Monday, May 20, 2013

Iron Man 3 - The End Of Man

For those who haven't noticed, the current superhero movie trend is, essentially, our culture re-creating the god myths in a modern context. And with it, we should question, what is the chief end of man?

It began with Superman, a Moses/Jesus character (more on him when I review his movie). Then, in the 60s we got Stan Lee introducing characters like Iron Man. Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) is a deeply flawed man, a war profiteer who comes face-to-face with the horrors he helped make. And while Stan created this character in the midst of Vietnam, the billionaire weapons contractor hasn't become any more sympathetic in the last 50 years. When he's given a choice to make a super weapon for an evil army or die, he takes the scraps and gives himself a third option: Iron Man. He busts out of prison in a high-tech suit, capable of decimating his opponents.

This is like so many of the Greek or Roman gods. A brash, arrogant man with unlimited power (intellect, in this case), who, through a humbling process, gains a new understanding (a new heart?) and sets to defend humanity from evil.

We celebrate this and cheer the idea of a hero who will, even at the last minute, show up to save the day in a blast of energy and impenetrable armor.

The first film did a great job of showing Tony as a wealthy playboy who gains a startling wake-up call. He is given a new heart (a glowing one that keeps him from dying as a result of his own weapons--a symbol of his own sin?). And, because of this new heart, he is changed and begins turning from his old womanizing ways to be the hero that covers him.

The second film, he all but eradicates major war and terrorism. He boasts that he has successfully privatized world peace. But there's something dark at work. His new heart is powered by an element that will kill him. Unless he finds a different way to power the arc reactor in his chest, he'll die. Seeing no solution, he tries to return to his wild ways, reaping the consequences of his rash behavior. His friends turn on him and he's put on house arrest. He's also forced to confront his father, via an old film clip and other documents. He has to accept that he's not the genesis of his own greatness. He needs to turn to his father, against whom he rebelled and still regarded with private disdain. Then he up and creates a new element, cures himself and saves the world.

Now to the third. We've seen him in Avengers, which might have been Iron Man 2.5. Briefly, in that he learns that he needs to lay himself out there, without an armor and put his life on the line for others. And he does. But it leaves him frightened. He can't sleep. He builds an endless army of wildly different armors. He adapts an armor that can fly to him, piece by piece. And he frets about protecting the "one thing he can't live without," Pepper Potts, his steady woman. So, he's changed. He no longer chases women. He's proved he'll lay down his life for others. He's saved himself several times over. But he fears that he can't control everything. He can't always protect the one he loves.

The movie doesn't answer this with anything as dramatic as the first film, where he had to confront and repent of his weapons dealing and his cavalier profiteering. It doesn't have him reach back and recant his rebellion against a father and be humbled, recognizing he didn't come up with all of this on his own. No, this one doesn't involve him finding an answer outside of himself at all. Quite the opposite. He finds that HE is Iron Man, not the suits.

In all, Iron Man 3 is a satisfying popcorn blockbuster film. It's fun to watch. It has some good humor. I think Robert Downey Jr. is a wonderful actor, able to pull you in to a story and make you like him (even when he's being a jerk). There is no doubt he was an inspired choice for the role of Tony Stark. But, while I like the Iron Man movies, 3 just solidifies an atheist view. We are our own creators. There is no God. Morality is subjective. We change because it's what the circumstances require, not because we will be held to account by a higher power. Submissiveness is never exalted. Tony will, hopefully, do what's right. Because he certainly won't take orders from anyone other than himself.

So, with Iron Man 3, what is the end of man? Does he need something outside of himself to provide peace when the panic attacks come and life's problems are seemingly too great or too fearsome to handle? Or is the end of man that we're ultimately on our own and need to raid a hardware store and build our way out of trouble? And then, essentially, become gods, able to handle any threat? Tony Stark's answer seems to be the latter. Which should provide Christians with a lot to discuss in regard to God's sovereignty vs. man's ability.

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