Iron ManMay 5, 2008
I give this 4/5 stars for entertainment- it’s a good action movie, and Downey definitely makes an entertaining Tony Stark. It at least touched on many of the issues that make the Iron Man series, though obviously did not dive deep into the more serious stuff (which, actually I’m sad about with comic book movies in general).
Now, onto the media criticism part of it. Some spoilers.
I already walked in expecting problematic stuff with the arabic folks in the movie from the preview. I was hoping they’d condense the Iron Man origin story to a tiny 15 minute thing. Instead I got 30 minutes of “OMG! TERRORISTS!”
So let’s see- the TERRORISTS are randomly killing people in their own region, with no real motivation or context or history other than the usual “brown people are violent for no reason, and only refugees are ok people” (sort of how the media paints a lot of places). Meanwhile, the conflict in America at least gives you an understanding of the motivations of the villain.
Then, the solution to each also tells you a lot. The answer to dealing with the mideast situation is to kill a lot of people. And then build better weapons, and kill them more. And leave the military there, to kill more of them. (Oh yes, the one GOOD arab guy dies sacrificially to save the white man- check). The answer to the problem on the American side is to remove the one bad apple (never mind the military, the corporation, the investors, and everyone else who was complicit in the evil). Oh yeah, I’m sure the folks selling weapons to both sides suddenly stopped as well and the refugees are all safe.
What’s sad is that the comics did a much better job of considering this issue. Stark lost his company because the board threw him off. The military branded him an outlaw when he disabled their weapons using his stolen technology.
Though other movies are just as bad or worse than this, I think we ought to coin a race version of the Frank Miller test, and we can call it the “300 Test”:
If the proportion of people of color to be killed to neutrally presented people of color in his story is above 1:1, he fails.
The Hathor Legacy covers Pepper Potts fairly well, though I wanted her to have a little more hard core going on, since, uh, she’s basically running the administrative side of high end corporate business? You think she doesn’t have some cold steel in her? I was hoping she’d get a little more “Assistant Badassery” ala Alfred from Batman or Owen from Gargoyles.
I did find it problematic that her role was basically to follow instructions from Tony, pick up his life like a good secretary/wife, and to lust after him even if she is unattainable at the moment, and that the rest of the women existed as eye candy. The comics did an incredible job of generally showing the complicated relationships Tony would get into- fucking up good relationships, coming back to bad ones, and basically making a mess of his life.
The one really positive change from the comics was that Rhodey wasn’t the “street talking blue collar” stereotype, but rather a pretty well put together military man.
So, uh, pretty much the enjoyment of this movie depends on putting on your blinders over the many, many who are dead from our war on terror. I imagine for most people in the US, that’s actually not going to be that hard. For others, it’s like a 1/4th of the movie is about celebrating war for “America Fuck Yeah” Lulz.
WOC PhD does a deeper, more thorough analysis (thanks to Naamen for the link).