Friday, September 28, 2007

Iron Man Lives Again

It is foolish to judge a movie too extensively by the trailer. I absolutely loved the first trailer for Superman Returns:

And the movie was, frankly, disappointing. Or consider the shock undoubtedly felt by anyone who went into the recent Bridge to Terabithia film (a film I highly recommend, incidentally) with only the trailer to prepare them:

Despite all of this, I want to talk about Iron Man. The teaser trailer to the upcoming Iron Man film is currently available on youtube. It is fairly likely to be taken down soon, but in the mean time, check it out:

In original publication, Iron Man (Tony Stark) was a billionaire industrialist and weapons manufacturer during the Vietnam War who was kidnapped by the North Vietnamese. He was forced to build weapons for them, but secretly and simultaneously built an armoured suit for himself. Calling himself "Iron Man", Stark fought for capitalism against communism in Vietnam. As Marvel began to realize that public support for Vietnam was waning, Iron Man fought less and less for American interests in Vietnam and more and more for his corporate interests against industrial espionage. Most recently, Iron Man has gained prominance in the Marvel Universe event Civil War as Captain America's enemy, leader of the pro-registration superheroes. In the course of Civil War, Captain America was killed. More on that part in a minute.

In this updated version, it looks very much like Iraq has been substituted for Vietnam. I can't help but wonder if this is, on Marvel's part, a subversive move--comparing Iraq to Vietnam and implicitly condemning both, or is it a remarkably shortsighted repeat of the exact error made with Iron Man's first origin story. Is Marvel once again behind the trend of popular opinion, making a hero support a war the American public is rapidly becoming disillusioned with?

On the topic of "Civil War", originally Marvel apparently attempted to impartially portray both sides, to encourage readers to choose a side without either side being "good". As time went on, however, it became increasingly difficult to side against Captain America and the superheroes fighting for civil liberties. Civil War became a commentary on the state of American politics, and the creators of the Marvel Universe seemed to support freedom over safety when forced to choose.

Iron Man was on the wrong side of that fight. As Civil War went on, he and his side of the conflict became increasingly Fascist and increasingly difficult to support. When they killed Captain America (and symbolically the spirit of the nation), it became almost impossible to stay on Iron Man's side.

It is into this context that a new movie is being released: a movie in which Stark proudly manufactures weapons, in which he calls for those weapons to be used "ONCE!", implying that their destructive power is such that they invoke fear in all enemies (remind anyone of any historical weapon?). In the trailer the sadistic glee with which he sprays fire at his enemies (Iraqis? at least arabs) while Black Sabbath (Iron Man, of course) plays in the background makes me wonder, once again, whether this is a subversive and ironic critique of fascism, or a wholehearted approval. We'll see when the movie comes out.

8 comments: said...

"When they killed Captain America (and symbolically the spirit of the nation), it became almost impossible to stay on Iron Man's side."

Um, it was a rogue assassin employed by Captain America's long time enemy The Red Skull that was responsible for Cap's death... NOT Tony Stark.


Paul said...
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Paul said...

Sorry to be unclear, by "They" I mean Marvel Comics. When Marvel killed Captain America they made him a martyr and effectively made his side infinitely more sympathetic.

Templar said...

Captain America's "side" can only be sympathetic to juvenile anarchists.

Sam Norton said...

Um... isn't there a change of heart between Tony-Stark-evil-industrialist and Tony-Stark-chastened-IronMan? And as I read the comics Stark is becoming profoundly disillusioned with the consequences of the Civil War ('Was it worth it? No....')
But I'm not fully up to date on the story as I read the TPBs.

D. G. D. Davidson said...

I always thought someone should make a movie about a wrong-headed sadistic killer who tries to make things better by murdering people to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," though I had in mind a time-traveler whose body slowly turns to steel because of, you know, sort of like in the song. Could this be another sign of my movie-prophecy powers, or just an example of a filmmaker doing the obvious?

Gabriel Mckee said...

The Vietnam-to-Iraq update follows a recent retcon in the comics. Warren Ellis penned the most recent relaunch of Iron Man 2 (3? dang, time flies) years ago, with scenes from a reimagined origin story set in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Normally this kind of thing bugs me, generally because it's done without any reason or cause (*cough*Straczynski's Dr. Strange*cough*). Ellis made it fit into the bigger picture of both the character and the story he was telling, though, so I can forgive it.

And of course, they always gotta make things new for the movies.

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