The Nature of a Hero in Iron Man

In preparation for the opening of the Avengers film in the upcoming weekend, and in true geek fashion, I’ve been embarking on a week-long series of watching the rest of the Avengers cinematic canon in order, from Iron Man through Captain America. So far, I’m two films in since Thursday. My ingenious plan to take over the blogosphere that is resulting from this is to do a short post for each of the previous films, and how they relate to my thoughts on the nature of a hero. Then I’ll post a review of the Avengers film when I’ve seen it (disclaimer: I’ve been known to skip opening weekend in order to enjoy a film with the absence of opening night insanity. Time will tell if I do this for the Avengers…my excitement may just win out, in this case).

I began my retrospective, then, with Iron Man. Tony Stark is the first Avenger we see in the film histories, and he is at his narcissistic best when we meet him. Thriving on a business of arms production that he inherited from his father, reaping the enormous financial benefits of a corporation that makes weaponry for war zones and sleeping at night in a sort of willful ignorance about the sticky ramifications of where his weapons may be ending up for less than honorable purposes. Not until Stark is captured by terrorists who intend to force him to build his weapons for them does he see his technology in the use of the other side, deployed for the slaughter of innocents and perpetuation of nefarious regimes. We know, of course, that it is in this captivity that he builds the prototype armor that will evolve into the Iron Man identity, and he does so with the assistance of a fellow captor. During his escape, his fellow captor (who claims to have met Stark years ago at a formal function, but who Stark cannot, of course, remember), sacrifices himself in order to assure Stark’s success. With his dying breaths, he tells an already guilt-ridden Stark that he has been given his life back, and that he should not waste it.

This is beginning of the end for Tony Stark’s intentional naiveté, and he begins to ask questions of what his company is doing. Suddenly, he is able to see that his technology can be found in various war zones being used by evildoers, and he vows that his company will stop making weapons. When the company continues its weapons business in spite of him, he assumes the Iron Man identity to use his own technology to defeat what he has already built, taking on a singular focus of ridding the world of an evil that he created (he tells Pepper Potts later in the movie that this is “all there is”).

Tony becomes a hero when he chooses to live out the forgiveness that he has received, to act out redemption on whatever parts of the world that he can impact. Of course, he does not experience a complete change: we still see an arrogant and self-absorbed Stark in the second movie. Tony Stark, however, assumes the mantle of a hero because he has been forgiven much, and chooses to not waste the redemption that he has been offered.

Going in order, my next post will on the Incredible Hulk.

Photo Attribution: mikequozl

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