Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Iron Man and Marvel Action Flicks

This is a couple of posts from facebook:

Gregory Feeley suggested that Iron Man is the story of Hamlet: Stark's father is dead and his foster father is a monster, as he discovers. I wrote:
We were discussing Iron Man as a Hollywood version of Hamlet, Gregory's idea, which I can pretty much see. In that case, Thor is a Hollywood version of Othello -- the strong, simple hero tricked by a manipulative sneak. I saw Thor as similar to Othello, because Loki is played so much like Iago, though the movie gives Loki motivations, which Iago does not have. I can't see any play by Shakespeare in Captain America.

I saw Thor as the story of a god learning to be a decent human being, and Captain America as a decent human being learning to be an almost god. I'm less sure about Iron Man. At the start Tony Stark is rich, famous and brilliant, with everything except a human heart. At the end he has a damaged, vulnerable heart that is able to feel and an awesome suit. What does this mean? Stark is cognate with the Old Norse word sterkr, which means strong. In English, it means sheer, bleak, complete, desolate and a lot of similar terms. Stark mad. Stark naked. I think the primary meaning here would be bleak or desolate.

Josh Lukin pointed out that the comic's creators would have known the word "stark" from Yiddish, where it means strong. So Tony Stark's name probably means strong, with secondary meanings of sheer, bleak and desolate. His life in the movie is pretty desolate.
We saw Iron Man again last night. I think Jeff Bridges does a good job with his role (which is Stark's foster father). He is playing Obediah as a sociopath, and I think that works. The movie devotes most of its time to tinkering and action, so there isn't a lot of time left for character development and back story. There's a lot we don't know about all the characters. I am more troubled by the Magic Afghan, who helps Tony build the first suit and dies to save Tony; and I'm also troubled by Tony blazing his way around the world to save an Afghan village. It feels a bit creepy, given the extent to which current Afghan problems are caused by foreign invasions, including an American invasion. On the other hand, the moral ambiguity or darkness around Tony's line of business (armaments) is nicely done.
Tony is the merchant of death as a superhero, which is different.


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