Skip to main content

L'Homme de Fer

First, and I think you should keep this in mind, Iron Man is a fun action movie directed by guy, Sean Black, well-known for fun action movies (Lethal Weapon being the prime example). It has a pleasingly asymmetrical plot, lots of impressive SFX, and veritable police line-up of despicable villains. It doesn't do anything particularly new and its big "twist" is fairly low-key. As a matter of fact, the entire movie seems like an elaborate exercise in establishing the proper scale of an action movie.



Right off the bat, Tony Stark (played with with a bit more roiling pathology than his last time out in the Avengers) listens calmly as his friend and fellow exoskeleton pilot Col. James Rhodes explains a series of bombings ascribed to an arch-terrorist The Mandarin. Stark suggests the problem is one for the President and the military rather than the Avengers and the Shield Organization. The suggestion here is that Iron Man is concerned with threats of a truly global scale, not the terrorist of the week. Then Stark rushes outside in a full-blown panic attack.

You see, one of the smartest things about this movie is how it picks up on the near-death experience Stark suffered at the climax of last summer's Avengers. In an effort to seal off a worm-hole funneling alien invaders into New York City, Iron Man flew between worlds to deliver a nuclear warhead. The resulting explosion sent him tumbling lifelessly back to Earth and even at the end of the movie, Stark seemed shocked by his own mortality.

In Iron Man 3, Stark is suffering from bouts of anxiety and insomnia, conditions exasperated by an ongoing exoskeleton building binge. By this point, Stark is on his 42nd version of the suit, and is examining how to create a suit that can disassemble itself and fly independently to link with him. The lack of sleep and manic bouts of engineering has added stress to his relationship with Pepper Potts, long-time assistant and current SO.

Perhaps because of this added stress, Stark makes an ill-advised revenge threat against The Mandarin when one of his attacks results in the injury to his friend Happy. Within short order, Stark's mansion is under assault from rockets launched by helicopters.

This gives way to one of the movie's two great scenes of spectacular mayhem. I watched Iron Man 3 in full IMAX, and the rapid structural failure of Iron Man's cantilevered mansion is truly cataclysmic on a three story screen. One thing that really shows how far CGI has come in recent years is watching the seamless integration of the actors' movement tracked to the larger scale disintegration of the building in front of a typically epic California sunset.

Another appealing aspect to this movie and honestly the one that stuck in my head far longer than I thought it might, is this question of Stark's role as a hero. Iron Man unquestionably saves people and does typically altruistic things. However, and this has been an aspect to the character from the first movie, he does these things in the full light of day. "I am Iron Man," has a very different meaning in these movies than the masked vigilante of Batman saying essentially the same thing. Bruce Wayne's pronouncement is the threat of the unknown, Stark's is a fairly brave recognition of the truth.

After all, it's not like Stark couldn't keep to the shadows. The government  was more than happy to provide an alibi and cover story for him. Stark already chose to tell his enemies where to find him a long time before he gave them his actual address. And while Iron Man and Tony Stark kill an awful lot of people in this movie they do so in view of the public. Perhaps no one other than another Avenger could really hold Stark accountable for his actions but it's not like he hides what he does. The movie takes the time to draw parallels between Tony Stark's self-aggrandizement and the movie's villains need for control and power. Really the only difference is that Stark is all too happy to remove his mask to take credit and blame for his actions and The Mandarin finds elaborate ways to hide his true identity.

The Iron Man movies seem to suggest that what really separates a hero from a villain isn't so much the methods or motives but the willingness to submit to public scrutiny.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 


SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.


Novels:
I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

Review of "Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste

Part of the reason American Gods works is that it offers a kind of reward to folk lore mavens and religious study majors. Do you have a working familiarity with obscure Northern European mythologies? Are you able to describe what Neil Gaiman got right and what he fudged a bit in terms of the Egyptian religion? Then the guessing games of that novel - just which Middle Eastern Goddess is this? - magnify its other charms. 
"Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste (released by Broken Eye Books), is a novella for people, like me, who are waiting impatiently for the next season of Bryan Fuller's show. It's not set in that universe, certainly, but approaches the question of folklore from a similar perspective. Namely, that myths have a definite, physical explanation and your knowledge of such things will expand your enjoyment of the work. In the case of Pretty Marys, the stories are urban legends and nursery rhymes about young women. The main character, Rhee, is named…