As new parents we have precious little time to do some of the things we used to do. Between work and writing and trying to make writing my work we don’t get out much. So on Sunday when our friend Leah volunteered to watch Max we jumped at the chance. My god yes. Let’s go to the movies! I was so excited. The last movie we saw in the theater was in November, and from a guy who used to take in 2 movies at a time sometimes twice a week, that’s a very long time. We looked over our pickings and knew we would of course go see a big Summer movie. It’s Summer movie season, we could have gone further and seen something smaller, an intimate film, but fuck that, we wanted big. We wanted to see something where things exploded, we laughed, and walked out of the theater transported. So we chose Ironman 3.
One of my favorite things about going to a movie is the ritual. It’s like the moment before any big event you look forward to, but for me, movies have always been extra special. I love everything from the moment I decide to go, to making sure I get there for all the previews, no matter what they are. Walking into a theater the first thing I do is sniff the air. I love the way it smells. Then I find seats 8 aisles from the front, depending on the theater this could be closer or further, then I sit and wait, and unlike some, I enjoy the wait. These days you can’t just sit in the dim light waiting for that magical flicker on the wall, no, you must sit through commercials for television shows and making of features for date movies. Your mind is no longer allowed to wander, to dream about the dreams you will see before you in a few minutes. It’s even harder to have that pre-movie talk if you’re with another person. That talk is now dictated by what is on the screen. Your conversation turns in topic because of someone’s sales numbers.
All this goes all the way back to my very first movie theater experience. I remember being a kid of 5 or 6, growing up in the south. We had this theater that was the old fashioned two story kind, with the balcony, fancy architecture, and perpetually falling apart, that was eventually renovated to become a performing arts space. Of course in the South that balcony used to be reserved for African Americans, and though in the 70’s, when I was taken there, segregation was legally long over, if you’ve ever lived in the south, you know it takes a long time to forget anything. I’m just trying to paint a picture with this. Me, a little redheaded boy who is 5 or 6 with twenty or thirty other 5 or 6 year olds, at 11am in the morning in an old broken down movie theater where there are still people of color sitting in the balcony, and we are all here, sitting in the dark, for one reason. Godzilla.
My preschool had this ritual of taking it’s classes to the movies every week to see Godzilla movies. I’m sure there were other kinds of movies but I don’t remember those, I only remember the King of Monsters towering over Tokyo, trampling everything in his path. There are questions I have about if taking a group of preschoolers to see a movie about a monster that destroys a city was a good idea, but I mostly try to push those away, because no matter if it was good or bad for a group of impressionable children, I loved those movies. My favorites were the ones when Godzilla became a protector of the people. When he would be called to help rather than wreak destruction indiscriminately. I preferred not to think of him as a metaphor for the results the atom bombs left in Japan at the end or WWII, but to think of him as a friendly creature. That if he did step on you, would feel terrible about it, and probably need to sit down, like a sad old man in his broken city, and think about what he had done. I mean after all, he is huge. I’m sure he must have stepped on people by accident from time to time. As a kid I liked to think that made him sad, that Godzilla was a contemplative monster, who was lonely because he was after all, very alone. There was only one Godzilla, and though in later movies there were other monsters, rarely did Godzilla make friends, at that point he defended humanity. (There were exceptions of course: See Monster Island) At the time my young mind liked to think of nature as an organized system that allowed for good and bad to be separate, and under no circumstances would something happen for no reason. Everything had it’s place and order was the name of the game. If you have seen the first Godzilla, though there are reasons for his appearance, the movie is very scary, because like many bad things, it just seems to happen out of no where. He comes out of the ocean and lays waste to humanity.
“Godzilla is the son of the atomic bomb. He is a nightmare created out of the darkness of the human soul. He is the sacred beast of the apocalypse.”
So anyway…it’s not really a movie for kids, but, In my opinion it’s one of the great monster stories because of the way it took reality and anthropomorphized it. Since then it’s been done countless times, sometimes well, sometimes not.
While I was watching it, Ironman 3 was fun. I laughed in all the right places and was appropriately surprised when I needed to be. I had a good time, and like I said, was glad to be in the movies at all. Then afterwards I actually thought about it.
The plot breaks down like this. Tony Stark, Robert Downy jr, doing pretty much the same thing he’s done in the other two movies, is suffering from a bad case of PTSD because of what happened to him in The Avengers, which, to be honest, I don’t really remember. It had something to do with a wormhole, I know this because people kept talking about it, not because I actually know it. He’s not sleeping and forever tinkering with various incarnations of his suits. Pepper Potts, Gweneth Paltrow, (See description for RDJ) is getting tired of this seemingly endless behavior, and everything come to a head when one of his suits, which Stark can now control with a body mind connection of some sort, wakes up as Tony has a nightmare and tries to strangle Pepper as she tried to wake him up. Stark, also suffering from crippling panic attacks, is feeling helpless to keep his life in check, so of course the result is to keep the suit close and stay safe all the time. He’s got his own personal bomb shelter he can carry with him everywhere he goes. The country is being set upon by a terrorist called The Mandarin, Ben Kingsley, who easily steals the movie. After Stark’s pal, Happy, Jon Faverau, the director of the previous two movies, is badly hurt in one of The Mandarian’s attacks, Stark vows vengeance, giving out his home address, and threatening the terrorist on national TV. Stark is visited by an old flame, Maya Hansen, Rebecca Hall, who is worried that her boss, Aldrich Killian, Guy Pierce, is using technology for evil, just as The Mandarin sends rockets flying into Tony’s house, destroying it. I mean he did give his address. This sends him off alone, to play dead for a while as a means to protect Pepper. and as he unravels the mystery of who The Mandarin is.
For a lot of the movie Tony is without his suit, a good idea as far as story telling goes. It allows us to see the man, warts and all, just character, and look at what a mess he really is. Only problem with that is, in retrospect, I didn’t buy that he was that messed up. He meets a young man who takes him in, and helps him do some Scooby Doo like investigating, and their banter is funny. I liked they way they talked to each other, but that relationship made his panic attacks seem almost comedic and took away from his basic conflict. I was left with a hollow feeling. Like I was just watching fireworks, they’re pretty but then I didn’t really care about Tony anymore, and in the end was kind of annoyed by what, at least in the first movie, made him so enjoyable. More importantly, his fear. His fear is what we are suppose to follow, that’s what he must over come and how we relate to him. If his fear never seems real then why should I care. What I realized is I never bought the fear. I never saw that manifested in the suit. Though he goes through all the motions to show us, I never believed it. Though all the clever quips and attitude he lost the most important part of what I think makes a super hero, his humanity.
I get the metaphor, Iron Man. Here is a guy hiding behind his suit. Sure, I think that’s always been pretty much right there. If that’s the case I guess I’d rather see a monster smashing a city to bits, at least then you care about the people affected by the monster. I miss when I was that innocent about movies. When I didn’t think about it as much as I just knew it. I miss the dim light of a theater right before the move starts, nothing on the screen, and the low chattering of voices that makes it all feel so anticipatory. It should always feel that way, movies are a kind of magic and I would like to get back to a place like when I was as a kid watching Godzilla. Just waiting for the right movie to get me there. Did I mention I can’t wait to see Pacific Rim?