Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Iron Man": Random thoughts

I went to see the newly released "Iron Man" tonight, and I was impressed. Random thoughts about the film will accumulate here.
  • First, this is definitely not a feminist film. The main character, playboy billionaire weapons contractor Tony Stark, has the amazing talent of turning practically any women who crosses his path into a slut or a stripper.

    The anti-feminism also pops up on a meta-level as well. Lead actress Gwyneth Paltrow spends the entire movie being made up to look like Kirsten Dunst, an actress about 10 years younger.

  • "Iron Man" is also a profoundly conservative film, but not necessarily for the reason that you might have expected. At the start of the film, Tony Stark is motoring along in an armored convoy of humvees in Afghanistan having just demonstrated an advanced new weapon system to the United States Army. Stark's convoy is ambushed by the local terrorist forces who, as fate would have it, are equipped with huge supplies of weapons manufactured by Stark's own company. Stark himself is captured and nearly killed by the terrorists; only his own ingenuity and the assistance of an unlikely ally allow him to escape. When Stark finally escapes and returns back to the United States, he publically announces that his company will discontinue the manufacture of weapons system. Privately, Stark begins work on a personal set of unstoppably powerful battle armor to enable himself to kick terrorist butt with a vengeance.

    Media critics have observed that this is fairly conservative as it stands: an American responds to being "mugged by reality" with a mixture of personal self-improvement and ruthless vengeance. On the other hand, the movie is actually much more profoundly conservative than this. Consider the paradox of Stark converting his multi-billion dollar company to purely peaceful activities while building a battle suit for his exclusive use that is orders of magnitude more militarily powerful than anything Stark had ever built before. The conclusion we are forced to draw is that Stark has not renounced weapons contracting so much as he has renounced mass weapons contracting.

    In other words, Stark is really renouncing the democratic principle as a component of modern warfare. He creates an immensely powerful suit of armor, but like a medieval knight, he reserves its use for those he feels have the moral enlightenment and the personal discipline (namely, himself) to use it responsibly. Stark is also more than willing to take the war to the terrorists despite the rather explicit wishes of the American demos that the Afghan terrorists be treated as class allies.

  • Moving on, the next thing to keep in mind about "Iron Man" is that Tony Stark is practically indestructable for a big portion of the film. While wearing the Iron Man armor, Stark manages to survive small arms fire; .50 calibre machine gun fire; a hit from an artillery shell; a collision with an F-22 at Mach 1; ascent to low Earth orbit with nothing except a metal helmet over his head; and levels of G-forces that would have liquified his skull in real life.

    The one major injury that he doesn't seem able to instantly regenerate is a shrapnel wound directly to the heart. In a typically ironic comic book twist, Stark manages to survive but is left with a fist-sized cavity and a flux capacitor where his heart used to be.


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