Iron Man (2008)

I’m not a comic book or graphic novel reader.  So I can’t say for sure how accurate the filmed version of Iron Man is in terms of its adherence to the original. 

It is an interesting concept for a super hero though:  a regular person with no “unnatural” abilities, except for a genius-level mind and a penchant for MacGyver’esque engineering-oneself-out-of-tough-spots.  Brilliant concept, really.  Use your own skills to transcend human abilities.  Supposedly we should feel empowered by this because we’re all, technically, capable if we put our minds to it.  The Iron Man website describes this as “using his intelligence and ingenuity.”  Something, in my opinion, is in deficit in our world. 

Using our own weaponry against us is not a new idea.  The other interesting facet of this film was its setting (in the beginning in Afghanistan) and the way the “rebels” were trying to outwit the witless.  I say witless because the title character, Tony Stark, was completely oblivious of his own company’s dealings.  And, even worse, he was certainly out-of-the-loop on the plot for his own assassination.  But, he ended up outwitting them all–he’s so intelligent and ingenious.  The sad part is that this film is just another nail in the coffin as far as cultural stereotypes go.  One man is so much more intelligent than the whole lot of men he encounters.  Hmm…you fill in the blanks.

I was happy to see that there were no grossly over-forced sex scenes (though the sexual tension could certainly be cut with a knife) between Stark and his assistant, Pepper (Paltrow).  At least Hollywood Blockbuster filmmakers are finally clueing in about throwing needless sex in there…oh wait, Stark DID have sex with someone in the film…immaterial to the plot, truly. 

I did notice that Pepper had reddish-strawberry-blonde hair, much like our other Stan Lee ‘heroine,’ MJ from Spiderman.  That was interesting.  I wonder if Stan Lee likes red heads?

Perhaps a little too blindly servile, Pepper, though clearly a good girl character, represents those qualities in women that should be extinct and not venerated on the big screen.  By this I mean that women are still being portrayed as “I’ll do whatever you say, whenever you say it, because secretly I want to be more than just your servant” types.  While Pepper takes charge at the end to usher in a saving-of-the-day, one has to wonder why she’d suffer a life of servitude with a character like Tony Stark in the first place if she’s got her wits about her.  I suppose we’re supposed to remember, as women, that we should put up with whatever it takes to be in the mere presence of a man of “intelligence and ingeniousness.”  Clearly Pepper’s got intelligence and ingeniousness of her own.  But for whatever reason, she’s stuck around with this womanizer, amoral douchebag for 7(?) years.

Of course, Mr. Stark completely turns his morals around by the end. So I suppose even corrupt capitalists can be reformed.  Or in the case of his evil nemesis, Obadiah, you get killed eventually because your power-hungryness consumes even yourself.  Enron executives come to mind. So who’s next?  Recently we have many examples of greedy folks raking in the money at everyone else’s expense….

9 thoughts on “Iron Man (2008)

  1. I saw this movie once at the cinema and watched it again this week on DVD. I condense my feelings by sharing with you one thought I had while watching it:

    Near the end, when Pepper and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are walking from the car to the door, eventually to confront Obadiah Stane, I noticed the sheer ridiculousness of the heels Paltrow was wearing and thought to myself, “If I was making this movie, she would get a couple of steps out of that car, wonder what the hell she was still running around in these shoes for, lean against the bonnet of the car to remove the damn things, then get the hell on with it.”

  2. Good point! I wondered about those heels as she was running around on that grate-floor at the end. In the movies, I suppose beautiful, leg-accentuating shoes don’t get stuck in grates. Beauty absolutely MUST come before all else!

  3. You write:

    It is an interesting concept for a super hero though: a regular person with no “unnatural” abilities, except for a genius-level mind and a penchant for MacGyver’esque engineering-oneself-out-of-tough-spots. Brilliant concept, really. Use your own skills to transcend human abilities. Supposedly we should feel empowered by this because we’re all, technically, capable if we put our minds to it.

    Well, okay, but Batman does essentially the same thing and he predates Iron Man by a good 30-40 years. Where’s the love?

    Have you read Shaviro on Iron Man? It seems like there’s some overlap btw yr ideas here and his.

  4. This is one of the greatest movies ever made, and not just because it stars my boyfriend Robert Downey, Jr.

    And yet, Pepper Potts is one of the saddest characters in comic book history. So desperately in love with Tony Stark, a love which he is destined to be ever blind to. She’s too smart, too capable and too adorable (even with that mousy hairdo) to be someone’s assistant. Although she does eventually decide to save the world at the risk of killing the man she loves, she’s like the least feminist icon in a comic book.

    Now, Wonder Woman, dressed like a stripper and decked out in bondage gear–there’s your feminist icon! 😉

  5. You reveal an interesting inter-blog connection, MLMcG, and despite the obviousness of how no original thoughts are apparently left in the world (mine included), I hadn’t read Shaviro’s blog prior to writing this. I’m not an avid blog reader, but am working on the avidness of my blog writing instead. Though I take it as a compliment that my brain is even ever-so-slightly linked with his (and yours) through the collective unconscious.

    I think the difference between the Iron Man in the film and Batman is that Tony Stark has different qualities and different abilities than Bruce Wayne does. Stark uses his “college-educated” abilities to build the first Iron Man suit in the cave. But Bruce Wayne’s abilities are of a different caliber (not necessarily of a lesser or greater quality than Stark’s), but still different. Wayne’s are more physical/school-of-hard-knocks; Stark’s are more intellectual/formally-educated. Or something like that. Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins learns some martial arts and whatnot, and he has TONS of money (like Stark) but that’s not the same as disassembling bombs in a cave to make an Iron Man suit, or that reactor-technology he gleaned out of spare parts to keep himself alive and make him more able to control the Iron Man suit. That’s why Stark’s regular-guy-turned-superhero-ness seemed a different concept to me at least.

    But, Batman (and Wonder Woman with her skanky-self) still kicks ars!

  6. Oh, one more thing I realized that differentiates Stark and Wayne: Stark EARNED his money and Wayne inherited his. It was Stark’s abilities (since he was an inquisitive, prodigious boy) that made him his millions. So, he’s more of a guy the regular folks can identify with: a Joe Plumber, boot-straps kind of guy. So we’re more likely to relate to Stark than Wayne, though if I had my choice I’d take Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne over Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, any day! (sorry Miss Pink!).

  7. Ummm…. Iron Man makes it pretty clear that Stark inherited his father’s weapons company. Jedediah Stone was his father’s business partner and became Tony’s mentor after the pop died.

  8. True, I forgot that. My bad. But Tony Stark still has the scientific and engineering skills to accomplish major feats of engineering, both in the isolated cave with limited (but still highly useful) resources, AND in his own workshops. Bruce Wayne outsources some of his work, and does some himself, but not to the extent, in my opinion, that Tony Stark does his own design & implementation. All this goes toward my point about Tony Stark being a different kind of superhero–one who isn’t an alien from Krypton with innate super powers, or a trust-fund baby with a penchant for crime fighting–but rather, one who has skills the rest of us can learn and use.

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