Alphabetical Movie – Iron Man
To the few folks who enjoy my Alphabetical Movie Blogs, sorry for the lengthy dry spell. Fringe and the Renaissance Festival tend to slow down my movie viewing. For everyone who isn’t reading them anyway, this preamble was completely unneccessary.
I actually talked quite a bit about Iron Man on Episode 5 of Geeks Without God. My feelings about the recent slate of Marvel movies have been quite positive but having re-watched most of them recently, I feel Iron Man continues to be the best.
Here’s the thing about Super Heroes for me. I don’t much care for the super heroics nearly as much as I care about the character behind the super hero.
I was a big fan of Spider-Man growing up because I identified with Peter Parker. Make no mistake – Spider-Man is cool. But without the “real” guy behind the mask, he would not have been nearly as interesting.
When I was a big comic reader, Iron Man wasn’t one of my books. Aside from knowing something about the character because I hang around geeks, I didn’t have any baggage when I watched the film.
I sort of knew what kind of character Tony Stark needed to be but I felt like the movie made me give a shit about Iron Man because I gave a shit about Stark.
Stark is a rich, brilliant, spoiled asshole who is trying to be a better person than he believes himself to be. That makes him different (and more interesting) than Steve Rogers because Rogers is a boy scout. We don’t doubt Rogers’ ability to be a hero. He’s always been a hero.
At the beginning of Iron Man, we meet a man who was never a hero. He’s not a super villain. To be a villain or a hero would be to assume that he had any interest in how his actions affected others. As he slowly finds himself assuming the mantle of a hero, we can see he is uncomfortable.
For a character that is as cocky as Stark, Robert Downey Jr. does an amazing job of showing us the man behind the facade. Stark is as full of self-doubt as the rest of us. Perhaps even more so. Downey never strips away the facade completely. He shows us just enough to reveal that Stark knows he should be a better person than he is.
Iron Man becomes a way for Stark to become that better person and watching that transformation is what makes the movie work. He goes from just thinking it’s wicked cool that he can fly to realizing that he needs to do more than just build a wicked cool suit. He needs to become worthy of the suit.
The moment that crystallizes this for me is when he owns being Iron Man at the end of the film. Yeah, it’s a funny button to the film. It goes against our expectations that Super Heroes have secret identities unless they are the Fantastic Four.
It is also Stark fully embracing that piece of his character. Yeah, Stark loves to showboat and admitting his own heroics are part of that character trait.
Yet, he is finally owning the fact that he can be a hero. He’s comfortable enough with it to let everyone know.
And he’s still a cocky, arrogant jackass.
What makes him interesting is that he knows he’s a cocky, arrogant jackass and he keeps trying to be better than that.