Monday, August 29, 2011

Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before

On August 5, 2010, I got the crazy idea of viewing all the episodes from my Star Trek: The Original Series (Remastered Edition) DVD's in sequential order and then sharing my thoughts on them on-line. The first episode that I discussed was the second Star Trek pilot: Where No Man Has Gone Before. With the exception of some minor changes, I present my discussion as it was originally posted.

The story of the second Star Trek pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, is a familiar one: Man acquires god-like powers, man goes bat-shit crazy, man does nasty things with previously mentioned god-like powers, absolute power corrupts absolutely, blah, blah, blah. In this particular retelling of this story, the Enterprise attempts to leave the galaxy and runs into an energy barrier which kills nine crew members and knocks unconscious Enterprise helmsman and Kirk's best friend, Gary Mitchell, and ship's psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Mitchell begins to manifest incredible powers and it becomes apparent that these powers are going to his head. Science officer Spock advises Kirk to kill Mitchell before he gets too powerful. If things weren't bad enough, it's obvious from the beginning that Mitchell's grasp of reality before he got his god-like powers was shaky to begin with as he refers to Dr.Dehner as a "walking freezer unit" shortly after his character is introduced; as played by Sally Kellerman, Dr. Dehner oozes an almost indecent amount of sex appeal in every scene in which she appears. Clearly there was something seriously wrong with Mitchell before he acquired his powers. Or else he was socializing with some pretty interesting women before the Enterprise tried to leave the galaxy.

Dr. Elizabeth Dehner aka the “walking freezer unit”

Being a pilot, there are some aspects of Where No Man Has Gone Before which are different from the rest of the series. There is no Dr. McCoy, although there is a Dr. Piper, who is an old codger of a ship's surgeon. There is no LieutenantUhura. Sulu is not the swashbuckling helmsman he was in the rest of the series but is the ship's rather earnest physicist. Spock is almost emotional in the pilot, smirking rather smugly at Kirk when he feels he's got him boxed in while they're playing chess and looking downright irritated when Kirk not only escapes from his predicament but wins the game. Kirk isn't the decisive starship captain he was in the series but displays almost Hamlet-esque indecisiveness in Where No Man Has Gone Before; when Spock initially advises him to kill Mitchell, Kirk doesn't react quite as strongly as you'd think someone would react after being told that the logical thing to do is to kill his best friend, probably because he agrees with Spock but just can't bring himself to translate thought into action; this is supported by his insistence on going after Mitchell alone at the climax of Where No Man Has Gone Before and his stated belief that it's his own fault that things have deteriorated as far as they have. However, perhaps this is nitpicking; even the most decisive person in the world is going to hesitate when faced with the realization that he has to kill his best friend. At least I hope that would be the case.

There are other differences besides those in characters and characterization. The color scheme of the uniforms is not yellow, red, blue but yellow, tan, blue and the material used is different, thicker, making the cast look like they're wearing sweaters. And there is no Vulcan nerve pinch. Or at least that's the impression I got since Kirk and Spock, when faced with the problem of how to subdue a drunk-with-power Gary Mitchell, settle for the rather unsophisticated method of beating him senseless with good old-fashioned punches after which they tackle him and pin him down so that Dr. Dehner can sedate him. After the Vulcan nervepinch was introduced in the series, a scene like this would've played out with Kirk somehow distracting Mitchell, allowing Spock to pinch him into oblivion.

Despite these differences, Where No ManHas Gone Before is recognizably Star Trek with its somewhat thoughtful story of the corrupting influence of power but it doesn't quite work without the now well established dynamic of McCoy and Spock debating the emotional and logical sides of the problem at hand with Kirk mediating between the two. One could argue that Dr. Dehner takes the role that was eventually McCoy's in the series as she passionately advocates for Mitchell as the rest of the crew, even his best friend Kirk who owes him his life, grows more and more wary of him. But it doesn't quite click. I think it has something to do with Spock's characterization in the second pilot. As I mentioned before, he's almost emotional in Where No Man Has Gone Before, thus blurring the lines between established roles in the Kirk-Spock-Dehner interaction. But as I said, it's still Star Trek, if only because Kirk manages to get his shirt ripped in the climactic fistfight, thus establishing the tradition of the viewing audience being treated with titillating glimpses of William Shatner's physique in every other episode.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Castiglione Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Release of His Favorite Movie of All Time by Playing Games Inspired either Directly or Indirectly by Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark hit the big screen in 1981, making 2011 the 30th anniversary of its release. Given my recent discussion of Captain America: The First Avenger, in which I noted references made therein to the Indiana Jones movies, and my fondness for retro video games, it seemed only fitting to spend some time playing and discussing the video games inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The first game on my list is an obvious one: Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 designed by Howard Scott Warshaw.

But I can't.

For me, playing Raiders of the Lost Ark was a frustrating experience because I really wanted to like this game. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my all-time favorite movies and I could remember seeing the TV commercial for the game back when I was a kid and experiencing a sentiment that I, as an Apple II+ owner, had not felt before:

Envy of Atari 2600 owners.

Because here was a chance for Atari 2600 owners, and only Atari 2600 owners, to be Indiana Jones.

To say I was green with envy would be an understatement.

Flash-forward almost thirty years and I finally got to play Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was more than a little bit underwhelmed. There were many factors that contributed to my feeling of disappointment but the first one that comes to mind is that the game features an “arbitrary puzzle”, or a puzzle which can not be solved using only clues provided within the game. The second was how the game would change from a top-down to a horizontal perspective when you entered the mesas, as you will fall when this happens, presaging, perhaps, the frustration experienced by many who played another Howard Scott Warshaw game for the Atari 2600: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

E.T. after he's fallen in a hole – something which happened a lot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and something which happened to Indiana Jones a lot (the falling part, at least) when I played Raiders of the Lost Ark

To make matters worse, the graphics in Raiders of the Lost Ark are, to put it politely, quite interesting, requiring either a great deal of visual interpretation in order to decipher the function of the sundry objects that populate the game world, or a thorough reading of the manual (and even then, you would probably want to keep the manual on hand as a Rosetta Stone).

My lamenting the deplorable graphics in Raiders of the Lost Ark is somewhat damning since I don't usually pay much attention to graphics at all; to give you an idea of how unimportant graphics are to me, let me say that some of my favorite games are roguelikes and text adventures. However, I do require that, at the very minimum, the graphics in a game serve their intended purpose of helping the player identify the various objects in the game world with which they are supposed to interact.

People may mock the graphics in Warren Robinett's Adventure, but the representations used in that game were either easily identified or quickly learned and remembered.

Such is not the case in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Compounding the problem of its “interesting” graphics is the fact that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a more complex game than Adventure, containing many more objects for the player, as Indiana Jones (who, by the way, is charmingly rendered, complete with signature fedora), to interact with, which makes the identification of said objects of paramount importance. With the exception of Indy, it's pretty difficult to make out what the various game objects are supposed to be and some of them resemble each other enough to making learning and remembering their hieroglyphics somewhat time-consuming.

Indiana Jones in the Marketplace – unless you're willing to constantly refer to the game manual, you'd be hard-pressed to identify the objects on the screen

Given how I longed to play Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was a kid, imagine how I felt when I discovered that I had waited over twenty years to play a game that sucked!

Now, I wouldn't say that my childhood got raped when I played Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time; if I had to categorize the experience, I would have to say that my childhood got flashed, which, while bad, wasn't like the mind-searing experience of the time my childhood did get raped.

Frankly, I think a better Raiders of the Lost Ark game could have been designed by simply taking Adventure and modifying the graphics; just change the Enchanted Chalice to the Ark of the Covenant and Yorgle, Grundle and Rhindle to, say, a snake (gotta have snakes in an Indiana Jones game), Major Arnold Ernst Toht and the big guy with the scimitar that Indy shot to the delight of audiences everywhere; the magic sword could be changed into either a bullwhip or a pistol, the Golden Castle to Katanga's ship and the kleptomaniacal bat to the monkey that narced on Marion to the Nazis. Just put a fedora on the square representing your character and you're set. I know, this is somewhat lame but even after factoring in the lameness inherent in re-skinning a pre-existing game and releasing it as an ostensibly new game, such a game would have been more fun and less frustrating than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Fortunately, if you want an Indiana Jones themed game to play on the Atari 2600, you need look no further than David Crane's Pitfall! Pitfall! is basically an Indiana Jones game in spirit; all that it's missing are the Nazi thugs and some means of punching their lights out. However, it has booby traps (if you can consider rolling logs and natural hazards like quicksand to be booby traps) as well as snakes and other fauna intent on inflicting bodily harm upon Indiana Jones, er, I mean, Pitfall Harry.

There isn't a whole lot of difference between a giant boulder...

...and a rolling log

When I gaze upon the awesomeness that is Pitfall! and then turn my gaze on the convoluted mess that is Raiders of the Lost Ark, I can't help but wonder at what might have been had Activision, not Atari, been approached to bring Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Atari 2600. After all, all Pitfall! is missing to truly be worthy of the Indiana Jones label are some Nazis, or at least some enemies that don't belong in a zoo (although, I guess one could argue that Nazis do belong in a zoo).

Well, such a game exists, although not on the Atari 2600. This game of which I speak is Em Busca dos Tesouros, or Treasure Hunter in English, which was released for the ZX81 back in 1986. Treasure Hunter was designed by Tadeu Curinga da Silva, who was a teenager at the time, and it's basically Pitfall! ported to the ZX81 except the game features these strange enemies (who, alas, can not be punched, only evaded) which resemble the eponymous Sneakers in Mark Turmell's classic horizontal shooter for the Apple II, Sneakers, and the same Sneakers in Mark Turmell's Fast Eddie for the Atari 2600.

I'm not sure what this guy is supposed to be...
...but he looks a lot like these guys...

Sneakers menacing the player in Mark Turmell's Sneakers

Sneakers menacing the player in Mark Turmell's Fast Eddie

So close, yet so far!

If only that villain looked less like a Sneaker and more like a Nazi!

Oh, well, you can't always get what you want.

While we're on the topic of ZX81 games inspired directly or indirectly by Raiders of the Lost Ark, we might as well discuss Timeworks's Robbers of the Lost Tomb.

If the title alone weren't enough to tell you where Robbers of the Lost Tomb got its inspiration, one need only read the game's overview: You're a special archeological consultant to the CIA (in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was an archeologist working at the behest of US Army Intelligence) on a mission to recover four sacred tablets from a tomb in Eygpt (in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was in Egypt attempting to recover the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed).

So far, so good.

Your obstacles are snakes, bottomless pits...


...and ghosts and mummies.

Errr...okay...this is beginning to sound less like Raiders of the Lost Ark and more like The Mummy's Hand.

Well, maybe I shouldn't complain. After all, the inclusion of ghosts and mummies is certainly consistent with the film serials of the 30's and 40's which inspired Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Unfortunately, Robbers of the Lost Tomb doesn't live up to its promise.

It's basically Gregory Yob's Hunt the Wumpus except with five times more rooms.

Frankly, I think that one can plot a sort of Laffer curve with the amount of “fun” one can have playing a variant of Hunt the Wumpus plotted as a function of the number of rooms in such a variant.

Laffer curve showing government revenue as a function of tax rate - it could just as easily be a plot of "fun" versus the number of rooms in a Hunt the Wumpus variant

I don't know where the plot of fun versus rooms maxes out in this hypothetical Laffer curve but judging from the dreary time I had playing this game, I'm pretty sure 100 rooms lies far to the right of this maximum. Whereas mapping out a cave network of twenty rooms was fun, doing the same thing with a 100-room network was just tedious.

In addition to the problem of having too many rooms, there are also gameplay issues resulting from moving mummies similar to what I ran into when I initially set about designing Wumpus Plus; in Robbers of the Lost Tomb, you can increase the difficulty of the game by permitting the mummies to move; unfortunately, since you can detect mummies from only one room away, it's possible to end up in a room with a mummy (a usually fatal experience) without having received any clues to help you avoid this outcome, which results in your fate being entirely in the hands of Lady Fortune, something which makes for a very unsatisfying gaming experience.

At this point, you're probably tiring of my griping and wondering how one can play these games, your impatience fueled, no doubt, by the desire for some old-school gaming goodness (in the case of Pitfall! and Treasure Hunter) and, perhaps, morbid curiosity (in the case of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Robbers of the Lost Tomb).

Well, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pitfall! can be had for reasonable prices on eBay if you happen to have an Atari 2600 and this is certainly the best way to play Atari 2600 games. However, if you desire an option that's a little bit more “portable”, I would recommend the z26 and Stella emulators for Windows and Linux users, respectively. ROMS of the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pitfall! cartridges will be needed to play these games.

To play Treasure Hunter and Robbers of the Lost Tomb, you will need the cassette tapes for the games as well as a ZX81. You can also play Robbers of the Lost Tomb on-line. To play these games on a ZX81 emulator, you will need the .p files for Treasure Hunter and Robbers of the Lost Tomb. The instructions for Treasure Hunter are in Portuguese but they're fairly self-explanatory.

Robbers of the Lost Tomb, despite being a Hunt the Wumpus variant, is different enough from its inspiration to warrant some discussion of its instructions for those masochists out there who want to give this game a try.

The game is set in a tomb of five levels, each of which contains 20 rooms. You will be notified when you are one room away from pits, snakes, ghosts and mummies.

You're armed with a certain number of knives that you can throw at snakes and mummies if they're occupying the same room as you; you can also throw a knife at a mummy that's in an adjacent room.

Pits send you down to the level below but if you're on the 5th level, they'll kill you instead. Snakes will kill you if you don't kill them first with a thrown knife; however, more than one snake can occupy a room so it's probably best to try to avoid them altogether since entering a room containing more than one snake spells certain death. Ghosts will carry you off to a random room like the super bats in Hunt the Wumpus. Mummies will almost always kill you when you run into them but sometimes, you'll survive ending up in the same room with them, which will give you a chance to kill them with a thrown knife.

In addition to the hazards mentioned above, rooms can also contain ladders, which can be used to climb up or down one level, a magical blue ruby, which will instantly kill all mummies that are in the same room as you, and the sacred tablets for which you are searching.

Once you find all four tablets, you will need to return to the room where you started the game in order to win.

“M” and “T” are used to move from one room to another and to throw knives, respectively. To climb up or down a ladder, press “M” and then when asked for your destination room, enter “LU”, to go up the ladder, or “LD” to go down.

That's the bare minimum of information you'll need to play Robbers of the Lost Tomb.
Have “fun”.

But don't say I didn't warn you.

During the course of playing Treasure Hunter on my Linux machine, I discovered that vb81, the ZX81 emulator that I had mentioned in my discussion of 3D Monster Maze, wasn't up to the task because it could not seem to handle more than one keyboard input at a time and in order to jump horizontally (as opposed to straight up), something which is crucial for leaping heroically a la Indiana Jones over deadly chasms, the computer (or in this case, the emulated computer) will need to be able to process two keyboard inputs (corresponding to a direction, i.e. left or right, and jump) simultaneously. Fortunately, I had stumbled upon XTender128 which can be run in Linux using DOSBox; however, you may need to play around with your DOSBox speed settings as I found that Treasure Hunter ran a little bit too fast on my netbook.

Truth be told, I had stopped using vb81 as my emulator of choice on my Linux system since it introduced some graphical glitches in the excellent Virus from Bob's Stuff, a game which I hope to discuss in the near future. Until then, have fun sampling these games of bygone years and, heck, while you're at it, you might as well sample some movie magic from those same bygone years and fire up Raiders of the Lost Ark (the movie) and celebrate its 30th anniversary!

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Thoughts on The A-Team

This article was first posted on July 25, 2010 and stands as a sterling example of the depths of pretentiousness of which I am capable.

What was I thinking?

Don't get me wrong, I thought The A-Team was a pretty good movie, but I appear to have made much more of it than what it actually was.

With much scratching (and shaking) of head, I present to you, my review of The A-Team:

The A-Team is a good example of how to update an old franchise. The last episode of the TV series aired in 1987, more than 20 years ago, when most of the fans, including myself, were kids. Assuming this movie was meant to cater to fans of the show (a reasonable assumption considering that these fans form, presumably, an instant potential fanbase for the movie), it would be insulting to attempt to recreate the cartoonish depiction of violence that was almost a trademark of the series. We're older now and while we may have been able to suspend our disbelief at the sight of highly trained special forces operators using automatic weapons to shoot around the bad guys to intimidate them into surrender rather than shooting into them back when we were adolescents, such is probably not the case now. Although there may have been a legitimate reason behind the original A-Team's reluctance (or aversion) to killing (after all, had they capped every bad guy they ran into, with each episode they would have added to a rapidly mounting body count that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies could not ignore no matter how much the people they killed deserved killing and that's not even considering the possibility of friend's and family of their victims bringing whatever political juice they had to bear on the government to compel it to do something about these rampaging ex-special forces operators operating above the law within the United States of America), it's pretty obvious that the first thing that would have to go when bringing The A-Team to the big screen would be the series's bloodless portrayal of violence. Old fans, and modern audiences, just wouldn't buy it. The only way to retain the bloodless violence would be to do away with the guns. And the A-Team without guns would be like Crockett without Tubbs or Kirk without Spock and McCoy.

In letting the story of John "Hannibal"Smith, Templeton "Face" Peck, Bosco "B.A. - BadAttitude" Baracus and H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock grow up along with its fanbase, the filmmakers probably did the right thing. After all, we have plenty of examples of past attempts to update old franchises that went awry when filmmakers forgot that their fanbase was no longer a bunch of kids: The Star Wars prequels and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra come to mind. Speaking of G.I. Joe, there was an animated movie titled G.I. Joe: Resolute that was released at about the same time as the live-action travesty of a film that shares its name. Like The A-Team, it updated its sensibilities. Like The A-Team, it gave us a more grown-up perspective of violence. To quote 1 Corinthians 13:11:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

But enough of my navel-gazing.

How was the movie? you may rightly be asking.

It's worth seeing just for Sharlto Copley's portrayal of Murdock.

My gripes about the film are fairly minor. I thought the opening sequence introducing the characters was a bit difficult to swallow. We're somehow asked to believe that the US Army would reinstate a dishonorably discharged Ranger (Baracus) and a certifiably insane pilot (Murdock) even if they had been instrumental in the success of a black ops mission that Smith and Peck were on, especially in light of the fact that Baracus was left with a crippling fear of flying as a consequence of that mission. Also, an A-Team, or a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha, is a 12-man unit; I was half expecting the movie to start off with a full A-Team and have eight of them get killed, leaving us with the four heroes. Murdock's inclusion, as a pilot, in the A-Team, is also somewhat odd; it probably would've been more appropriate to have him be a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

However, these gripes, as I said were minor and did not get in my way of enjoying the film. The ones that did get in my way of enjoying the film were the names of BrianBloom's character, Pike, and his Private Security film, Black Forest. Pike just sounded a bit too much like Peck, especially in light of the fact that my hearing isn't exactly getting better with age and the theater where I saw The A-Team was not fully sound-proofed). Black Forest is an obvious riff on Blackwater Worldwide (now XeServices LLC) but it just sounds stupid. It also left me with a curious craving for chocolate whenever it was mentioned. It didn't help that half the film was set in Germany. As you probably know, the Germans make good chocolate.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Castiglione Discusses Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger tells the story of the transformation of Steve Rogers, 98-pound weakling from Brooklyn with the heart of a lion, into Captain America, America's first (and only) super-soldier, his WWII exploits fighting the Nazis and his eventual hibernation and awakening in present-day, ready to take his place in the upcoming Avengers movie.

As you might have guessed, a lot happens in Captain America and the movie feels rushed as a result. To make matters worse, the pacing of the film felt off; rather than seamlessly interweaving the origin story of Captain America with the superhero vs. supervillain story as was done in Batman Begins, Iron Man and Thor, the two stories were clumsily grafted together in a manner which reminded me of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, in which the origin story (which was well developed) segued rather abruptly into what could have been a script outline (given its underdeveloped state and its brevity) for a second film.

Frankly, I think Captain America: The First Avenger would have been a better film had it ended around where the Captain marches back to Allied lines with Bucky Barnes and everyone else he rescued from HYDRA, perhaps ending with a scene of him donning the final version of his iconic uniform before cutting to a caption declaring that Captain America would return in a second film.

The Captain and the men who will eventually become the Howling Commandos march back to Allied lines – where Captain America: The First Avenger probably should have ended

The second half of Captain America, which was no more than a montage of scenes of the Captain and the Howling Commandos carrying out various missions against HYDRA, could have been the basis for a sequel, which would have allowed the secondary characters (specifically, the Howling Commandos) to be have been better developed and allowed the film-going public to get to better know the Captain before having him frozen at the end of WWII and revived seventy years later.

Of course, this probably wasn't possible given the timeline facing the team that brought us Captain America: The First Avenger. After all, their goal wasn't just to release a Captain America movie. They also had to explain his presence in The Avengers, which is set in present-day and scheduled for a 2012 release. Had Captain America: The First Avenger been released around the time of the first Iron Man movie (2008) or the release of The Avengers delayed a couple of years, using the two movie approach to introduce film-goers to the Captain and explain his eventual presence in The Avengers would have been feasible. However, the first option wasn't possible since they probably didn't have access to time displacement equipment and the fact that the second option wasn't taken may indicate that the raison d'etre of Captain America was to finalize the roundup of superheros for The Avengers, and nothing more, problems in pacing be damned.

In addition to the problems which I've discussed above, Captain America features one of the clumsiest scenes of exposition which I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I'm referring to the cringe-inducing scene where Dr. Abraham Erskine explains to Steve Rogers the origins of Red Skull, the supervillain who is to Captain America what Lex Luthor is to Superman. Frankly, one or two sentences tossed in when Red Skull and HYDRA were the topics of conversation when the good guys got together probably would have done the same job and spared film-goers from having to sit through this incredibly awful scene.

I suppose some of you may be wondering if there was anything at all I liked about the film. Well, I liked its two-fisted pulpy “WWII-as-seen-in-the-movies” look and I particularly liked its references to Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels; when Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull discovers the Tesseract in Tonsberg, Norway in 1942, he sneers something along the lines of “and the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert”, possibly referring to the Nazi expeditions to find the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, respectively. Of course, given that he's going on about two failed Hitler-sponsored expeditions to find occult artifacts seems a bit petty given everything that's happened in the world between the events depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark (set in 1936) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (set in 1938) and his discovery of the Tesseract in 1942. Of course, there's no rule that says supervillains can't be petty. However, I would hope that a supervillain bent on world domination would be above that sort of thing.

There's another reference to the Indiana Jones films, one which occurs near the climax of Captain America: The First Avenger, when Red Skull lays his hands on the Tesseract. What happens to him may have been a nod to what happened to Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Ark of the Covenant was opened.

Major Arnold Ernst Toht - the creepy Gestapo agent who meets a rather unforgettable end at the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Captain America: The First Avenger ends with Steve Rogers awakening in present-day and being informed by Nick Fury that he's been asleep a la Buck Rogers for almost 70 years. This raises an interesting question about Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, who is probably one of the least underdeveloped of the generally underdeveloped secondary characters in Captain America.

In the film, Howard Stark couldn't be younger than thirty. And I would ballpark Tony Stark's age in the Iron Man films to be somewhere between 35 to 40. For the math to work out, this would have to mean that Howard Stark sired his son when he was around 50 to 55.

I'm guessing that while father and son shared some things in common (namely, their aptitudes for science and engineering), one area in which they differed is that Howard Stark, despite the playboy image he seemed to be cultivating in Captain America: The First Avenger, apparently didn't get out of the lab that much.

Howard Stark – brilliant scientist, engineer, industrialist...and total poser

Or else the screenwriters didn't bother to do the math.