Minor Spoilers Within
Mr. Anthony Stark is Iron Man.
We have received four delightful movies starring the brilliant Robert Downey, Jr., and I thought it was the right time for a rousing character analysis of his version of Tony. I shall concentrate on my favorite of the series and the most recent incarnation: Iron Man 3.
Conscious Desire: To find the Mandarin, protect and save Pepper, and save the day in the end.
Unconscious Desire: To come home–he’s still in that cave, still creating armor to protect himself from any and all bad guys. Once he realizes even his armor can’t protect him or the one he loves, he’s lost until he finds out that the armor…is within him all along. *wipes away a tear* Well, and the fact that Pepper can take care of herself now. But I digress.
From the beginning, RDJ already seemed like the perfect guy to play Iron Man. And the ad-libbing that he brings to the character, and the wordplay with Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow) creates something very unique, not seen in other superhero films (or many newer films, for that matter). And he was excellently done in Avengers, being the cynical, modern guy, a huge contrast in comparison to the trusting, innocent Steve Rogers/Captain America. Our Tony got most of the best lines, and pretty much the biggest character and heroic moment in the franchise.
And Iron Man 3 was right to milk this for all it was worth.
The beginning of the movie starts with Tony showing several signs of some kind of anxiety problem, having a panic attack or some kind of nervous incident in a restaurant. There have been several really awesome articles on this (just google Tony Stark PTSD). Besides Batman, we haven’t really seen Marvel delve into this side of the superhero coin–what happens when our heroes have to deal with the human part of being human? After all, Tony himself always says he’s just a guy in a suit. We see that very statement played for keeps in IM3. He’s actually barely in the suit at all! He drags the thing through the woods, it gets broken constantly, he ends up infiltrating a compound using things he invents on the fly, etc. I thought it was incredible that they were allowed to get away with this, I would assume there was a board of suits that demand that Iron Man is in his suit fighting goons in regular fifteen minute intervals. I’m a big comic book fan because of this very thing–seeing the heroes deal with the human side of things. I like stories about Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Steve Rogers–not necessarily Batman, Superman, and Captain America. They are ‘heroes’, they are public personas, they are archetypes and not human or relatable. Bruce Wayne is a kid who just wants his parents back, Clark Kent is a guy trying to make the world a little bit better than the day before, Steve Rogers loves his country. Tony Stark is just a guy trying to protect his girlfriend and deal with some bad dreams. Of course, those bad dreams are because he’s trying to deal with the fact that he suffered a particularly horrifying trauma, and needed to talk to someone about it but didn’t know how. Everyone can relate to being afraid. Everyone can relate to wanting to protect someone. Tony Stark wasn’t the playboy billionaire philanthropist. He was a guy. Just a guy in a blue shirt, trying to get home, in more ways than one. Seeing his house destroyed was great symbolism–his public persona, his fun-loving old self was gone. (The beginning scene in 1999 was also a great juxtaposition.) If this was the comics, this would be the future Tony that gave up drinking.
He’s fallible, he makes mistakes, he’s funny, and he can “fix stuff”. He’s a mechanic. He’s a person. And he’s Iron Man.
And that is why Iron Man 3 is my new favorite movie of the entire Marvel franchise.