Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iron Man and the Imperialist Mindset

A MOVIE REVIEW by King Wenclas

THERE ARE many good things about the "Iron Man" movie which has done land office business at the box office. Like many such comic book movies, it understands the basics of classic storytelling: sweep; adventure; troubled heroes fighting malicious evil. My favorite sequence is when the hero, Tony Stark, creates his suit of glowing armor while being held captive in a cave. This is right out of "The Iliad"-- the creation of Achilles's shield. It encapsulates the pure joy of creation, which so defines us as human beings. Wonderfully done; thrilling to watch.

For all its classic aspects, however, the movie is definitely of this time and place, showing where we are now as a civilization; how far we've come from the "conservative" Fifties when action movies were named "Viva Zapata!" and blockbusters like "Ben-Hur" had an anti-Imperialist viewpoint. How far we've morally declined.

It's scary that after five years of a disastrously expensive war, U.S. intervention in the world remains a given.

In "Iron Man" the U.S. Army patrols the globe, cameras surveying every corner. Our Roman soldiers are triumphant Messalas. The grubby Bad Guys' chief flaw if their lack of technology, as an arrogant American arms dealer tells them. Power is the only value.

Two revealing moments:

1.) The conscience of the movie is provided by a WASPy liberal Vanity Fair(!) journalist who's a graduate of Brown-- only the snobbiest, most patrician of the Ivy League establishment training schools. Her liberalism is not a criticism of the System, but a reminder that Empire must be benevolent. She WANTS the Tony Starks of the world out there, only representing good as they interfere with other societies across the globe. (Iron Man's speedy traversal of that globe a metaphor for America's police powers.)

2.) The Brown grad's ethos is underscored by the movie's key turning point, when Stark/Iron Man listens to a female BBC voice-- the British voice of Empire; used as such, ironically, in films like "Ben-Hur" in which the Romans carried Brit accents and were the bad guys. Things have changed!

The BBC voice relates tragedies around the world; horrific happenings. Its message to Stark: Get involved! Go after them! Impose American power! Which Stark as Iron Man does, splattering evil grubby ethnic villains all over the place. Entertaining, but also revealing of the Imperialist ideology which now runs our country.

1 comment:

BradyDale said...

I have to mildly disagree with you here. The Vanity Fair reporter (who just gets more interesting the more times you watch the movie) is actually pressing Stark to take responsibility for his work.

It isn't "go intervene in 3rd world conflicts" it's "go stop people in the 3rd world from using your weapons."

The story of Stark in the movie and in the comics is of a man who builds weapons only believing that the good guys are using them. Then he later realizes that his tech is in the hands of bad guys and, in fact, that the good guys aren't so good.

In the comics, Stark eventually gives up weapons.

Sooo... I don't think it's quite so imperialistic. Stark is trying to make up for past crimes. Remember, he didn't believe his guns were used by anyone but America and its allies.

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