So in 2008 this gem of a movie showed up in our theaters, and the world hasn’t been the same ever since. I actually remember watching this when I was still around 11 at the time, cringing at the semi-violent scenes, marveling at the special effects, and also questioning myself on why I was oddly attracted to a 40-year-old man. Yes, thank you RDJ, for changing my life for the better.
For this entry of the Marvel Movie Blogathon, I’ll be doing more of a character study as opposed to a liveblog. It took me 4 hours the last time I did this so I don’t think I’ll be able to pause and write in between scenes as much. I also missed my post yesterday (oops) so hopefully this makes up for it. Without wasting anymore time, let’s get this started.
An Introduction to Tony Stark
We start off the movie with Tony Stark riding in a Humvee in the middle of an Afghanistan desert with a group of soldiers. He’s sitting in the backseat in his suit, with his collar unbuttoned and tie loose – the man needs to look good, but at the same time he doesn’t go for a clean-cut businessman image. He holds a glass of whiskey during the ride, which touches upon one of his controversial drinking habits. This is even expanded in some comics by portraying him as being an alcoholic, but in the MCU he isn’t portrayed as so much of an alcoholic as opposed to a wealthy billionaire with too much cash to spend.
Despite being arrogant at times (and when I say at times, I mean 99% of the time) Tony has a very open and rather friendly personality. We see him joking with the soldiers, flirting with one, and even taking pictures with another while at the same time flaunting the details of his A-class lifestyle. It’s not a problem of course, until their vehicle gets hit.
Now here we see Tony absolutely freaking out – for the lack of a better term. He panics, and runs out of the car even when the soldier specifically instructs him to say inside. This is a man who plays by his own rules and tries to solve his own problems. But the fact is, despite being a weapons genius, he has never been on the field in a live situation before. He takes cover behind a rock and tries to call for help, only to have a missile land right next to him.
And this is where the irony hits him – the missile that lands next to him is a product his own company. It practically has his name on it, so there’s not much that can save him now.
He wakes up and realizes that he is being held captive, and this. This is the moment when his entire life is about to change.
36 Hour Flashback
Now this is the part where we get to see Tony’s usual life, with all the glitz and glam and no life threatening experiences taking place. This is also an establishment of his character before he is about to be subject to heaps of character development, and I would call this his “pre-Iron Man” phase.
During the party, the presentations depicts him as the genius of the 21st century, inventing state-of-the-art weapons that has revolutionized the way America has been fighting the war (care for a snide comment, Captain America?) He’s a child prodigy, a genius and an utterly successful businessman, but he can’t even be bothered to show up to pick up his own award, leaving his best friend Rhodey to awkwardly stand at the podium by himself. There, there, Rhodes.
So why is this? You’d think that someone as self-absorbed as Tony Stark would want to be at a ceremony dedicated for him. The actual reality is, Tony Stark doesn’t really care about what other high-flying businessmen think of him. He just doesn’t. He has that much confidence in himself that he doesn’t feel the need to impress anyone, doesn’t feel the need to prove himself to anyone because he’s already practically sitting on top of the throne, and he has been since the very day he was born. I can also sense that he has a strong distaste for the politics of the business scene, seen in the way he shrugs off his award when Rhodey hands it to him at the casino. He even ends up giving it away to a random man in a Ceasar costume. That’s how much cares about the industry.
The Morning After
Tony gets interviewed by a reporter. Tony flirts with said reporter. Tony gets in bed with the reporter. She wakes up the next morning and finds him gone. She attempts to diss Pepper Potts, Tony’s long-term personal assistant, and instead, gets this quote thrown at her face:
“I do anything and everything that Mr. Stark requires, including occasionally, taking out the trash. Will that be all?”
I like her. And this is why Tony does too.
Pepper and Tony’s relationship is probably one that anyone would die for. Despite being his PA, Tony really holds Pepper in high regard. That doesn’t mean she isn’t subject to his usual Stark attitude, because well – go buy yourself something nice for me, isn’t really what anyone would want to hear on their birthday. Pepper isn’t bitter about it though, and she replies with, I already did. She’s always one step ahead of him, and you can actually see in Tony’s eyes just how impressed he is with her.
Now let’s just skip over the part where Tony turns his private jet into a club complete with a stripper pole and dancing flight attendants.
My Weapons (don’t play by your rules)
When Tony lands in Afghanistan, he delivers a presentation to the U.S troops there about his latest and most advanced weapon – the Jericho missile.
In probably one of the most memorable scenes from the movie, his demonstration of the missiles is nothing short of extravagant.
If I were him, I would probably act the same way. But in a couple of minutes, his act of glory gets cut short when the movie is brought back to the present time. This time, Tony is in a cave held captive by the terrorist group there. He wakes up, horrified, with an electromagnet in his chest.
This is where Iron Man was born.
For the first time in his life he appears hopeless, distressed and utterly terrified. The terrorists threaten him to build them the Jericho, described by himself just moments ago as the “crown jewel” of Stark Industries. He sees them with their guns and says, why do they have my guns how did they get my guns. He is slowly coming to realize that his inventions are being used against him, and this becomes even more evident when they walk him outside and he sees crates and crates of his weapons stored outside. What gets to him the most is when the terrorist refers to him as, the “most famous mass murderer in America.”
For a weapons designer who has been flaunting his inventions and presenting them as tools towards peace, this hits him like a slap in the face. And he gets tortured, and tortured, until he agrees to build them the Jericho.
He eventually complies, but we need to remember that Tony Stark is a genius, with one hell of an escape plan.
Now just take a look at that. Built out of scraps, in a cave, in the timespan of a week. Can anyone do better? I thought so.
Before he escaped the cave, he kneeled down to a dying Yinsen, the man who had been his assistant, translator, and most importantly his friend for the entire time he was held captive. His last words to Tony before he died had been, “Don’t waste your life, Stark.” And the above image of the crate of Stark Industries weapons being set on fire is symbolic to what’s coming next for Tony. He used his flamethrowers in his suit to burn his weapons in Afghanistan before flying away, the same way he then decided to remove the weapons division in his company the minute he returned.
This decision has a huge impact on his life, his legacy and also his company. Tony is put on a pedestal for his work as a weapons manufacturer, but the reason why he is valued so much is because of his Stark name. His father, Howard Stark, built the Stark empire from the ground and Tony carried it on. We hear Tony making references to “Dad” throughout the movie, which implies that his father had not only impacted his professional career, but also his personal life. And by cancelling the weapons division of his company, Tony is essentially recreating his own name and finally developing a brand that is made of his own ideals, not his father’s.
This is also the reason why Obadiah poses as a major threat to that, because Obadiah lived through Howard’s rule and expects Tony to conform to his old ways when there is clearly a conflict in ideals between the two of them. Tony though, being alone and having little support system in the industry (his father figure was trash, Rhodey works in the army and Pepper is more of a figure in his personal life) is unfortunately blind to Obadiah’s maliciousness at first, making him vulnerable to his schemes.
You’re All I Have
Does this scene get any better? We have Tony asking for help from Pepper, which she does – and it’s not an easy task, mind you – and he tells her this:
“You are the most capable, qualified, trustworthy person I’ve ever met, you’ll do great.”
This is why Tony and Pepper’s relationship works so well. He may be the genius, but Pepper is the one who constantly works to help Tony get his act together, and Tony doesn’t take that for granted. He respects her, and knows that without her he’d probably be lost. We don’t see much (or any) of Pepper’s personal life outside her job as well, which highlights just how dependent these two are on one another. And the fact that Tony trusts Pepper to handle his arc reactor – well, what more can that be other than a metaphor for Tony trusting Pepper with his heart.
Leeet’s just fast forward a bit. Does anyone want to see the new and improved Iron Man?
Okay, that was cool and all, but does anyone want to see the newer and even more improved Iron Man? Tadaaa.
Revelations and New Missions
I might have skipped over quite a bit there, so let me just give a brief rundown on what just happened. Tony crashes a party and dances with Pepper, and there is so much dear god, so much tension between them it makes me want to just smash their faces together (in a good way, of course). Tony is his usual self at the party, but once he gets a glimpse of Pepper there is something in his eyes that’s different than the way he usually eyes women.
Compare this to the way he looked at Christine in the beginning of the movie. He wore sunglasses at first, making us unable to read his face or his expressions, but even once he took them off it was clear that the way Tony was interacting with her was nothing more than his usual flirtatious self. He kept a straight face, indulged in a few suggestive remarks but there was nothing of real emotion behind it. He was just enjoying himself, as he always does, without giving much thought into it.
With Pepper though, you see him gazing at her with a look of awe in his face. He even stares at her for quite a few seconds before approaching her and asking her to dance, as if he was thinking it through. And anything that Tony Stark thinks through must be damn well worth it, because he is just about as impulsive as any superhero can ever get. So if he acts more cautiously around Pepper, even to the point where he stops himself from kissing her at the balcony (technically she pauses, but he did too) it really does show just how much he wants to make sure that he doesn’t do anything that would drive her away.
Apart from the incident with Pepper, Tony also learns of Obadiah’s malicious intents at the party and can I just say, he looked absolutely crushed the minute he found out what Obadiah had done. This is where Tony’s faith comes crashing to the ground because all of this time he thought that Obadiah was someone he could rely on. His devastation is then turned into determination to fix his mistakes, as he flies back to Afghanistan on a new solo mission to rescue a group of refugees from the terrorists who had held him captive.
To lighten up the mood, I have to say that the entire sequence with Tony rescuing the refugees made me smile. I especially loved the part after the rescue where he had the army (quite literally) on his tail while talking on the phone with Rhodey. And the running joke about a training exercise? Yeah, I’ll take that one.
I Am Iron Man
There’s not much for me to say about the final moments of the movie apart from the fact that Tony kicked ass. I mean, I could go on about the details of the final battle against Obadiah but I think the most important thing to take away from the scene was the fact that Tony had finally found a purpose in his life. In the beginning of the movie, he didn’t have much of a purpose. He was oblivious to the destruction that he had caused and naive to threats surrounding him, and I think that very much stems from his deep-rooted loneliness, which he constantly tries to gloss over with his overindulgent lifestyle.
But then we see Tony facing his mistakes, dealing with the damage he had caused and more importantly, trying to steer his life in a new direction. He hasn’t changed completely, but he has finally taken a turn for the better. He has Rhodey and Pepper as his support system, the two people he knows he can fully trust. And with his new armour, he has created a new identity for himself and therefore embraced the title of Iron Man.
Even in the end, when Obadiah claims that he had built a suit better than his in “every possible way” Tony had spotted its weaknesses way before Obadiah came crashing down. Goes to prove that Tony isn’t just a self-proclaimed genius, but that there really is no one else who has a more brilliant mind.
It’s a great story, which made a great movie – and that’s what makes Tony Stark one of my favourite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s definitely more complicated than a lot of the other characters, but what I admire most about him is the way he puts the needs of others before his own, even when he has a lot to lose. So Tony Stark does play by his own rules, and even though you may not like them, they sure as hell are better than yours.