Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Iron Man and Lancelot


In the spirit of Benjamin's posts on lessons from cinema, I want to talk about some things I'm learning from the joint venture of watching the recently released DVD of Iron Man and reading T.H. White's The Once and Future King, which is about King Arthur.

Redemption. That's the word (repeated in many reviews you may have read) that convinced me to watch this movie, and I'm glad I did. The way the main character, Tony Stark, goes from careless playboy genius to conscientious superhero genius is both moving and representative of real repentance which, as my little girls say, is "changing to be good." The thing that impresses me the most about it is his total change of heart and aggressive action to correct not a bad social situation like Batman, but the consequences of his wrong choices. Iron man doesn't become, at least in this movie, a vigilante crusader against all things evil. He has a specific mission to remedy the harm he has caused by not caring about the right things.

So where does King Arthur come in? He doesn't. But Lancelot does. In The Once and Future King, White describes Lancelot as a man who does so many good works because of his own dark nature. He enjoys hurting people and is filled with lust and envy. To combat these things, he establishes for himself a rigorous code of conduct that prevents him from acting on any of his base impulses.

These two ideas combined and came to a head in the first scene in Iron Man in which the title character takes action in his new cause. I have rarely had a more powerful experience with film, but I don't think everyone would have the same kind of feeling I did in that moment. To me, it represented a moment of decision, in which past transgressions and the natural man were overcome by the sheer force of will. I was going to say "human will," but that would be wrong. While the decision to repent and change is ours, Stark acknowledges later in the film that he would not be living if not for a higher purpose than his own. He cites his knowledge of this as his motivation for his new life. I think we can learn from that.

6 comments:

Brent said...

Adam,

Man verses himself... and in the context of repentance, this becomes an interested idea. Admittedly, I've not seen Iron Man, nor read the book you've referenced. Man fights to remedy the maladies caused by his own weaknesses/wickedness.

Thanks for sharing,
-Brent

adwin356 said...

Adam, Thanks for sharing.its really awesome...I saw this movie last sunday... It was amazing... I wanna watch this once more...The first big blockbuster of 2008.its an action blockbuster for a mature audience.you can also watch this movie,wanna it now then go through the link and Get Free Iron Man Movie from here...

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Sorry Brent and adwin356. I didn't see your comments until just now.

It is a powerful concept, repentance. It's funny how things impact our perceptions, too. When I was telling someone about this film, he asked me, "but isn't there a sex scene?" I had to admit that there was, and it wasn't very tasteful either, though one could argue that it was relevant to the Stark Character. I still don't think is served a useful purpose. Now every time I think of this movie, I ask myself if I'm willing to see that scene again, because I know I can't just skip it - the thoughts would still be in my head. That's not all I ask myself, but it is one of the questions. The second time I watched the movie, I did not have nearly as powerful an experience as I described in the post and was more distracted by the racier elements. While the environment I saw it in wasn't really conducive to powerful spiritual experiences, I still think this speaks to a point Trevor has made in the past about how films can impact us differently at different times in our lives.

Brent said...

Adam said - When I was telling someone about this film, he asked me, "but isn't there a sex scene?" I had to admit that there was, and it wasn't very tasteful either, though one could argue that it was relevant to the Stark Character. I still don't think is served a useful purpose.

Thanks Adam,

Without thinking lesser of you for having seen the film, I have to confess that this admission is reason enough for me to not see the film. Though I still think your observations from the film are valid and important to note.

(This comment is quickly veering in two distinct directions. )

First, the sexual content discussion is similiar to the premise for a paper I wrote back in school after having a very grounded discussion with a friend in film school. I've an updated version of the paper online on my media studies site if you care to read it. It's a little lengthy. View paper here.

About the site, if you or anyone else would like to contribute content to the site, I'm be open to submissions. Specifically, I'm looking for content that works to define practices of moral leadership in media entertainment production, but I'm also interested in the more esoteric discussions as well.

Secondly, I've not seen Dark Knight yet either and probably won't because of the violence (I live in a house filled with small children. We're very selective in our media consumption, viewing more Totoro-esque type media than pop culture mainstream), yet I read earlier this week that one of the elements of this film that was resonating with the audiences was not only the struggles with the exterior forces, but Batman's battle to overcome his own inner-demons. Maybe someone else can validate this observation for me. This seems to be very similar to what you've pointed out about Iron Man.

In any regard, I find this very intriguing that the intangible inner man has become a character on screen and has been able to the capture box office gold.

-Brent

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Brent,

I appreciate your standards and concern about the children. My four girls have a similar influence on me. I have to say that I've only seen one sex scene that I thought was appropriate - ever - and it was not explicit. We've had conversations here and elsewhere about how this very important part of life deserves to be treated, but carefully. It's hard to do right. I'm looking forward to reading your paper, though I'm quite busy at present. Hopefully soon. The site also intrigues me. It's a concept I'm very interested in taking action on. Thanks for the invitation to submit.

I haven't seen The Dark Knight either, and my feelings about it are much the same as yours. Iron Man was a leap of faith for me that paid off - I needed that moment just then. I'm not of the persuasion that says "If a movie is good once it's good any time." As I said, I watched it twice, and haven't been able to convince myself to do it again. Now that I know what's in it, I can use it as a tool and I'm more accountable for how I use it.

"In any regard, I find this very intriguing that the intangible inner man has become a character on screen and has been able to the capture box office gold."

This gives me hope for the future of LDS cinema. Thanks, and well stated.

Viagra said...

Sit Lancelot is an awesome character!