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In the first part I discussed my goals as I engage with movies or other media. Now let’s apply those 3 principles to the first two Iron Man movies. Both are rated PG-13. For both, you’d be wise to heed that with the innuendo and suggestive content (translation: some immodestly dressed women and inferred sex – in the first one).

Iron Man (2008)

This was an insanely popular movie registering $312 million at the box office (in the U.S. alone) and even today still has a 93% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Even among top critics, it still achieved close to 90% approval.

I loved the first Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr was the perfect man to play Tony Stark – a rich, narcissistic, genius, playboy arms dealer. Right off the bat you see him as prideful, sleazy, and full of himself as he is showing off his latest company designed weaponry for his latest contract.

Then, within a few minutes, nearly everything changes. His caravan gets attacked by terrorists utilizing his own weaponry and he is taken captive and take shrapnel to the heart in the process. He wakes up tied to a battery which is supposed to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart and he is told to design a missile for the terrorists or die. With Tony is another man, another captive, who tells him to his face that Tony is a man who has everything and yet nothing, that he is wasting his life. Tony just wants to escape but comes to admire this man. He eventually designs and build a suit of armor instead as well as a mini reactor in his chest to keep him alive. He activates the armor but the terrorists figure things out and he is about to be stopped before getting the armor active. But his new friend, the other captive, goes at the terrorists and gets killed trying to give Tony enough time. Tony then escapes and the rest of the movie ensues with Tony trying to change his ways, develop a better heart mechanism to keep himself alive, and dealing with the demons of his past in arms dealing as well as his true deceiving enemy, a man he thought to be his friend.

Does this storyline sound familiar? Taken captive in large part because of his own sin and made a slave. His heart is busted, he’s at his lowest with almost no hope. He tries to get away but can’t even do it on his own power. So how is he rescued? By someone laying down their life for him! He then moves on, committed to a new life, getting a new “heart”, and turning what he used for evil into resources to be used for good and fighting a Satan-like enemy who’s main power is deception. Sounds like the gospel to me. That’s what made this a great movie to me – the gospel metanarrative combined with a perfect lead actor, and solid acting beyond the main role as well.

Iron Man 2

Now we finally get to Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 has made over $280 million domestically so far as of this past Memorial Day weekend. Is it as good? Did people come just because the first was so fantastic?

The second film wasn’t quite as good but it continued the same story arc that the first started. That, combined with Downey Jr doing another great job and Cheadle making for a better Rhodey than Terence Howard’s in the first one, made a film worth seeing.

In this film, he’s changed, fought some past demons, u-turned his life towards fighting for good, now what? Legacy. The problem is that he is still very narcissistic and selfish, and getting very prideful in his position as Iron Man. He feel invincible and that no one can touch his technology. As Solomon says in the book of Proverbs: pride comes before the fall. He needs to realize that he has a long way to go.

What happens? A new enemy emerges with the same technology, Tony’s heart starts to fail again, he pushes away Rhodey and Pepper and very quickly hits bottom in his pride and alcoholism. But his friends don’t give up on him. He again gets his “heart” renewed and reenergized, starts learning how now to be a lone ranger, wins the next battle, and is straight up about his weaknesses and faults. Sounds like our walk with Jesus to me. Just because you’ve changed and you’ve turned your life to Jesus doesn’t mean things get easier – they get harder. Between the harshness of life, the struggles with your own sin and growing in the likeness of Jesus, other people’s sinfulness, and the battle to maintain the mission of glorifying God, if you’ve come to Jesus for ease of life or health, wealth, and prosperity, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So I loved Iron Man 2. Stark realizes that his new direction and heart change is for a marathon not a sprint. I love how in each of these movies, a “heart” change/fix precipitates the outward change. Just awesome imagery.

Below are some links to some other thoughts on this film and the first Iron Man from James Harleman who is a pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle. His blog and their Film & Theology series is a great resource. He does a fantastic job, much better than I can hope to do, in picking a movie apart both artistically and Biblically.

Iron Man: well suited for a sequel

Iron Man 2: The Legacy of Howard Stark

Riddle Me this, Iron Man

Film & Theology: Iron Man

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Almost 2 weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to see the movie Iron Man 2 (released May 7th).  My opinion: not as good as the first but a really good movie with the continuing metanarrative from the first one.

This will be a 2 part post. Since this is my first post, I want to give you some background on what my goals are whenever I engage with a movie or even with a TV show for that matter.  My wife and I love seeing a good movie in the theater but how we do that in a manner in which God is glorified? In the second part, I’ll give some thoughts on the first Iron Man movie and then dig into Iron Man 2 tying them both together. I’ll try to cover most of it without giving away any spoilers but the reality is that you know how these movies are going to end, you’re watching because of the characters!

My Goals with Movies & TV

#1. When in doubt about the makeup of the movie regarding explicit content that would have the potential to be a stumbling block, just avoid it. I’m not saying I’m perfect with regard to this goal but I usually do as much research as I can prior to watching a movie. I don’t even mind knowing the entire plot. Knowing the ending to a movie doesn’t usually take away from it for me as long as the metanarrative is strong.  There is a progression in my life with this. There are movies that my wife and I viewed when we were first married (over 8 years ago) that there is no way I would choose to watch now or even take the chance with. This is an area where convictions need to be developed (see Romans 14 and Philippians 4) so that you can walk in faith with whatever media you take in. I definitely have failed with that many times but significantly less and less as my wife and I have grown in discernment.

This is my responsibility as a husband to lead in this and even recently I failed in having my wife and I watch a pretty terrible movie called Inglorious Basterds. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the satire in the characters and the violence and the acting was fantastic especially Pitt and Waltz (who won best supporting actor) but overall the movie was too over the top at getting you to the point that we American were just as rotten and violent as the Nazis were. I was just getting pulled into laughing at the wrong things. The point is – I’m a sinner and I’m in progress in learning discernment with regard to movies. I’ll try to help both you and myself with that with this blog.

#2.  Seek out the metanarrative of the story. By metanarrative I mean the overarching big picture storyline that the movie is drawing from. This metanarrative is usually why we like a certain movie or why a movie is so rewatchable and what brings us to tears or draws out other emotions. We cannot be passive when we approach media. I know we all want to just relax and “veg” but if we are passive, our viewing will not necessarily be refreshing in the right things. It does not take much more effort to learn to watch for the metanarrative and for truth about ourselves or God. The movie is preaching to you in a powerful way, will you choose to engage with the message that is being evangelized?

#3.  Seek to glorify God in seeing how the metanarrative reflects a truth about him or his character or reveals the very Gospel itself. Can this movie help me to see God more clearly? Does it point out something about myself that I need to understand further? Does it give me another illustration of gospel to use in communicating the gospel? These are things I want to be thinking about.

In my next post, I’ll dive into the Iron Man movies and try to demonstrate how to apply the above concepts.

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