The Impact of Movies like Iron Man 3

Cover of "Iron Man (Two-Disc Special Coll...

Cover via Amazon

Spoiler Warning: This post may contain spoilers from the recent installment in the Iron Man series: Iron Man 3.

These past couple weeks have been pretty rough. No matter how many times professors tell me that I have papers due the last week of school, I just never seem to listen. I always procrastinate, end up staying up really late a couple of nights before, and turn in my paper looking like a zombie. Or worse, I decide to start early and then can never figure out a thing to say. I always end up feeling like this:

But it’s all over. I turned in everything, finished my finals, threw my books at the librarian, dropped my microphone and yelled “I’m Out!”

I have about a month before I have to go back to school (summer classes so I can graduate in the Spring), so I decided to kick-start my summer month with a trip to the movies. I was working late on Thursday and ended up getting out at 11:30 but thankfully my friend had arrived at the theater at 10:00 to save us spots in line. She’s a huge super hero buff, so although she was by herself upfront, she ultimately was surrounded by her people. Unfortunately that meant that I, the non-superhero fanboy, was stuck at the end all by myself.

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I finally understood what true loneliness felt like that day…

Finally, though, we made it, sat through 2 hrs and 20 mins of screen time, and left the theater about 3:00 A.M. Ultimately, as a prelude to the several summer block busters, the movie was alright. There was some excellent character development and some interesting plot points.  Also, it was a typical super hero movie with several elements remaining the same across the superhero genre. Unfortunately, I think that’s where the movie proved problematic.

Disclaimers

Before you get too far in the blog post you should know a few things. First, I’m not a comic book nerd. I’m definitely a nerd in several other ways unfortunately, but in this aspect, anything that I critique or comment on is derived from the handful of comic-book-based movies I’ve seen and are not influenced by the real stories that may or may not have been better. Second, I’m not a movie buff either. I’m just a student learning about the culture I live in. These are just my comments on the topic. Pick out what you will.

The Good

I feel like before I criticize the movie’s more problematic aspects, I’ll give you the good stuff first.

I really enjoyed the character of Tony Stark throughout the movie. Iron Man 3 takes place after the events of the Avengers movie, and Stark is having a difficult time adjusting back to his life in California. He’s suffering from intense insomnia and actually has several panic attacks throughout the entire movie. The audience is first introduced to Stark as this pompous, arrogant billionaire, but through Robert Downey Jr.’s excellent acting, we see a psychologically damaged man who hides behind metal suits. Stark has to work through his issues all the while trying to solve a terrorist threat and save Pepper Potts.

The movie also didn’t follow the typical super hero movie plot. There were several times when the plot twisted in an unexpected yet worthwhile way. I thank the writers of the movie for keeping me on my toes and entertaining me.

The Problematic

There were three issues that I had with this movie that may or may not be local to Iron Man 3 alone and might represent a more systemic issue for Hollywood movies in general.

I never used to be the type of person to care about violence in a movie. I watched Dexter (a show about a “good” serial killer). I loved watching Criminal Minds (a show about a group of criminal profilers who find serial killers), and even a few Final Destination movies. For the past several years, I have strayed away from shows of this type and enjoy more shoes like Community or Happy Endings (if you haven’t seen either, watch them now.)

But for some odd reason, this movie’s violence bothered me a bit. The premise of the entire show is that Aldrich Killian, founder of the Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) company has found a way to augment a subject’s brain with something called the Extremis that allows rapid regeneration and even limb regrowth. Those subjected to Extremis (the subjects) also have the ability to rapidly heat up objects with their hands and survive attacks others wouldn’t be able to. The Extremis, however, doesn’t affect personality or morality. The subjects are largely participating out of a sense of loyalty to the man who helped them regrow their limbs or will help someone they love regrow limbs. Are they making moral decisions? Definitely. But shouldn’t there be something else to the story to understand their motivation? It’s largely taken for granted that the subjects just represent the bad guy and need to be killed for it.

The way that people are increasingly objectified in this movie is astounding. The audience is clearly seeing no character development outside of Stark. The other guys are considered evil and, of course, something to be stopped. Toward the middle of the movie, Clark has since killed about a dozen people, yet we still don’t see any struggle or any questioning of motives. We simply justify Stark’s actions as someone who’s defending his friend or saving his girlfriend.

POTENTIALLY LARGE SPOILER WARNING UP AHEAD

Perhaps one of the worst displays of remorse was at the climax of the movie when Pepper Potts get’s thrown off a ledge and falls into a fire 200 feet below her. The camera pans to Stark, who gives us one single tear, and then he immediately goes back to fighting. What?! I understand that he was in a combat situation and shouldn’t really have had time to grieve. However, this is the woman he’s been spending all of his time with and the one he loves deeply. We’ve already once before seen the weaknesses of Stark’s character. Why not show it again here?

The movie doesn’t fair well for women either. Pepper Potts is taken hostage about half-way through the movie and is completely damsel-in-distressified (yes it’s a word.) I was consistently getting this impression that Potts was to stay in her corner while the adults (Stark and Aldrich) fought the real battle. While Potts did get a chance to give the final blow to Aldrich finally killing him, she responds with “That was so violent!” Again, giving me the impression that women should really just leave the fighting to the men.

Finally, I think we should talk about the token black guy. There just really wasn’t a lot of diversity in this movie. While I do think Don Cheadle played an excellent job as Colonel Rhodes, where were the other non-white actors? Yes, the movie is primarily based on the comic books, but if Hollywood can whitewash actors all the time, why can’t they do the opposite?

All in all, the things I pointed out aren’t really related to plot but were more indicative of all Hollywood movies. However, that doesn’t let Iron Man 3 and movies like it off the hook. As Christians we’re called to guard our hearts and be careful what we watch and what influences us. This means watching out for violent movies and turning off television shows that present the wrong ideas to us. I stopped watching Criminal Minds and Dexter because they were causing me to become apathetic when it came to violence. We have a responsibility to be salt and light for the world. When we watch movies and television shows, we must understand that they do influence on our society,  and we should be critical when movies fall far, far short.  As a movie that’s already gained 68.3 million dollars at the box office in two days of opening, what sort of influences do these movies have on our culture and how are they teaching lessons that glorify God’s creation and distinguish morals?

Ultimately, I’m not telling you to not see the movie. I think you should. Just enjoy the movie while simultaneously keeping your mind active.

What do you all think about my observations?

 

Banner Credit:Photo Credit: Kevitivity

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