I recently had the chance to see “Iron Man 3,” and I must say it is a dazzling sight to behold. Here, I will briefly comment on a few themes. Be aware that there will be major SPOILERS in this post, so stop reading now if you do not wish to have major plot points revealed.
Science and Ethics
One of the recurring themes throughout the film is the notion that there is a real interplay between doing science (and other activities) and ethics. That is, the practice of science is more complex than abstract notions of lab work without any strings attached. Aldrich Killian is a disabled man who longs to transcend the body he was given. He wants to help others who have physical problems. When he is rejected by Tony Stark, he falls to extreme measures to finally cure himself and start “helping” others.
Many characters are seen raising this same issue. Their motivations start out pure: they want to help people, they want to save others, but they ultimately have that dream tainted. They don’t get the funding they need; they are rejected by the people they care about; their experiments don’t turn out as expected. One can see the human predicament here: we too often and easily let ourselves fall from our ideals. We are willing to make a compromise to get towards a “greater good,” yet once we look back, we discover a sea of wrongdoing.
The very brief discussion about scientific funding and the like is worth noting. It is often thought that scientists are some kind of demigods, doing their research and learning things just because they can. But the reality is that funding is very often an issue, that ethical considerations come into the research that is sought, and that people are involved in the scientific enterprise. These are important points to remember.
The Fall and the Human Predicament
The notion of a “fall” is intertwined with the discussion on ethics and science above. The “bad guys” all have aspects which are pitiable. The opening scene with Aldrich leaves one pitying him rather than seeing him as some kind of evil person. Thus, there is development from him as an object of sympathy to an evil man. The development is abrupt, but it can be seen how this development would occur. When someone makes the decision to choose evil rather than good, there is a very real “fall” which goes along with it.
Other characters experience similar difficulties, but perhaps the most interesting is that of Tony Stark himself. He is the billionaire hotshot who could get anything he wants, yet he suffers from bouts of panic and anxiety attacks. He is human, after all. The human predicament is aptly illustrated through the character of Tony Stark. I could almost hear the words of Ecclesiastes echo over his attempts to use his wealth and “charm” to get through everything: “Meaningless, meaningless… everything is meaningless [under the sun]” (see Ecclesiastes 1ff). No matter what heights we attain, we are ultimately grounded within our own sinful nature. We cannot get past it by our own power.
On a personal note, this part of the film was most disturbing for me. My wife was born without her left arm. In “Iron Man 3,” the “bad guys” almost all turn out to be those who are affected by disabilities. They go to Aldrich to get their missing limbs regrown; they are willing to betray their country to help a child who is missing a limb; Aldrich himself is motivated by his desire to overcome his disability. I couldn’t help but think that the film therefore presents a dim view of those with physical disabilities. There were no counterbalances given; it seemed that the operating assumption was if someone is missing a limb or suffering from other physical disabilities, they would be willing to go to almost any extreme to fix it.
Now, I’ll grant that some of these people seem to have been unknowingly used by Aldrich. I admit my personal feelings in this issue up front because I may be overly critical here. Yet I know of other superhero films in recent memory that use this same theme: those with disabilities often turn out to be the bad guys, and they are willing to kill in order to overcome them.
Here, I have only written up some very brief thoughts on the film. I believe those who go to see it will be able to come away with a number of talking points. The interplay between science and ethics was of great interest. The portrayal of disabilities was, perhaps, questionable, and there were moral issues raised throughout. Please leave a comment and let me know your own thoughts on the movie.
Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.” I often ask questions for readers and give links related to interests on this site.
A Christian Look at “The Avengers”– I examine a number of other themes in “The Avengers” which Christians and non-Christians can discuss.
If you love these types of movies, let me commend John Carter to you. Check out my post on the film for some awesome themes.
Engaging Culture: A Brief Guide for movies– I reflect on how Christians can engage with popular movies in order to have meaningful conversations with those around them.
Be sure to check out other looks at movies that I have written (scroll down for more).
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My I use you’re “ironman” blog post as a typing exercise for my students?
Live ready, Mike Schreck Northside Christian Academy
Yes, feel free.
FILMS FEATURING CARTOON CHARACTERS AND PERCEPTIONS REGARDING TERRORISM
Posted on 08/05/2013 by sjk
Watching Iron Man 3 last night prompted these idle meanderings re the nature of the psychology of terrorism. Iron Man 3, perhaps and by the way, seems the best of the Iron Man films… so far. I say so far because I suspect that, as the credits at the end said, Tony Stark will be back. Stark desire for money, stark desire to see how long we can spin this out, stark desire to keep the audience in their seat until the last credit has expired into darkness.
Still. I liked the film and I liked most its treatment of the US phobia re characters who look like Bin Laden, the psychology of terror, the use of media to manipulate a so-easily-manipulated public. Ben Kingsley’s manufactured terrorist was a character and thematic treat and I feel the screen play meant to make us think about how we perceive terrorism and terrorists. Perhaps being a cartoon-inspired film allowed this film a gentle chiding of America’s preoccupation with certain perceptions of terrorism. After all, who takes cartoons seriously.
PS Hello J.W. Warwick – I liked your observations regarding the film’s constructions on questions of science and ethics. I think this is another reason I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would.
Thanks for this excellent post. I appreciated the points you made. I would like to tell you about a real life hero who played one in a movie, as a double amputee, and that is one of the characters in the movie Battleship. He is real life double amputee combat veteran who literally kicks butt against aliens and shows tremendous character. It bothers me when the ‘bad guys’ either are shown disabled or shown using the disabled as well, but when I see characters who are truly heroic I want to share them. God bless.
That is awesome. Thank you for sharing that with me.
You are welcome!
This was a wonderful article with good points dealing with science and ethics while looking at Iron Man 3.
Ethics, to me, seems to bethe underlying current of scientific research. Why do the research? What results is the scientist(s) looking for?
But I think that if a person does not give their life over to Christ to be guided by Him, then their decision-making could be swayed either way. And if they commit an evil act with their research, they will try to justify the evil done with some warped view of what they believe is “good.”
Oddly, I think of Kermit Gosnell for some reason.
Anyway, God bless you!
I do think you are partially right here in the possibility of commitment to the “greater good” as a theme in science. However, I do not think it is limited only to non-Christians.
Reblogged this on The Edge of the Wilderness.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but (right or wrong), the use of a physical deformity to indicate a character flaw (in both antagonists and protagonists) is a well-established technique in storytelling, particularly in visual mediums. I’ll wait until I see the movie before I can agree/disagree on whether I thought the use of physical deformity was a commentary on disabled people in general.