Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Iron Apologetics

The following post contains spoilers for Iron Man 3 and, possibly, the existence of God.

If I believed in a benevolent creator, I could see myself being a huge fan of the guy. Not only would I owe my own existence to him/her/it, but also would I credit him/her/it for the existence of my friends, my family, my planet--basically everything that matters to me. Religion understandably has it’s share of fanatics, but for those who see no reason to believe, we direct our fandom elsewhere...like movies.

I saw Iron Man 3 this weekend. Robert Downey Jr. really owns the role and the inclusion of Guy Pierce as the villain was a great choice. As with most summer blockbusters, it is an explosive spectacle with a passable story as long as you don’t think about it too hard. I, unfortunately, thought about it too hard. I can’t help myself. (If you haven’t seen the movie and like the film of Marvel Studios, go see it. Spoilers begin now.)

Tony Stark spends the lion’s share of the movie out of the armor. This isn’t THAT surprising. Downey Jr’s ability to convey emotion is severely limited when he has a metal hood over his face. And, hey, why cover the cash register? The result of this choice puts the character in harms way pretty much the entire flick. I doubt the audience is worried that the most popular Avenger in the franchise will die, but, in theory, he is almost always killable to any guy with a gun. This leads me to what takes me out of movies most often--characters not acting like real, intelligent people. Tony Stark is always the smartest guy in the room, so if he is forced to MacGyver weapons out of groceries, I assume it’s because he has no other choice. Later in the movie they show that this was never the case--revealing the biggest plot hole of many plot holes. Tony Stark simply calls upon an army of automated Iron Men. Sure, it allows for a big climax, but it also throws into question why Stark never called upon just one or two Iron Men armors much earlier.

Here you may ask: are you going to bring this back to religion or are you turning this into a movie review blog? It’s the former. I’ve found that movie franchises, especially those catering to the demographic I lovingly call geeks, inspire a kind of irrational loyalty at times. I’ve mentioned this plot hole to Marvel fans in the past 48 hours and have been met with rationalizations that are far too charitable to what was actually shown on screen and hostile toward any critical views. Here are some reasons I heard as to why this plot hole is not a plot hole.

  1. The armors were trapped under the ruble of Stark’s demolished home.
  2. Tony couldn’t summon the armors because he had no way to contact JARVIS.
  3. JARVIS couldn’t connect to the home server.
  4. Tony was trying to stay under the radar when he was presumed dead.
  5. It never occurred to Tony until the moment he used the protocol.

Each of these are grasps at straws to rationalize an emotional belief that the franchise they love is perfect. An critical assessment of these rationalizations shows they break down quite quickly.

  1. If the armor was buried, then Tony also couldn’t summon them when he eventually did. If they weren’t buried, then he could summon them anytime.
  2. Tony could have asked JARVIS to summon the armor before JARVIS went offline. He could have asked JARVIS when Tony got him online again, which happened long before he finally called on the armor,
  3. Tony sent a message to Pepper very shortly after his disappearance showing that either his home server was accessible or that Pepper could have made it accessible.
  4. Disregarding the fact the no one should have presumed Tony dead considering Iron Man shot into the sky not far from the attack on his house where news coverage was present, Tony openly admitted who he was to anyone who saw him. Also, he obviously had more desire to have an armor than to stay concealed since he was working on fixing his suit from the moment it was disabled.
  5. Tony Stark isn’t an idiot.

Weak reasoning based on assumptions to defend what is an emotional faith in a franchise is essentially secular apologetics. This is just one example. Last year, negative reviews for The Dark Knight Rises prompted death threats from fanatics who hadn’t yet seen the movie. In the tech world, the Apple/Android/Windows faithful refuse to see design flaws in their favorite gadgets; instead, they are "features."

Am I over thinking this? Perhaps. Next week I’ll explore the theological implications of The Fast and the Furious 6.


  1. There's often one or two plot holes in these sorts of things, but if the rest of the film is decent enough (which Iron Man 3 most definitely was) you can forgive it.

    How'd you find the Mandarin twist?

  2. There are certainly plot holes, President is kidnapped and they don't call SHIELD or Captain America?, but the armor army isn't one of them. Reason One above is stated in the movie, the armor is under rubble. A few minutes before Tony summons the armor, Jarvis gives him an update on the constriction crew digging out the basement making it possible to get the armor. This crew is visible when the armor actually launches.

    1. That right? I missed that. I guess I'll have to update this post. It seems odd that the crew was even needed since the suits could be used remotely to dig themselves out, but maybe I'm the one rationalizing now.

      Even without this particular example, the general theme of the post is still revelant. That said, clearly I'm an idiot.

    2. I'm not sure if the digging excuse holds up.

      1) Why wait at all to call an army of iron man drones? Instead of crudely shooting pianos at the helicopters couldn't he have initially launched his drone army?

      2) Surely a couple dozen iron man drones can push aside some friggin rubble. The one fat one held up an entire structure at the end of the movie.

      But there's another plot hole that annoyed me the most. Does Tony Stark really have absolutely no defense at his home? Hasn't it already been destroyed once (or twice? my memory isn't that good). Can he really not detect a rocket heading at his face until he sees it on the evening news?

      I blame The Avengers for this movie's badness. They can't have Tony Stark battle a normal enemy anymore so they had to come up with a contrived handicap (a not-quite-battle-ready prototype suit) to make it seem reasonable that the guy who can go toe-to-toe with Thor struggles with a regular Iron Man type villain.

  3. I'm definitely not a religious fanatic but I'm thinking I would enjoy this type of science fiction action movie about as much as I would enjoy going to a speak in tongues, holy roller, pentecostal church service. I prefer scenes with more realistic and beautiful substance.