Thursday, 28 October 2010

Jon Favreau's "Iron Man II":- What Tony Stark Once Suffered To Learn, Tony Stark Soon Forgot: The Superhero Beyond The Comics 2


1.

Everyone's at least something of a villain in "Iron Man II", except for some of our superhero's friends and those thoroughly unaccountable Agents Of Shield, and yet one of the very worst of the bad guys is Tony Stark himself.



2.

There's no doubt that one of the antagonists in "Iron Man II" is the American state itself, as represented by her government and her armed forces. The movie portrays Senators and generals as incompetent and self-serving individuals who simply can't grasp that Tony Stark should be permitted to do whatever he wants to because Iron Man is here to save us all. It's a juxtaposition between, on the obviously good side, a roguish and dynamic capitalist billionaire, and, on the clearly bad side, those conceited and short-sighted servants of the state, and it's a contrast that's strangely referred to by Jon Favreau in his director's commentary, where he discusses Stark's appearance before Senator Stern's committee;

"Here he is ... Howard Hughes trial ... where they're trying to nail this guy down, but his personality is too large. And he has public opinion upon his side, because he's doing wonderful things, and there is peace and there is prosperity. And he's more powerful than the Senate, and it's almost like Caesar. It's like a Caesar-like rise ... that we wanted to mirror .. "

It's such an odd thing to say, but it explains a great deal about a movie that sees Tony Stark repeatedly place the security of America and the safety of its citizens at terrible risk, before being counter-intuitively rewarded with a medal for his self-interested actions from the US Government.


Because Mr Favreau doesn't seem to grasp that Caesar destroyed the Roman Republic, and destroyed it because he acted in his own interests rather than that of the state. In doing so, he wiped off the map what little political freedom remained in Ancient Rome, and set the newly minted Roman Empire on course for decades of Civil War, hundreds of thousands of casualties, and centuries of despotic, rather than oligarchic, rule. Caesar isn't the hero of anyone's history but his own, unless you happen to be a fan of tyrants and their tyrannies, and I'm sure that Mr Favreau most certainly isn't that.

And Howard Hughes? Howard Hughes corrupted the American political process for decades with vast sums of illicit cash and huge reserves of political muscle.

Which means that positioning Tony Stark in their likeness, as they scorned the political process in the name of nothing but their own utterly-selfish interests, is either a considerable miscalculation, or the most subtle ironic colouring a director's ever given to a Hollywood blockbuster movie.


3.

"Iron Man II" isn't a film which can watched and enjoyed in isolation from the first movie in the franchise, beginning as it does at the moment that the main action of "Iron Man" closed. But there's a fatal discontinuity between the meaning of the first movie and that of the second, which means that the films don't so much follow smoothly one on after the other as they do stand in direct contradiction to themselves. In essence, the problem is that the Tony Stark of "Iron Man II" has either pathetically regressed from the self-knowledge he acquired from his trials, or that he's not the same person at all in the two films, despite all appearances.


4.

The first movie was a unpretentious masterpiece of concision and precision. The arc of "Iron Man" was, of course, the story of Tony Stark's heroic journey from irresponsible capitalist to humane businessman, and everything that appeared on the screen was subordinate to the simplicity and purpose of his vertiginous learning curve. The charming, charismatic Stark was a symbol of the destructive excesses of privilege; he was the capitalist with a supposed big heart and zero self-awareness, unable to help himself grasp that love was standing before him just as he was damning untold numbers of victims who stood where he could never witness their fate. And if Stark couldn't be said to be as crippled inside as the victims of his weapons were both in mind and body, he certainly wasn't benefiting from a life of such unimaginable wealth and indulgence, given that when trouble came, there was only Pepper Potts that he might truly rely on to help him out.


Tony Stark, in his impossible extremes of advantage and his various substance abuses, in his adrenalin-fuelled faux-narcissism and relentless promiscuity, was everything that the movie "Iron Man" was against. He was an unthinking, uncaring beneficiary of the freedoms of modern American society who had turned away from his responsibilities as an individual citizen and member of the human race.

People had died because Tony Stark hadn't even cared enough to recognise that what supposedly benefited him so greatly had horribly wounded and murdered them, and in the end, his disengagement from his moral self was going to terribly hurt him and then almost kill him.


5.

In retrospect, it's astonishingly how few characters there are in "Iron Man" who're granted even the slightest slither of screen time. There's Tony, of course, who's wounded the world and who now must be wounded himself until he chooses to grow up. There's Pepper, the symbol of the decent and loving life that Stark can't engage with as long as he remains corrupt. There's Rhodey, the mirror who shows us through his courage, strength and loyalty that Stark too has those qualities, or Rhodey couldn't care for him as he does. There's Dr Yinsen, who teaches Tony what it is to care for others at great cost to oneself, and who so tellingly helps to create a dysfunctional artificial heart for Stark which works better in a moral sense that his fully-functioning natural one ever did. There's Odadiah Stane, Tony's surrogate Father who's the symbol of predatory selfishness, the capitalist that cares for nothing so much as he does for more power and money. And there's Raza, if you can call him a character at all, a symbol of all the pain and suffering that inevitably gets kicked up when power without responsibility starts to meddle in other people's lives.


To feature just five characters of any substance and one type in a movie lasting longer than two hours is a remarkable achievement, especially as the film never feels sparse or under-populated. (*1) Instead, the remarkable accomplishment of the script and the production together is that text and sub-text are always pulling together in the same direction with considerable force and meaning. And of course, to do so, everyone's story is subordinated to Tony's, and as Tony learns what it is to be a human being and not a social parasite, so each of the others is either rewarded or punished according to the degree that they've sought and used power and wealth to hurt or help others.

Most importantly, Stark himself suffers grievously for his sins. He quite literally loses his own heart, an irony which was quite lost to Stan Lee when he wrote the initial origin for the character in 1963, and a fact which lay dormant in the strip for years until its metaphorical power became obvious and irresistible. And so, how brilliant is it that even Tony's new heart can't function properly until he rethinks it and then trusts Pepper to help him install it? He trusts her not just because he has to, because he has no-one else, but because he wants to, because it's the last act of his necessary emasculation and one of the first of his rise upwards, a process defined not by his ability to hurt others, but by his capacity to trust them and sacrifice for them.

"Iron Man" isn't just a brilliantly concise script. It's a marvellously constructed morality play. And since the morality and the story coexist and serve each other's interests all the time, the ending of the movie is far, far more satisfying than a typical popcorn movie blow-out.


*1:- I hope you'll agree that Ms Everhart is too slight a role to mention here.


6.

The assumption of "Iron Man II" seems to be that Tony Stark is now a hero and that anything he does will be a reflection of some moral superiority. Quite simply, Stark can do nothing wrong even when he's plainly doing little else but. Even the most terrible and immoral screw-ups by Stark in the film are swiftly papered over and retribution for them never arrives in the process of the narrative or even at its closure. In fact, Stark's failings and conceit are actually purposefully disguised or largely ignored in the story, so that behaviour which should be portrayed as at best immature and at worst profoundly dangerous are either shown as humorous, or worthy of pity, or even admirable.

Consider again Stark's appearance before Senator's Stern's Committee near the beginning of the film. The scene is fixed so that it's Stern who appears to be the dangerously would-be demagogue, and his scientific advisor Hammer is played out as a self-serving idiot. It's an ugly business, actually, because the case the two of them are putting forward is morally and politically correct in pretty much every detail. No nation-state could ever tolerate a private citizen owning such a weapons-system as the Iron Man armour, let alone retaining sole individual control over it. America is a nation where, for all the absence of gun-control puzzling to the European mind, weapons capable of flattening skyscrapers are, shall we say, tightly controlled. The Iron Man armour is capable of destroying any conventionally armed representative of the state that we might imagine, let alone flattening much of any city in the land, and so it's hard not to believe that Stark's possession of it would be, and very much should be, a cause for serious concern. Furthermore, Stark is a citizen of the USA, and it actually is his duty to share, if not indeed cede, the control of that technology. He's a citizen of the polity and it's utterly inappropriate for him to possess control of a super-weapon which could threaten the state. After all, if something happens to Stark without America having the scientific knowledge to prepare a defence against the proliferation of the Iron Man technology, the USA would be at a considerable disadvantage in terms of both conventional warfare and defence against terrorist attack.


Yet the film presents a fiction in which all Government servants, be they scientists, politicians or soldiers, are so utterly incompetent, if not also criminally viperous, that they shouldn't be in control of the technology used to make parking meters, let alone in charge of the nation-state of America and its massive arsenal. It's a fixing of the argument through misdirection and moral carelessness that ends up presenting Stark as a man of the people rather than one behaving in a profoundly anti-democratic sense. And yet, if the weapons system Stark had developed had been a selection of super-smallpox viruses, for example, I doubt he would be being seen by the audience of "Iron Man II" as the hero of the piece, threatening the nations of the world as he would be with a far less visually-inspiring and far more emotionally and intellectually disturbing threat. Indeed, few viewers would believe that any biological weapons Stark might create should be in anything other than a government laboratory if not a furnace.

It's as if we're all so beguiled by the beauty of the armour and the romance of wearing it, as well as the endearing marvel that's Mr Downey's performance, that we forget that Iron Man is a weapon of mass destruction that could create a disaster on the scale of 9-11 in a second, and that it couldn't ever be left in the private hands of even the best of women and men, let alone one prone to bouts of massively irresponsible behaviour.


But although the Iron Man armour is undoubtedly a WOMD, the movie is absolutely determined to portray Stark as the only human being who deserves to wear it, as if Stark's judgement is perfect, and perfectly in harmony with the needs of America's citizens, as if he'll never be too tired, drunk, ill or just plain human to run the risk of making a terrible misjudgment with all that power at his disposal.

As if everyone else in the American state is unworthy to even ask Stark if they can touch the shiny skin of his lovely armour.

But by refusing to share or destroy the Iron Man technology, Stark is, as Caesar did, putting himself above the rule of law. And, despite what the movie would have us believe, if you doubt that Senator Stern was correct in his argument with Tony, just recall the scene where Stark gets drunk, brawls with a similarly bearmoured Rhodey, terrifies his party-guests, puts them all at great risk and then destroys the building they're in. Whether it's his property or not that's been blown up by the childish punch-up, the very fact of the fight should serve as the beginning and end of the evidence needed to prove that Stark simply should not have that tech under his control. For he can't argue that he's trustworthy if he's plainly not, as if one catastrophic lapse of judgement is forgivable if you're Tony Stark, as if one little blow-up between two WOMDs on private property is a quiet petty matter of no social importance.


But then, it isn't just one lapse of judgment, and this movie's take on Stark provides us with an arrogant and ignorant man for whom the lessons of the first movie seem almost to have been quite utterly forgotten. He continually parades a habit of quite terrible decision-making, selfish behaviour and confused thinking in general. He claims, for example, that no-one else in the world can possibly produce weapons-tech similar to the Iron Man armour that might threaten America, as if he knows nothing of history, as if he's never heard of the complacency of the West before the Soviets exploded their own atomic bombs, and as if he doesn't realise that defence systems need to be developed now in case his brilliant mind is wrong. It's an unforgivable arrogance that the film never calls him on despite the appalling consequences of his conceit when Whiplash later uses stolen Stark technology in a vast terrorist atrocity which the movie chooses to portray as a rather thrilling special effects set-piece. And Stark's failure to adequately protect his super-weapon suits from theft, and Rhodey has no problem at all in stealing the "War Machine", is the root cause of the damage all those Hammer weapon suits rain down on Jersey. It's a carelessness on Stark's part that's the equivilant of the US Army permitting the removal of a nuclear weapon and its silo and everything in it, but the film would have us forgive Stark's lapse simply because we love him and trust Rhodey.

In such a manipulative fashion does "Iron Man II" smother us with illogic and sentiment to the point that we can't see Stark for the public and criminal menace that he is, and he undoubtedly is. We watch the film's climax, for example, where a smug Tony is being given that medal for his role in facing down Whiplash's assault upon Flushing Meadows, and we are supposed to have never noticed that it was all Tony's fault. He let the tech fall into Rhodey's hands, just as in his extreme arrogance he failed to focus on preparing a defence against the Iron Man system falling into the wrong hands or being developed independently. And so the responsibility for the firefight which destroyed so much of Queens at the film's climax, and which cannot have done anything but destroy of tens of lives and destroyed billions of dollars of property and vital civic resources, is all on Stark's hands. He really wasn't to be trusted, he really wasn't in control, and he really shouldn't have been permitted to keep those wonderful and ferociously powerful weapons in the garage under his little beach house.

He's not a hero and he doesn't deserve a medal, he really doesn't. "Iron Man II" is a movie that lies to us about what right and wrong are, just as the first movie did exactly the opposite.


7.

If "Iron Man II" is yet another movie that, without intending to, positions the state as an incompetent if not evil organisation somehow existing solely as a body to screw up the lives of otherwise virtuous individuals, it's also a movie that violates its own apparent moral intentions. For if the events of the first "Iron Man" are to mean anything, in sense of the broad ethical brushstrokes that inform Hollywood blockbusters, Tony has to be seen to have absorbed what he's learnt at such cost to himself and so many others in Afghanistan and in Stane's LA. It isn't, after all, a heroes journey if the hero returns from the land of dead and forgets to recall the truths that he learned there.

And yet the Stark we find in "Iron Man II" is plainly still a moral idiot, which might generate time-filling conflict and the audience's pity, but it isn't true to the first film. Unhappily hesitating to go to a party and yet drinking to excess before blowing the building up isn't a sign, for example, that Tony's reformed his ways. It's a sign that after all the trouble in the first movie, he still hasn't learned his lesson. He still can't trust Pepper, he's still an adrenalin junkie at the races, he's still courting the excesses of celebrity life, and he's still thinking of himself before others, even though he's slightly kinder than he was before.


For the first Iron Man movie is rendered a waste of emotional involvement if all that Tony can show in the way of self-knowledge in the second movie is a slight measure of gratitude and sorrow. And if Tony won't share or control his tech, control his behaviour, trust his friends or accept responsibility for his actions, if he permits himself the award of a medal when he should be in a cell somewhere, or being sued into absolute poverty in the law-courts, then he's learnt nothing.

And so, when the second movie ends on Stark being given that obviously worthless piece of metal and a pretty ribbon for his part in suppressing a major terrorist crisis which he through his negligence and arrogance caused, I can only conclude that the pressure of creating "Iron Man II" was so intense that Mr Favreau and his team missed the fact that the Senator should've been waving Tony off to a Federal Prison rather than spitefully sticking a tiny needle into Stark's chest.


8.

And so "Iron Man II" simply doesn't function as a conventional and humane morality play, which is a shame, because superhero movies always seem to work best when they're constructed to clearly reflect moral as well as personal conflicts. And yet, so diffuse is the second movie in its multiplicity of roles and ill-defined and separate plots, that it's hard to make sense of what it means on a symbolic level. Or more truthfully, it's hard to accept what the movie is saying given the excellence of its predecessor and the obvious gifts and hard work of the movies creators. But watching the film time and time again, it seems sadly true that it is indeed a film in praise of Caesar and whatever at all Caesar might choose to do, as if the individual capitalist and man of great power should indeed be granted the status of saviour of the Republic regardless of the fact that he's disobeying the Republic's laws.

It's as if any attempts by that spoilsport state to stop Stark partying with his repulsors, to deny Tony his apparent right to threaten to drop in and blow up foreign powers as well as homebased opponents, is somehow a threat to, rather than a denial of, civil liberties.


It's as if what gets said and shown in movies is irrelevant as long as the audience is having fun, fun, fun.

And the fact of that is a genuine shame. For in the first movie, Tony Stark was our representative in the world of the idle and uncaring super-rich. He was lost there and only became himself when he was locked away with his mortality and his guilt, with the memory of Dr Yinsen's sacrifice and Pepper's love for him. But "Iron Man II" has a quite different take on the super-rich, it seems, or at least, the capitalist class that are brilliant and wildly entertaining if socially irresponsible. Stark is a hero because he's Stark and we love him, regardless of what he does, but the government is unfit to trust, the army are all morons except for rare individuals who stand with our heroes even as they steal from them, democratic oversight is not to be trusted, and only the capitalists like Hammer who're too incompetent to produce good work without putting Russian super-villains to use aren't to be trusted.

It's not what you do that counts, apparently, but who you are, and whether we love you or not.

Worse yet, it's a movie that makes self-pitying excuses for the immorality and incompetence of its own hero. Tony's dying, so of course he can mess around with those WOMDs at parties. Tony wasn't loved by his father, so of course he finds it hard to love, and so on. But whatever the narrative evasions, the hero's journey doesn't permit excuse-clauses to modify whether the heroically-transforming programme takes or not, and so, this Iron Man simply isn't a hero, just as the Stark of the first film most certainly was.


9.

Nothing happened in "Iron Man" that wasn't designed to tell us something about Tony's fall and rise as a mensch. But the connection between events and meaning is so confused in "Iron Man II" that it's no surprise that the film closes with such a soggy and smug ending. The narrative's momentum is constantly slowed and often quite derailed by water-cooler moments and bright ideas that aren't connected to anything other than passing fancy and the need to get a movie into the theatres regardless of whether it makes sense or not. Why, for example, is Stark dying of the "palladium" in his system? If it's further punishment for all his sins as an arms manufacturer, or even for his continued arrogance, then how can we make sense of his release from slow death achieved by the odd and painless penance of learning to love Daddy? Stark hasn't sacrificed anything beyond accepting the evidence of his eyes and ears when faced with his father's dewy-eyed testimony on film. In fact, Stark's freed from his suffering while his appropriated technology is still out there in the world; the hero has been rewarded despite doing nothing of social value at all to deserve it. Nor does he seem to have learned anything of moral value from his experience of being poisoned, except that perhaps he might love himself abit more because daddy loved him. But then, Stark's journey in "Iron Man II" is to consistently screw-up and to then be helped out when he hasn't earned his rescue. Indeed, if he hadn't been given his father's work by Nick Fury, Stark wouldn't even have avoided a painful deathful by macguffin. He's survived through chance, through no specific sacrifice, and with no essential moral knowledge gained.

Well, what was the point of it all then?


It's another example of how any meaning that can be taken from the film is either absurd or disturbing, and that couldn't have been the intention. After all, if the Tony of "Iron Man II" is dying, the logic of the hero who's already faced death is to seek an end that helps others, not to go racing in Monte Carlo. And so even when Stark puts Whiplash's rampage to an end, he's only cleaning up a desperately awful mess that he's largely responsible for in the first place; it doesn't mean anything in terms of behaving heroically, especially given that he emerges unharmed and unreformed himself. He's not protecting the people so much as tidying up his own mistakes.

Tony's not even fully aware of the sins he's committing, because the movie-makers themselves don't seem to have been, or perhaps they didn't care, and so he can't convincingly earn absolution, let alone our respect, at the end of "Iron Man II". That medal stands for nothing of value at all.

Lost in a mass of plot-lines and a melee of barely realised and irrelevant characters, and hiding in plain sight beside moments of genuine pleasure and some extremely wearing camp slapstick, lies a reversal of moral purpose. The first Iron Man movie showed how Tony Stark became part of the human race. The second shows how he's somehow now superior to the rest of us, safe above his fellow citizens and their laws, and, look, he even gets a medal and the hand of Pepper Potts too at the end.


But that new heart of his is now powered by what Jarvis declares to be "a new element", an impossibly rare and expensive substance, the knowledge of which has been passed down from one generation of the inconceivably rich Stark family to another without having been made public knowledge in the meantime. The secret science that might save the world from all its energy problems has been locked away for decades until it might save Tony.

It's a story-fact that provides as coherent a meaning as any other from this confused movie, which seems to be about how the super-rich and the super-bright and the super-fortunate can do what they want in their own interests, and even in defiance of their best interests, even down to the hoarding of ideas that might so positively transform the world and weapons which certainly could destroy it.

But Tony already had a new heart, a heart that worked perfectly well. We saw Pepper help him put it into place, and the last thing he needed was a fancier, more expensive model at all.

10.

Well, of course it's good fun. The creators and performers are clearly often brilliant. But it's confused and ill-thought through, and Caesar never was a hero. He brought down the Republic because he didn't want to do what the state demanded of him, because he felt that he was better, that he was more important, than everyone else. He was the most brilliant general with the most fearsome army in all of the Roman Republic and he wanted to do whatever he thought was best.

It's not a good example. You can't dress a democrat in a demagogue's clothes and not confuse the point, just as you can't have a hero who faces his own mortality in one movie and then forgets all the lessons he's learned when facing his imminent death in the next.


nb: added December 1st, 2010: there's an alternative and far more positive reading of the film offered by one Johnny Sorrow in the comments below. You'll need to scroll down a fair way, but it's a well-written piece and given that it completely disagrees with the above, I would recommend you take a look. It'd be worth your while.

Thanks you for visiting. Coming soon; "Darkest Night" and a 2000 ad-based piece. I hope you might consider dropping in at some time and seeing how those two ideas have developed, and that you'll accept my best wishes for your having a splendid day.



.

34 comments:

  1. Excellent deconstruction of the movie(s). I think I'm going to have to come back to this post a few times in order to digest it properly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Hoozle, I very much appreciate your kind words. There's so much to love about "Iron Man II", it's got so much energy and good humour about it, and so I can't help but feel like something of a meanie to suggest that's something quite worrying floating around in the film too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Y'know, the movie did skirt over just how Tony has "privatised world peace" - we're told there's more peace and less military tensions thanks to him, but how has he done that? Does he just fly around going "behave"?

    In which case he's an American who's going around threatening foreign states, without the sanction of the American government but (since he's still happily living in America and is nationally loved) without them able to claim he's not working for them. Wouldn't that increase global hostilities? We see two states working on their own armour, but if you thought this superbeing was going to strike you at any moment you'd be on Red Alert every second of the day. And you'd probably be acting more dictatorial if you're a dictatorship, because maybe your dissidents are with Stark. And America and its allies will be on Red Alert because the slightest wrong move by Stark could get them into a war.

    That's not happening in the film but you have to wonder why not. I doubt, say, China feels peaceful that Iron Man exists, anymore than America would've felt peaceful if the USSR had really had a Titanium Man.

    (Of course, the real reason it's all happening like that is because people want to fantasise about being Iron Man and other heroes and this is a funner fantasy, but hey, if you're going to bring semi-real world politics into your film...)

    - Charles RB

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Charles, and your points are absolutely on the nose. This is a movie with flirts with real world politics and it comes undone there. And trying to edit the objections to the politics of the movie - which I believe are quite accidental on Mr Favreau's part - was a real problem where this blog was concerned. There was so much to discuss. I very much wanted to print a piece about the modern American entertainment industry's assault on the very concept of the state, although for many products such as Iron Man II, it's an accident of carelessness. If, as we've discussed before, the state is never portrayed as having a positive function, then all the lunatics who want to replace it with ... well, do they grasp what they want to replace it with? The kindness of the corporations? The benevolence of crime cartels? Because in the absence of the state. there's nothing to counterbalance the power of other organisations and nearly all the folks who want more "freedom" now will be crying all the way to a nasty future if they get what they think they're wishing for. I'm very much with the Founding Fathers on the state per se; it's a necessary evil, but it's necessary, and just as we mustn't hide all the problems of the modern state, we mustn't pretend that all the state is is a body that's at best incompetent and at worst evil. It's what we make it, of course, and I fear it's a dangerous thing to do to provide folks with constant images of incompetence and corruption without noting all the state employees who do a good and necessary job. The job isn't to emasculate government any more than it is to emasculate capitalism. The two aren't opposites and though no-one means to do so, or not too many folks, that's what we too often get told.

    You're quite right about the film being very quiet about Tony's peace-making "activities". I referred to the fact he acts without reference to the democratic will guiding his behaviour. Even if all he does is sit and glower at foreign governments, he's going to raise everyone's temperature to defcon-trouble-coming. I'd imagine pretty much anyone outside America with advanced tech in the Marvel Movie-Universe getting ready to take out Tony and LA before he and his tech can take them out. After all, he's not negotiating, he's not subject to the UN, he's not even controlled by the USA.

    There's so much else I might have mentioned; "I have privatised world peace." Oh, really? Do you mean the world or America? Has all conflict stopped elsewhere, and if it has, does that mean that legitimate wars of liberation have been stopped in favour of tyranny? The film is charming but daft, and it's one thing to fake comic book science, but politics is more important than that.

    It's obviously a movie that's great fun. But boy it's got problems where its politics are concerned ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Colin! A great writeup, but if anything I feel like you're being too kind to this odious, creepy movie. How did they go so far off the rails from such a lovely initial outing?

    Take the very first scene. We see Tony making a grand, splashy entrance at "Stark Expo," but it's never even hinted what actual *products* his company makes now that it's gotten out of the weapons business (or rather, now that it only makes the one very special weapon). This so-called trade show seems to be a venue for Tony to show off his personal toy and taunt the world with the fact that they can't have one. It's as if Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld to play with his next-generation iPhone and then tell the attendees that they don't deserve to have one of their own, thanks for coming, you've been a lovely audience.

    So under the circumstances, I guess it's only to be expected that Tony would invent his own private element and keep that to himself as well. There's always an issue with comic-book scientists who invent cool stuff and never share it with the masses - I think Reed Richards and Doctor Manhattan are the only cases where this has been even partly addressed - but "Iron Man 2" seems to take it to ridiculous extremes. I think I find this technology-hogging almost more offensive than the political aspects of the story, because as a good capitalist, isn't it Tony's moral imperative to give the people what they want?

    Then again, according to "The Incredibles," sharing super-tech with the unwashed Muggle masses is an act of craven villainy that could only be attributed to a sinister plot to tear down the superior few. I'm not as fond of that movie as I used to be, either. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Mark!:- thank you for the kind words.

    What an odd movie this is! On one hand, there are all those problems! But there IS also a great spirit and enthusiasm about the film, and so I tried to haul in the force of my concerns, shall we say, and limit the list of, and the detail of, the problems. This could've gone on for a great deal longer!

    I'm tremendously pleased that I'm not the only person who was disturbed about the idea about knowledge being private property to be passed down through the family. Again, I'm sure it was just a neat idea to try and give a shapeless movie up against a tight deadline some form and depth, but you're quite right; the myth, rather than practise, of capitalism is that knowledge is shared and excellence & value in producing products from it determined by the marketplace.

    Now The Incredibles I've not seen in a long time, and then in company that was damn good fun but not an aid to deconstruction. Dare I return now? I suppose it must be done.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "according to "The Incredibles," sharing super-tech with the unwashed Muggle masses is an act of craven villainy that could only be attributed to a sinister plot to tear down the superior few"

    That was the worst part of the film, and - amusingly - completely at odds with most of the other Pixar films, where anyone from the great unwashed can go off and have an awesome adventure. (Course, I also didn't get why it's a good thing that Dash is playing sports against people who will never be capable of competing on his level: we seperate sports players into tiers for a reason.)

    - Charles RB

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello Charles:- but that's all just silly! What is it about movies with superheroes which encourages film makers to put logic to one side? Now, I fully realise that that seems like a daft question, but it's precisely those genres where the world doesn't behave according to logic - horror, sci-fi, superheroes - that need the most thought put into them to ground them. But the call of camp and carelessness seems to affect even the best of superhero movies, as if no-one can resist bright ideas which make no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Charles & Colin: I suppose we should distinguish between ideas which make no sense, versus ideas we don't agree with. Ayn Rand fans, for example, would probably endorse the idea that society is better off when the brilliant few are left alone to do whatever they like. This actually seems like a natural philosophy for the superhero genre, which is all about vigilante do-gooders serving society while operating outside the law, and even if the creators aren't promoting it on purpose I think they'd almost have to go out of their way *not* to endorse it.

    In the case of "The Incredibles," though, I felt like the proselytizing got a bit out of hand. And with "Ratatouille," which was taken over by "Incredibles" director Brad Bird partway through, it just seems kind of muddled. The late, great chef was famous for his motto "Anyone Can Cook," but his son and heir never learns to cook for squat, even after being puppeteered by a master chef. I guess, even if Anyone Can Cook, that doesn't mean that Everyone can...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello Mark:- I might have problems with Rand or Lenin and their oppossing philosophies, but I've got no problems with works of art that argue for heir beliefs as focused through a creator's point of view. My problem with Iron Man II is that it claims to be one thing, especially when considered as a piece with the first movie, but it's actually something quite different. By accident, it's a film who's meaning is quite different from its intentions, which I assume were rather vague on the political front. And as a result of that, the government, for example, is portrayed as despicable in iron Man II, but in fact the things the state is asking for are quite reasonable and indeed necessary. This is of course an accident rather than an intent; it's not libertrianism being smuggled in through a Marvel Comics movie, unless Mr F has had a serious conversion since the first movie! It's just folks not realising that politics are important, & not because of political correctness, but because mistakes are created when folks are careless with what they're saying, and what they don't realise they're saying.

    And I take your point about creators having to make a real effort to try to fix the meaning of their products. In fact, I think that's absolutely what's needed. There just needs to be someone who can point out what symbols and ideologies mean just as there are experts on lighting and so on. I know it sounds daft, but why not?

    Aw, now I've got to see Ratatouille as well as re-watch the Incredibles ...

    ReplyDelete
  11. A friend's just pointed out to me that the writer for Iron Man II is not one of the writers for the first Iron Man - he's someone else entirely. So that'd explain the disconnect: it's someone with different ideas and priorities who wasn't part of the first 'un.

    Also, he wrote an Iron Man comic that has a scene where ungrateful French plane passengers curse at Iron Man for saving them from a supervillain because the villain was ready to negotiate - "go back to America!" (No, really, that's a line).

    - Charles RB

    ReplyDelete
  12. re Mark: I dunno, I'd be happy to say the Randian idea of the brilliant few being allowed to do what they want is an idea that makes no sense. After all, we've seen what happens when brilliant individuals can truly do what they want* in the past - and individuals who think they're brilliant. That's how horrific atrocities are committed.

    That said, in Ratatouille, the ending does say that "Anyone Can Cook" means not that everyone can be a great cook, but that people from any background could, potentially, be a great cook. That didn't strike me as too contradictory. What did was the "criticism is WORTHLESS" bit, with even the critic heroically admitting even his best reviews will never be as good as the worst film- er, I mean, food. Which, obviously, is not true because good criticism takes skill and a badly-cooked meal is a lack of skill. And it's kinda weird for a Pixar film to say that when critics love the company (should we ignore those critics?).

    * I say "truly" because Stephen Hawking, as far as I know, has free reign to do what he wants for Science. However, he still has to follow the law and the rules of Cambridge University, and is socially engaged and part of society with all that entails. He couldn't, for example, experiment on living creatures willy-nilly, even if he had a brilliant idea that requires it.

    - Charles RB

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello Charles;- aw, now I want to write a book on the writing of the Iron Man movies. How fascinating it would be - and I mean that quite genuingly - to discover who wrote what and why. Not to pin down the guilty men, because there are of course no guilty men, and there's nought wrong with writing from one's beliefs; but just because it would be so interesting.

    Mr Favreau's commentary speaks of endless improvs, re-writes, fresh ideas, and so on. I doubt there's an authorial voice in any traditional sense, but Mr F seems undoubtedly to be the mind that's organising everything, writing, guiding and so on. But the process as described makes it seem as if keeping a moral spine to the piece was perhaps quite a way down quite a frenzied and challenging process.

    I quite like how Mark Millar's Cap has recently been showing himself to be something of a bigot with his irrational dislike of the French. It's Capt and not the French that are the problem, and that seems fine. But I will admit to a concern with the scene you describe ......

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Charles: Perhaps I should have said Rand's philosophy "is coherent" or something, then, rather than that it makes sense. :-) I was trying to make a distinction between creators who know exactly what philosophy they're trying to push and those who, as Colin suggests in the case of "Iron Man 2," really aren't thinking very much about it and end up all over the map.

    And I agree that the moral of "Ratatouille" is coherent, too. It ends up as an endorsement of sheer meritocracy - you could even say that, by contrasting the humble striver with the feckless culinary aristocrat, it sends the kind of democratic message of which our gracious host might approve. (I saw what you said about Prince Argon, Colin!) It's just not the moral I was expecting from the original slogan, which makes me wonder if the original creator of that movie had a different point in mind.

    Meanwhile, Colin comments, "now I want to write a book on the writing of the Iron Man movies." Don't you have another one to finish first? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello Mark:- bless you, for I AM indeed against Prince Argon and all his kind.

    I do indeed that other book to be proceeding with, and proceeding with it I am. But there are so many books to write, Mark, and I think I want to write all of them ...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Too tired to comment coherently, but a few thoughts:
    remember how Ghostbusters made the EPA agent a villain, despite the Ghostbusters carrying around unlicensed nuclear accelerators? (and the Simpsons had them as villains too...)

    they wasted Whiplash. halfway through the movie i thought that Tony was going to work with him to save his own life and redeem the sins of his father, who stole from Whiplash's father. instead we got a bunch of flabby Avengers promotion

    the politics of both movies struck me as incoherent

    in Australia they are much more willing to sacrifice individual freedom to the 'greater good' (and yet our hero is also a criminal in armor...), which strikes me as odd. as a Yank i think any infringement on Tony's 'right' to carry a dangerous weapon would be viewed as wrong. we're supposed to think of the Iron Man armor as like a sportscar

    but Tony is also meant to redeem American power. his armor can tell the 'good guys' from the 'bad guys' in Afghanistan. and what weapon does Whiplash cook up? DRONES, like the ones the US lives....

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hello Lovecraft In Brooklyn:- for an apparently uncoherent commment, LIB, I've been wandering around for the past half-hour of dog walking about what you've written! I'd certainly missed the Ghostbuster example, despite that being one of my fondly-thought of movies. I may be wrong, but I wasn't getting the feeling during the '80s that Government was always the enemy in so much fiction that lived in or strayed around the fantastic-adventure genres.

    The Simpsons and The Wire, to name two satires that seem so different and yet of course share so much of a purpose, are my models for programmes which recognise the problems and virtues of the state in a far less pernicious context than normal. In both, there's no pretence that those who rule the state and the rest of us are any different from each other; the problem isn't that politicians and state employees are different from the rest, and even corrupted by their power, but rather that they're exactly the same as the rest of us. I look at how most folks live their lives and, imagining how they'd do with the opportunities and challenges of power in the state, find myself realising that they'd be as good and ill as today's politicians are. Yet pretending that power in the form of business means that the same folks would respond to power in any more efficient or ethical fashion is just a delusion. The problem is, of course, not the state, democracy, business or whatever; the problem is people and the way in which they've behaved since recorded history began. And that's exactly where the best of the Simpsons and all of the Wire exist; every human enterprise is something that some folks try to use for good, and each is up for corruption too. The problem with Iron Man II isn't that it doesn't make the state shiny and splendid, but that it completely loads its scenes with the presumption that the state is a bad idea dn Tony a very good one.

    I'd not considered the Simpsons movie as another example! That's a good one, but they get a "get out of jail card" because the TV series has had every player and power in Sprinfield and beyond opene to daftness and selfishness.

    I too thought Whiplash was wasted and the suggestion you make about how the plot might have ran certainly sounds more viable to me than the choices which were made. But then there were lots of options for plot development which were obvious and which would've functioned better. (It wasn't the fact that they were obvious that meant they were considered, obviously, because the movie isn't scared of an obvious plot-development in any way.) One other trick missed was simply to have the whole "Rhodey-steals-armour" business to be a set-up 'tween he and Tony, so that Hammer would receive corrupt tech. Then the defeat at the end could have at least displayed Rhodey and Tony's friendship and Tony's foresight rather than his arrogant irresposnibility.

    Ah, you and I have briefly touched on that contradiction in Australian culture before, have we not? The Australians, as much of British culture once did, are aware both of the need to work within the state and yet distrust it. It's a half-way house that political ideology hesitates to embrace because it's hard to rabble-rouse and seem important if you're pointing out that compromise, hard-work, the inevitability of failure and vigilance are the only way forward.

    Finally, you're right; Tony's armour has gone from being a symbol of Tony's conscience and self-knowledge about the need to help others to a sports car. And there's something both terribly paranoid and self-obsessed about the scene in which Tony's race is interupted by that pesky foreigner, who spoils Tony's fun and forces him to wear the suit, as if the rest of the world would be safe for rich Americans if only they had personal WOMD when they travelled abroad.

    I still think the movies alot of fun, mind you, but them politics ...

    ReplyDelete
  18. I felt the same ambivalence and disquiet during the movie, and thanks for bringing the reasons out into the open. Maybe part of the disconnect is the "illusion of change." The writers were afraid that a Tony Stark who had learned his lessons would be too boring to follow. In Tony's defense, though,the writers do have Rhodey ask Tony why it was so easy for him to take the armor. Tony's answer strongly implies that Tony programmed the armor to accept Rhodey. The only reason I can see is that Tony was well aware of his capacity for corruption, and wanted a safeguard. So while Tony doesn't trust the U.S. government, he does trust Rhodey. (I suspect he realizes that Nick Fury would kill him without a second thought...and even approves.)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hello David:- that's a good point about why it was so easy for Rhodey to get the armour. Natasha does say, I think, that there were "redundancies" in place which didn't work where the exclusion of Rhodey from the arsenal and the armour was concerned, which would support your reasoning. The problem, of course, is there's no point in a failsafe system if those involved don't know it exists! It would also be a daft failsafe anyway, of course, given that Tony can't predict whether Rhodey is going to be able to get to the beach house, particularly when Rhodey doesn't know he ought to be going there!

    But it does show how close at times the film came to making some sense of some ridiculous conceits, and how, by not noticing the logic of its own story, it ended up saying some things I'm sure it was never intended to.

    I too agree about Fury. It does feel that Stark has come in the movie to replacing a flawed relationship with his father with an unconditional reliance on Fury. Of course, having a patriotic and apparently unaccountable spook agency be the only state organ on show that's competent raises some other rather worrying spectres, but the piece was already too long to add those!

    Thank you for commenting, David. My best to you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Fury's unaccountability interests me, because I'm wondering if movie-Marvel will take the Ultimate Marvel path (well, the path Spidey did) and leave that being quite ambigious, where he's both a great ally and a tacit threat for our hero. I quite liked the scene in Ultimate Six where President Bush tears into for Fury because he's spent so much effort and pain to give Fury that autonomy, only for Fury to start detaining US citizens on US soil without trial or legal protections without telling him (and then letting them escape and call his house!). Or the bit where Ultimate Gyrich states the FBI/CIA (it changes but could mean both of them) want their own superhumans because they don't trust Fury's agenda and want him having a monopoly. (They turn out to be eeeeevil but it was an interesting and plausible motive)

    re the illusion of change, I will give the movie props for actually showing the world has changed because of Iron Man: Tony's mass celebrity, the sudden desire for all states to have their own armour.

    - Charles RB

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hello Charles:- I'm with you on the fact that the Ultimate Universe has actually made Fury a quite awful person. Mark Millar's most recent take has him pegged as a raging egomaniac, an andrelin/control addict that can't bear not to be at the centre of events and who'll do terrible things to ensure that he is. It takes any silly mystery away from the man and reduces him to a character that's actually quite ridiculous and splendidly formidable in equal measure; FAR more interesting than a super-competent, always-correct spook who somehow respects human rights, the rule of law and being nice to kittens.

    And you're right; the movie deserves credit for engaging with that thing which comic books rarely do, namely thinking about change. But perhaps a touch more thinking might have helped too ...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Quite agree with all said here, but the thing of it is, I feel they COULD have made an interesting movie out of these elements if they'd left room for the audience to explicitly question Stark and his assumed moral superiority. I actually sat in the theater eagerly EXPECTING someone to call Stark out right up until the end. Tony gets drunk in the armor, and I'm thinking, "Surely this was addressed in an earlier draft of the film...surely you wouldn't have written that scene and just CALLED IT A DAY."

    You could've played it as another tale of redemption like the first movie or an ambiguous think-piece like The Dark Knight or even as a dark comedy. I even could have accepted Tony's backsliding on his growth in the first movie as a cautionary tale about hubris - don't expect that just because you learned one important lesson that you've learned ALL the lessons there are! But there was just sort of nothing under the hood.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hello Justin:- I too watched the movie and kept expecting that what was on screen was actually one of Chekhov’s pistols, placed deliberately before the audience in order to set up some later reversal. And I'm with you that if Tony had been shown backsliding rather than as heroic, it would've made the film make narrative sense; I object to the way that the film made his every action heroic, not to the idea that his life-lessons might not have completely taken. But, of course, a film has to be written around a spine that ensures that everything is about such a point, and this wasn't.

    The DVD commentary is a useful thing here. Mr Favreau keeps talking about how he wanted to change the spirit of the film before the script was written, about how he organised a Monte Carlo shoot before the script was written, and so on. How did he know that the Monte Carlo scene would fit in with the purpose of the script if it hadn't have been written? The DVD seems to speak of a director under great pressure of time making decisions about surface aspects of film making rather than deep structure. And so the GLAMOUR of Hughes and Caesar becomes the point of a scene that ought to have been about Tony's lack of what you quite rightly call "moral superiority".

    You’re absolutely right. There was a great movie about Tony hadn’t waiting to be pulled from this mess, just as there was a great heroic one sitting there to be rescued from the clutter too. Sadly, we didn’t get either. I would imagine the time-pressures of the whole procedure just mitigated against the kind of careful thinking that such a project needs.

    ReplyDelete
  24. A fascinating overview of what went wrong with what should have been a much better movie. I remember leaving the theatre with a vague sense of unease which was only partially explained by later revelations that key character moments had been removed from the final edit at the eleventh hour. Even though the moral theme of the first film was rather simple and comic book-y, it was better than the moral vacuum of the sequel. I wonder if Whedon's Avengers will help solidify Stark's moral template, or will rather try something yet again completely different.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hello J, and thank you for the kind words. I read alot of professional reviews of Iron Man II before I wrote mine and I was somewhat concerned because it seemed that my concerns weren't nearly as commonly shared as I would have expected. It's been absolutely heartening to realise that good folks such as yourself have seen the same problems and been worried accordingly.

    I agree that the morality of the first movie was "simple and comic book-y", but I'm with you that I'd rather a simple and worthwhile point delivered efficiently than a film that's lack any discipline in what it's saying. I would hope, as you do, that Mr Whedon's movie will attend to such concerns, but it does depend on how much time he has to write and edit the final product, doesn't it? Fingers crossed.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Huh, I knew Iron Man 2 was a far lesser beast than the first one but I couldn't put my finger on why. Reading your review made me think and I reckon you pinned it down exactly. I saw it at the imax and I'd guess the sheer spectacle distracted from the dodgy morality. And whatever else, Robert Downey Jr is an immensely likable actor - even when he's playing someone whom you shouldn't really like.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hello Axolotl:- I think you've put your finger on one benefit to watching movies long after everyone else has, and after the great cinematic experiences are gone. (Though I'd have LOVED to see it in Imax!) Things really do look different the morning after.

    Mr Downey Jr is SUCH a charismatic actor, I so agree. I find it hard not to be charmed by him even when he's playing a very politically-dodgy Tony Stark. But there's the danger, I guess, in so many ways, there's that glamour, of Hughes and Caesar and Stark, that distorts decency in its own favour.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I came here to read the Superman posts, and have now spent half the day perusing your archives-- so I clearly find your thoughts engaging and persuasive. But I do feel compelled to defend Iron Man 2 as a more nuanced work than you give it credit for.

    From the start, I think, the movie presents Tony as a morally ambiguous figure, who has learned something from the first film, but not everything. the press conference that bridges the films is testament to his continuing impulsive streak, and its those uncontrolled impulses that keep coming back to haunt him in IM2.

    You rightly identify the birthday party as the moral heart of the movie, but I took away an entirely different moral payoff. Watching it in the theater, it was not only the moral center, but the most harrowing scene in the film--eliciting an almost visceral sense of revulsion at how irresponsible Tony had become, and fear for how far he would go.

    It is true that Tony escapes unpunished, but the film all but screams that he had forfeited his claim to be the sole owner of Iron Man and judge of its proper use. We know this because it is at the party that he stops being the sole owner of Iron Man The logic of the film endorses that Rhodey (no less an agent of the state than Senator Shandling) must serve as a check on Tony. And as David observes, the film implies that Tony anticipated the possibility himself.

    The role of Rhodey allows us to take a different perspective on the state. The senate hearing relies on his own testimony to make the case against Tony. Rhodey protests, but he does not recant his judgment. Indeed, the rest of the film confirms those early misgivings.

    Through this lens, the attack at Monaco was not the foreigner interrupting the idle play of the rich. It was one in a series of mounting risks Tony takes in the buildup to the birthday party. The other viewpoint characters agree that Tony behaved irresponsibly, and his friends do not dismiss it as eccentricity, but as a serious screwup. Pepper is barely willing to talk to him on the flight back.

    Stark's antagonists are knaves not because Tony is right, but because they are the wrong agents to deliver that judgment. Favreau paints both men as driven by petty jealousies, rather than principle. Stern is odious not because he is an agent of the state, but because he is a sanctimonious grandstander. Hammer, similarly, is a man so driven by jealousy that he blinds himself to the moral and practical implications of his decisions.

    Which brings us back to Rhodey, his damning testimony, and his willingness to fight Tony, and tell him explicitly that his carelessness robs him of any right to wear the armor. HE, the film tells us, is the appropriate agent-- one who confronts Tony for the right reasons, and who goes on to make the War Machine armor a public asset.

    Rhodey's judgment is echoed by every other heroic character the film offers: Pepper, Natasha, and Nick Fury-- who at film's end reveals Natasha's dossier: that Iron Man would be welcome on the Avengers, but Tony himself would not be.

    Considering this as the middle of a trilogy (and as part of a larger franchise), the second film establishes Tony's continuing fallibility. He had escaped the former flaw of his uncaring capitalism with a new one: a toxic cocktail of messianic and thrill-seeking tendencies.

    Almost the whole film is about Tony's trusted friends and advisors telling him he has to do better. He begins to do so when he acknowledges that the "Stark Expo" had gone from a utopian vision of the future to a mere weapons show and exercise in ego-stroking (Pepper tells him as much, and her judgments are usually right).

    But even at the end, the film tells us that Tony Stark still has a long way to go to become the hero he should be.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hello Johnny:- firstly, I'm going to add a note at the end of the review of Iron Man II suggesting that anyone who comes across the piece ought to scroll down to your comment to experience a completely different take on the movie. The fact that I'm going to disagree with your take doesn't diminish my respect for the content and worth of your reading and it makes a fine counterpoint to what I believe. Thank you.

    If I disagree with you, it's not a mark of disrespect for your stance. We've just experienced a single text in different ways. In many ways, and with no disrespect to all the splendid folks who've contributed above, I wish this had been the first comment here, as it so effectively establishes a counter-reading of the film. This has never been a blog about my being right and everyone else not, and the contrast between your ideas and mine could only be a useful way of inspiring others to prove both of us wrong in our different ways.

    I want to avoid re-stating the points I made in the blog, because that would amount to nothing more than hectoring; BUT I SAID!!!! and so on. It'd be damn bad manners to re-state something you've so obviously already grasped and argued against! It's something I see alot on the net and it does rather wear me down. And yet I fear I will make some points again, though I hope I do so in the context of your excellent post.

    I do accept that Tony makes some steps forward in terms of self-knowledge and humility. But what I find problematical about your reading is indeed that issue of "punishment" that you mention. Yes, folks disagree with Tony and yes Tony learns a touch, but the dice are loaded in favour of Stark in the story. He should be a pariah AND in jail by the tale's end. For your reading requires America's security, and indeed the fundamental laws of the USA too, to exist in order for Tony to learn lessons which he ought to already to know. Don't drive drunk in a weapon of mass destruction? That's not a learning experience, it's a felony. And Tony ought to know that and he ought to be doing time because of it. The morality of the film is infantile and in fact deeply disturbing, in my opinion, because the world exists only to teach a very slow learner lessons that most folks master, if not practise, in their early adolescence. Stark does terrible things in this movie and he's played as a hero. He may not be portrayed as perfect, but societies needs, its laws and customs, are all seen as nothing more than ways that Tony learns about himself. And of course they're not. In portraying a world that is essentially a play-thing for a super-rich moral idiot to learn about himself, the meaning of the Senate scene I discussed is reinforced. Tony isn't a hero who exists for us; we're there for him. The crossing of the Rubicon isn't Caesar thinking what's best for the Republic, but what's best for Caesar.

    cont

    ReplyDelete
  30. cont from above

    Most disturbingly, those who stand for the law and the state are portrayed as at best misguided and stupid and at worst venal; generals and senators are, in comparison to Tony, repellent individuals with what are portrayed as unworthy motives. So the state that Tony undermines is at worst a villain and at best a laughing stock and so nothing Tony does counts as it should. Certainly we're never shown the bodies of the dead who undoubtedly fell during the climatic battle, responsibility for which stands squarely in Stark's arrogant hands.

    In the end, the world of Iron Man II is, in my opinion, a world that Tony Stark owns. He doesn't belong to it, it belongs to him. It's there to be insulted, mocked, smashed around and far far worse, all in the name of Tony's learning experience. And to me, that's what disturbs me about the piece. Nobody should get to do their learning while breaking the rule of law and seriously damaging the security of the state; they ought to have learned their lessons long before they dump America in it, and Tony's not on a heroes journey as Iron Man II portrays it. He would be if he apologised to the nation, admitted the senator was right, if an unpleasant bloke, and did time as well as paid a huge, huge fine for all the property damage and loss of life in the film. Otherwise, no, he's been irresponsible to the point of immorality and he ought to do his reflecting in a cell and not on the celebrity circuit and fighting with the Avengers.

    BUT: I offer this in only in counterpoint to your well-reasoned and utterly legitimate reading. I'd be completely wrong to say you've got the wrong end of the stick. We just see different things. And I'm really glad to read your different take. Thank you for taking the time to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly in the real world the state should not be trusted with all new discoveries. It can be shown, that much more often than Tony in Ironman II, they screw up, and to a much larger degree. Much larger than Tony getting drunk and causing property damage. With all the state's many flaws, why would you be willing to trust them with yet one more WOMD? If it proved convenient for them, they would find some way to field the weapon, or sell it to improve their GNP. Tony Stark, in wanting to keep the technology to himself, and sell no part of it to anyone -- ever, is on the morally higher ground then the state that has a worse track record than himself. If you reflect, the Ironman armor was the last weapon that Stark ever really made. He changed the business model of his company. And he was right, that no one could make its equal, save by back engineering the scrapped suit in the desert, and stealing his atomic/quantum sourced pacemaker from his person -- leaving him to die. He was a super-genius and even then lucky or fated enough to figure out the involved circuitry.

      And besides all that, the Avengers movie required someone wearing the super-suit, who was also a genius. War Machine, piloted by his noble friend Rodney, as SHIELD initially wanted, could not have done the same things. AND it was Stark's time to at last learn the lesson of his doctor in the first movie, in his own example of self sacrifice. Prior to that moment Captain America could rightly look down on Stark -- who wouldn't risk doing anything unless there was some clear way out of the mess that he might get into. Up until then, Stark was just a bit less than the truly heroic. By saving the world, by risking everything, he more than made up for the property damage and such that was in his second movie.

      Delete
    2. Hello there:- I'm no knee-jerk statist. I believe that the same reasons which make individuals untrustworthy make the state the same. The difference is that there's a hope of accountability when it comes to the state, no matter how slim at times, whereas great power - such as WOMD - in the hands of private individuals are entirely beyond even a slither of democractic control.

      Stark may well be trying to claim to moral high ground in refusing to share his tech. Heaven knows, I wouldn't want any state laying claiming to such fantastic power. And Stark has certainly in the movies served the good as well as its opposite. But my point is a different one; Iron Man II is a movie which is opposed to the idea of democracy. I'm not. For all its flaws, it's the least worst system. And I'm always going to be on the side of a democratic state rather than an irresponsible, drunken billionaire when it comes to the control of WMDs, and that's especially so when said billionaire has proven himself to be totally irresponsible.

      Delete
  31. There are many great points being made here, but I think there is one simple explanation for the movie's questionable morality. Once Tony gives up the Iron Man technology, he gives up being Iron Man. You can't have an Iron Man movie (or an Avengers movie) with millions of Iron Man suits coming to help save the day...boring. So the film makers are in a bit of a predicament. On the one hand they have to make decisions so that they can continue the Iron Man movie franchise, and on the other they have to have Tony remain sympathetic and heroic. Its a hard thing to balance for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there:- I agree with you that there's a problem at the heart of all super-hero tales which rely on the production of a specific piece of tech to explain the hero's abilities; androids, super-soldier serums and armour should all eventually become ubiquitous. And it's a hard thing to explain away, I'd agree with that too. But that doesn't - in my own opinion - excuse the way that they attempted to deal with it. If the film-makers needed more time in order to develop a convincing explanation, they could have focused on something else for this film. Because portraying Tony as a heroic outsider battling the evil state was not a responsible solution in our current troubled times.

      Or so goes my take :) It means no more than that, of course.

      Delete