This is my first film review so please go easy on me. I wanted to start writing film reviews for this blog and I thought that the best way to start would be to grab a pen and paper and watch a movie that I like for the 700th time and try to review it. I want this review to be a mix of film critic (me) and James Harleman, so I hope that it will have value for Christians and just as something to chew on for film lovers and the less film savvy alike. I hope that this is fun to read I didn’t dig into everything because that would take like 10 pages, but I hope this gets you thinking… ;).
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is a movie that I like a lot because it came out of nowhere. When I first heard about the film I was not impressed. I was sure that it was going to be another one of those “superhero” films where the main protagonist has tons of money and no real power. So instead he uses his greater than average intelligence and riches to purge the world of anyone he thinks is bad. Watching this movie again with a notebook in hand gave me a little insight into how times have changed. For example the “all powerful” Tony Stark uses an amazing flip phone to carry-out his business transactions and personally I wouldn’t mind having a phone just like his, oh the good old days. With that said the character of Tony Stark has a lot of depth after he has been dragged from the pages of a marvel comic (which I never read) and played by Robert Downey Jr. This film brought home to me the idea that God can use anybody to carry-out his purposes for this world. Since this is fiction I do not know if Tony is literal carrying out God’s plan, it was more about the idea that God can make you new and whole. Tony starts out as a selfish businessman that just wants to play with his technology in the basement, while demanding fear and respect from everyone. Stark has a sort of God complex that makes him feel like he has the right to demand fear and respected without having to answer to anyone for it. He makes his desires clear during his trip abroad to present his Jericho missile, by first asking the surrounded crowd for fear and respect and then by telling Rhods to ride in the car behind him. Which he does by disdaining the vehicle he is telling Rhods to ride in and then dubs it the Humdrum-V. However these character defects I think can only be drawn from the fact that Tony has no Parents. The entire film Tony only talks about his father who happens to be dead and there is never any mention of his mother. The only father figure Tony has is his father’s corrupt business partner Obadiah Stane , whose name is very suggestive of his role in society. Still Tony is born again, in a sense, after life threatening shrapnel enters his blood stream. Tony wakes up in a dark cave to find that he has been given a new heart and a new chance at life and with that he realizes that the things of value in his life are not his money and youth but his friends/ family. After Tony returns from captivity he begins to talk about “wanting to do something that is consistent with the highest good” and “having more to offer the world than just making things [that] blow up” it seems to me that Tony has had a kind of spiritual change. I know I know that sounds cheesy but almost dying has that effect on people. Something that struck me as interesting was that even though Tony wants to be a better person, old habits still die hard he wants to change things but he remains as sarcastic as ever. But the thing for everybody and especially Christians to consider is that you have to want to change to even begin to change. In one scene Tony tells his loyal personal assistant Pepper Potts “I shouldn’t be alive unless it was for a reason” and I think that is true for everyone. It reminded me of something N.D Wilsons said in his Notes from The Tilt-a-Whirl about how “there are 8 million people that could have been here instead of you and are you going to be ungrateful”, but at the end of the day God chose you and he wants you here, Christian or not, for a reason. I was also moved by the idea that you, whoever you are, can change no matter who or how old you are and you hold the power to change things around you. The Yinsen who gives Tony his first mini ARC reactor/new heart is the same person that sacrifices his own life for Tony to live (yes, yes ..I know) and also expresses to Tony that without family he is a man who has nothing.
Iron Man is a film that focuses more on the people than the events and something that I noticed while watching the film was how they juxtaposed characters. For example Tony starts out as a rich brat that becomes a hero and Stane starts out as a loving father figure to Tony whose greed soon gets the better of him, haha quite literally. Pepper Potts on the other hand is basically Tony’s better half she keeps her dignity and her nose out of trouble. I like Pepper because I never felt that she wasted time acting the hero, she just gets things done. She isn’t a damsel in distress, which is also nice, but she seems to constantly be around when Tony needs some sense knocked into him. I thought that Pepper was a good example of femininity because she does all of her tasks competently and as a female character she is allowed a voice. The one thing that did bother me is that Pepper appears to be the only woman in the world that is worth keeping around, all the other women are clearly gold diggers and they spend most of their time either annoying Tony or the audience by continuing to show up. I like the dynamic of Tony and Pepper’s relationship because even when he’s being a smart aleck she doesn’t hesitate to tell him what’s what and she keeps everything moving smoothly, plus she’s well dressed and not masculine at all….just thought I’d say. Pepper is a good representation of her gender because sometimes the most important thing is not getting the work done yourself but helping somebody else to get the job done…hey it’s still getting the task done.
I love this film because it includes so many ridiculous situations that see the characters reacting in ways that I think I would. It also makes family and friendship important in Tony, Pepper and Yisen’s lives. I thought it was a good example of heart change that is still encased by humanity. It also has a lot of value for Christian audiences despite some of the unsavory aspects that might trouble good bible believing families. I think the important thing to remember when watching films is that they are written by men, but God and thinking are always present you just have to remember to be alert and watching for the opportunities.
P.S This is N.D Wilson Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl if you have time you should check it out: