at Computerworld partnered me with security maven Angela Gunn to produce a series of articles on a topic of mutual interest: geeky films. To make it appropriate for our employer's audience, we dissected the IT in films, she from a security perspective and I from a cinematic one. We wrote three such articles before Angela found employment elsewhere.

Movies are not a core topic for an enterprise IT magazine, so the series was put on the backburner. Fortunately, I recently found a new co-author with whom to collaborate. Bill Brenner of CSO Online, a publication affiliated with Computerworld, and I decide to revive the "Security Goes to the Movies" brand with a few changes. Instead of writing in two voices with one commenting on the other, we tried integrating our commentary into a consistent tone, making for a less jarring reading experience.

Our first outing was to see Iron Man 2 opening night with former Computerworld copyeditor Gene Demaitre, with whom I wrote the similarly cinematic IT piece, "Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?". Angela and I had reviewed the original Iron Man, and I was eager to put its successor to the same scrutiny.

The first fruit of this labor is now online:

The summer blockbuster season officially kicked off last Friday with Iron Man 2, an action-packed superhero flick that had the fifth-highest-grossing opening weekend in Hollywood's history. Whether you like the movie or not, at least one thing about it rings true — the plot and the characters provide a striking reflection of today's tech security industry.

Marvel's metallic superhero was first portrayed on the silver screen by Robert Downey Jr. in 2008's Iron Man. In that film, playboy industrialist Tony Stark has a crisis of conscience and brings the manufacture of weapons at his defense company to a halt. To chase down terrorists who have misappropriated his munitions, Stark builds himself an armored, weaponized exoskeleton suit (that can fly!) and becomes Iron Man, making his invention an object of desire to military profiteers.

The sequel is much the same, with more villains, more conniving and more suits. A montage catches us up on what's happened since the previous movie: With no country's military able to match Iron Man's technological superiority, Stark's vigilante action and deterrent policy have brought about a worldwide détente.

Since Stark is the only person who knows what makes Iron Man tick, the world's security rests entirely in his hands. Not surprisingly, the U.S. government wants to reproduce the Iron Man suit for its own militaristic purposes; the debate over private vs. public security forms one of the movie's core conflicts.

You can read the rest of our story at Computerworld.com (or CSO Online, if you prefer). Bill and I pretty happy with it and look forward to working together again.

One passage was rightfully left on the cutting room floor as it had little relevance to security technology, but Showbits readers may find it helpful to know:

There is a scene in Monaco in which Stark acts heroically without his suit, underscoring the fact that superpowers do not a superhero make. But the pendulum swings both ways, as later, we see an armored Stark making an ass of himself, akin to the Iron Man comic book plot "Demon in a Bottle." When he does battle evildoers, the film focuses tightly on the action, which provides less context for the overall scene; had the director pulled back on the camera a bit more, we'd have a better grasp of what's happening when.

Have you seen the film that kicked off the summer blockbuster season? What did you think, from any perspective?

You Can't Have Iron Man Without IT

15-May-08 3:32 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It's summer blockbuster season, which means it's time again for a dynamic duo team-up. No, not Batman & Robin — Angela Gunn and I have joined forces to review the technology in yet another explosive film. As we did last year with Live Free or Die Hard and The Bourne Ultimatum, we now turn to the IT in Iron Man.

As submitted to Angela, my initial review was rather lengthy and leaned more to the cinematic side, so to accommodate the IT angle called for by the publication venue, some content had to be cut. But Showbits is first and foremost about films, so I present to you that missing content, with ellipses used to indicate where in the final product it would've gone:

… we know that Stark's kryptonite and our own are one and the same.

Though Iron Man ostensibly shares the same world as his Marvel cohorts, the movie is not replete with clever cameos and geeky nods to his literary origins. Nonetheless, there's enough fine detail to reward those with even a passing knowledge of the Iron Man comic. There is a tease of Iron Man's sidekick, War Machine, that I honestly didn't know which way it would go. I was surprised to find myself holding my breath the potential of a surprise superhero. (Speaking of which, be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a bonus scene!)

There's little that Iron Man does badly, though perhaps it does some things less well than it could've. Gwyneth Paltrow's character of Pepper Potts has more depth than a Bond girl but still comes across as a bit weak — more a result of the scripting than the acting, I suspect. There's also plenty of borrowing from other genre films, including Marvel's own library. The villain's origin and appearance is similar to what we'll see next month in The Incredible Hulk; we've already seen the "bring the enemy into the atmosphere until his jets cool" trick in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; and the hero and villain having an unmasked showdown is a staple of the Spider-Man line.

But hey, you're not here because you're a comic book geek; you're here because you're an IT geek. (There's a difference?) What makes this hero super is the technology, and there's plenty of it …

… Parts in a diagram can be rotated, separated and dragged to the trash, or worn like a glove. Très cool.

The less traditional machines in his house are more like versatile pets. With natural English speech recognition, Stark easily commands them to adjust variables, record logs, and assemble parts, though some machines exhibit personality traits that make them as annoying as helpful. It may not be flawless artificial intelligence, but they won't be threatening us with global thermonuclear war anytime soon, either.

Stark also sports a digital butler …

Read the full review at Computerworld.com »

Still Bourne

06-Aug-07 11:41 AM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

As we did with Live Free or Die Hard, Angela Gunn and I have again collaborated on a film review, this time of The Bourne Ultimatum. It's a less amusing and more acerbic article than our last one, though, due to a vehement difference of opinion: though the film was okay, the primary adjective I would use to describe it is "nauseating"; Angela, OTOH, is in love with the film, its actors, and especially its IT.

To get my opinion, read the original article's black text and ignore the red.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »

Security Goes to the Movies

04-Jul-07 8:59 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 6 comments.

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate America's independence with my review of Live Free or Die Hard, currently playing at Computerworld.com.

When I gave my final draft to my editor, Angela Gunn, I expected her to contribute her extensive knowledge of computer security into an article that blended our respective opinions into a cohesive, individual voice. The end result was, in fact, two distinct voices — and is far more entertaining than anything I envisioned. Unfortunately, Computerworld.com was swamped with iPhone coverage last week, shoving peripheral articles such as this one to the wayside. It finally got published in time for the holiday movie-going crowd to appreciate.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »