Monday, July 11, 2011

Stroking Iron Man's ego -- or kicking it in the balls

I realize I am a few years off from reviewing this, but after feeling the pressure from friends and family with whom I share my adoration of superhero movies, I felt compelled. I lived through Watchmen, the original Captain America movie, and even the Wolverine movie, so what could be so difficult? Besides, what better things are there to do on an oddly chilly summer day in the San Francisco Bay Area?

I really didn't like this film.

The core of Iron Man is a stereotypical storyline of an egotistical millionaire (with a heart of gold!) that has nothing better to do than soak in the wealth his corporation obtains from taxpayers and government-backed military operations by partying, courting [blonde] women, and driving fast cars. Until, of course, he finds the errors of his [company's] ways and tries to correct them to benefit “the people.” From the first frame of Tony Stark's perfectly man-scaped goatee, I knew I hated him. 

Set against the backdrop of a modern day, post-9/11 society that puts more dinero in the military than it does in schools, the comforting escapist feeling I've come to know and love from Batman and X-Men films was thrown out the window. Instead I put my social justice-oriented thinking cap on and did me some man-hating. (Disclaimer: I do not actually hate all men. Just Tony Stark. Well, mostly Tony Stark and the bro-minded frat boy pro-America dudes that exemplify his entitled mannerisms and blind patriotism.)

Iron Man shares similar elements that I can't stand about James Bond movies: female characters are cast either as objects of attraction that have been conquered in the bedroom or will be conquered in the bedroom. Aside from Stark's personal assistant Pepper Totts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), any other woman he encounters is simply an object of sexual desire. He even tells a female military officer, after noticing she's a woman (ugh!) “Now I'm looking at you in a different way.” You bastard.

Totts (her first name should have been Tater, Ms. Totts if you're nasty) is, indeed, the perfect woman – er, I mean, Personal Assistant – she knows everything he likes and dislikes, takes all his calls, dresses him for special events, brings him coffee & the newspaper in the morning, knows his social security number, tolerates a rising sexual tension between herself and Stark without directly confronting him, and buys herself birthday gifts with his money when he forgets the date. In the end she helps to save the day (by following Stark's orders on how to detonate some big shiny high-tech thingy) and kill the bad guy, all the while in stiletto heels. Girl Power!

I find Totts to be a very interesting character, I really do – and I found that there was great potential to explore, or even subtly hint at, the idea that Totts has a life outside of performing her duties as Stark's mom-substitute -- sorry, Personal Assistant. Throughout this movie I found myself asking all the wrong questions about Totts such as, “What does she do in her spare time? Does she have any hobbies? Does she have a family?” To go on a brief tangent, here, I think it would have been interesting to see how differently Totts would be interacting with Stark if, say, she were a single parent, or the wife of a US soldier, or a computer scientist that could contribute meaningful research towards Stark's objective of helping “the people.” 

(My morbid curiosity regarding Totts' life away from Stark is the single most driving factor for why I added the sequel to my Netflix queue. The second driving factor: Scarlett Johansson.)

The prospect of Stark conquering women before he conquers evil mostly upset me when, within the first half hour of the movie, a journalist grilling the ethics Stark Industries' weapons manufacturing asks Stark, “Do you even lose an hour of sleep at night?”

I'd be willing to lose a few with you,” he responds. And she takes the bait. Give me a fucking break! This is inconsistent for a character that we've only known for a few moments and, in that brief moment, is supposed to be opposed to everything this man stands for – or was sleeping with him the ulterior motive? 

I'm not opposed to consenting adults getting it on if that's what they both want, but within the context of what we're shown in this film, the only message the viewer can be left with is, “Man, it must be easy to score if you're Tony Stark! And journalists compromise their morals quite often!”

The only thing Iron Man inspired me to do was write this scathing blog review. Hello, Blog, it's been awhile. How are you? I'm fine, just honing my inner Roger Ebert and Gloria Steinem . . .

So I can reiterate my dislike for Iron Man with the following:
  1. I have no patience for, and give no credit to, egotistic womanizers.
  2. Overabundance of wealth disgusts me.
  3. The overall message of Iron Man comes across as a pro-American vehicle by which to stroke the egos of patriots without any sort of critical discourse about foreign policy or international relations. Stark is a white American cisgendered male, speaks only English, and surrounds himself with other privileged Americans for the benefit of only himself. (For whom did he make that special suit? The antagonist, portrayed by Jeff Bridges, even points this out at the end.)
  4. Bruce Wayne, though of the same DNA strand as Tony Stark of rich and entitled men, was and is much better in execution of superhero stories, mostly for the escapism factor, and because more layers are explored to develop multi-faceted characters that withstand the test of time and with whom viewers can relate.
  5. The final words in the film exemplified Stark's aforementioned ego and made me hate him even more.

Seriously – if I wanted to be lectured about corporate accountability and corruption of military weaponry I'd watch a Michael Moore film.