Iron Man 3 – Review
Iron Man 3 is what we’ve come to expect from the franchise. The dialogue is witty and snarky. The action is non-stop. The characters are flawed, but it’s their very flaws that make them feel real and likeable (and a little more accessible), and as they grow and change, they challenge us to become better as well. This particular installment had the added bonus of some actual depth and vulnerability. (I confess – I don’t remember the past Iron Man movies well enough to say if this had more than usual compared to them, but it certainly had more than usual when compared to the standard summer action blockbuster films.)
The whole movie is rather centered on the idea of how a few seemingly insignificant choices, thoughtless moments, or even good intentions in the past can cause gargantuan problems in the future.
Iron Man 3 starts with Tony Stark thinking back on his past. “The old days—never thought they’d come back to haunt me. Why would they? I had just created demons, and I didn’t even know it.” He didn’t know he had created demons because he hadn’t intentionally done anything bad, per se. His sin was that he didn’t think of his fellow man. When a very uncool and slightly odd scientist, Aldrich Killian approached the ever suave and in demand Tony Stark at an inopportune moment, Stark rudely dismissed him. Then he promised to meet the man later, but stood him up and made him feel like a fool, like a person who didn’t count. And in truth – he didn’t count in Stark’s eyes.
That insult seemed like nothing to Stark. In fact, he felt Killian sort of deserved what he got for his indiscretion in approaching Stark in the first place. He never thought about the man again. That man, however, never forgot how Stark made him feel and it motivated him to revenge. What was a thoughtless moment, an insignificant choice, a forgotten encounter to Tony Stark was a moment of cruelty and insult never to be forgotten by Killian. That moment caused an entire blockbuster movie’s worth of conflict, pain and danger.
Killian connected with another scientist from Tony’s past (a one-night stand of his…which has interesting implications of its own). Maya’s story is a little different from Tony’s. She wasn’t careless or selfish or hurtful of others…and yet, she too found herself on the wrong side of a conflict that she had unwittingly created. As she put it, “So we all started out pure science, wide eyed. And when we looked up we were all on the wrong shore.” Maya was ambitious and brilliant and excited about the possibilities of the work they were doing. Somewhere along the way, however, her love and pursuit of science lost its purity. Before long, she realized her scientific work had become dangerous and dark, and she was right there in the middle of it.
With Tony’s situation, we can at least see that he was partly to blame. With Maya, however, it’s a little more difficult to swallow. Neither of them really saw the trouble coming – but with Maya, it’s harder to place blame. (Placing blame somehow makes us feel better, because we like cause and effect—we like to think that we can control things and avoid those mistakes and that’s easier to do if we can see where others went wrong.) Maya was innocent—she was a good person with good intentions who was in love with her work. Maya may have been innocent, but she was foolish. She didn’t see the problems coming; she didn’t anticipate the danger. Her naivety cost her.
So we have two people who got into trouble because of their actions in the past. Neither saw it coming, but in hindsight, both saw they had some responsibility for it. There’s one other person and one other perspective to consider in this though, and that’s Aldrich Killian – the one causing the problems. Killian isn’t surprised by how past decisions caught up to him. He is far more aware and intentional.
In fact, because of the darkness inside himself, Killian is very attuned to the cunning of evil. Far from being surprised by it, he actually uses that to his own advantage. Killian knows that if people see the danger, they’ll avoid it. If they see an evil, they’ll fight against it. This is why Killian invents The Mandarin. He wants to stay under the radar himself, where he can do the most harm, so he gives people a false target instead. The Mandarin is just an actor, pretending to be evil and scary. It’s a classic case of misdirection. Everyone is so preoccupied with The Mandarin they have missed the bigger danger.
The Verve Pipe wrote a song called The Freshman in the 90’s and it had a lyric that has haunted me through the years: “We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip.” I have this vision of us as humans, walking across a frozen lake. Satan’s there, putting up signs all over the place saying, “Caution: Slippery” – and we are all so aware of the danger of slipping and so cautious about how we walk…and worse, we feel so very safe because we are being so careful. How naïve. The real danger isn’t that we would slip. The real danger is that the ice is thin and might break. We don’t need to worry about slipping; we need to worry about falling in. We need to get off the ice altogether, but we don’t see that. We have a false sense of security. It’s classic misdirection.
So what can we learn from this? From Tony Stark we learn that we need to do right by others. We learn that small things, like thoughts or decisions or brief moments or insignificant interactions, are all just little seeds, seeds that grow into plants of monstrous size later. From Maya we learn that good intentions aren’t enough. They must be tempered with wisdom and foresight. Good intentions, foolishly placed are just fertile grounds for bad seeds to grow. And from Killian we learn a little about how the enemy works. We learn that he is cunning and he works by misdirection. We learn that he takes advantage of our little mistakes and our good intentions.
Here are a few applicable verses that have been on my mind as I’ve been writing this – hopefully the light of scripture will illuminate these issues more clearly:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12
“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9a
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.’
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5b-7
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
Questions for Discussion:
- The relationship between Stark and Aldrich Killian brings up the issue of bullying. Did Stark realize he was hurting Killian? Did he care? How did it make Killian feel? What happened as a result? Have you ever bullied someone without really realizing it – just because you didn’t really care about their feelings? Have you ever been bullied?
- Maya’s good intentions weren’t enough to protect her from going down a bad path. Have you ever thought that good intentions were enough to protect you? Have you ever been wrong and found that your good intentions weren’t protection enough, and you still ended up on the wrong path, or the wrong side of the shore, as Maya put it?
- Good intentions are important, but so is wisdom. How did Maya lack wisdom? How do you think a relationship with God can help you have wisdom? There are several verses above about wisdom, what can you learn from those? (What could Maya have learned from those verses?)
- Little seeds grow into big trees. Iron Man 3 focuses more on bad seeds that were planted, but the same is true for good seeds too. What are some little moments in your life, little seeds, little things that seemed insignificant at the time, but which later turned out to be seeds that grew into something big? Can you think of examples of both good and bad seeds?
- Killian invented the Mandarin so that people would be focused on the wrong thing and never realize the real danger that was out there. Have you ever been looking out for danger, only to realize later that you were alerted to the wrong enemy? Have you ever worried about slipping on the ice, only to find out that you should have been concerned with falling through the ice?
- What areas in your life do you think the enemy might be trying to deceive you, misdirect you, or keep you naïve? How can you guard/protect yourself against that? Do you think the Bible/God can help with that? How? (Or why not?)
Review by Stacey Tuttle