Today I watched Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008)
While watching through the Zatoichi franchise, I could not help but think of the modern form of film franchises, perhaps the most notable being the Marvel cinematic Universe. So with that series winding down, why not take a look at a series that is changing the face of modern cinema. Iron Man kicks off the series with the origin story of one Tony Stark, an alcoholic, narcissistic, womanizing, weapon manufacturing billionaire. While demonstrating a new form of missile with the American military in the Middle East, he is kidnapped by an international terrorist organizations known as the Ten Rings. To survive this ordeal, Stark builds a powerful suit of armour. But after he returns from this event, he decides to end his arms manufacturing ways, or more honestly, decides to only produce arms for himself. This somehow makes him a superhero.
Yeah, I have a big problem with Tony Stark and it pretty much ruins any enjoyment I could have in this film. His character arc as I see it, is not how the film tries to present it, to me it seems like the only thing Stark learned in the Middle East is that the American army cannot protect him, so he, the glorious mental and fiscal elite takes matters into his own hands, not for the hypocritical soul searching reasons he provides for the media, but because he is insecure. Through the course of the movie Stark just becomes more selfish, other people’s money isn’t worth anything to him when he could fly around in his own robot suit, a suit that runs on miraculous energy technology that Stark actively suppresses throughout the film.
Surrounding this jerk are some much more likable characters and a fittingly nonsensical villain. The saving grace of this film is Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, a woman who is inexplicably loyal to the human travesty that is Tony Stark and who has deep emotional strengths. The villain, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, seems to come out of nowhere and turns bad to enact a rather absurd plan. If it were not for the overtly evil way he acts in the final act, he would actually have a lot of good points about how selfish and ridiculous Stark is constantly being. Unfortunately the film spends too much time celebrating Tony Stark’s creativity in finding new ways of making a man into a more efficient battle engine to have room for a particularly complex villain.
While this film is undoubtedly well made, I find it very difficult to watch now. On the plus side it sets up a lot of stylistic flourishes that will define this franchise, notably the many internal references and complex continuity nods that will pay off in later films. But I cannot abide the way it frames Tony Stark as some kind of hero when he acts in such a selfish manner. In perhaps it’s most damning moment, the film tries to make him do something heroic and churns out a scene that is one of the most preposterous uses of the racist white saviour trope I have ever seen, when he flies into an active warzone to blow up insurgent forces. I really have nothing more, it’s racist, Tony Stark is a sack of shit, I am glad that there are other, more redeemable characters in this franchise’s near future. 2/5