How Iron Man Finally Won Me Over

I know this is a controversial thing to say, because Tony Stark is a popular guy… but I’ve never really liked Iron Man. I’ve always thought of him as an attention-seeking, slightly self-centered, totally wise-ass jerk. Compared to humble superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman who hide their savior status, living normal lives by day and sacrificing without personal glory, Iron Man has always seemed like a show off. If I recall correctly, in the previous Iron Man movie, Tony Stark spent his birthday partying in his Iron Man suit and performing drunken, daredevil stunts in front of a crowd. It annoyed Pepper, it pissed off Rhodes, and it definitely drove me nuts.

Then I saw Iron Man 3, and I realized I never understood Tony Stark before.

Stark and Suit

Iron Man 3 is my favorite Iron Man movie so far, because it explores his character more intimately than ever. The reason? Most of the time, he doesn’t have his armor. In the film’s modern-day opening scene (as opposed to the prologue-y bit), Tony is working on a new way to access his suit — by having the pieces literally fly to him and latch on. This would make his armor readily available to him, no matter where he is.

But problems happen, and his suit isn’t up to snuff when the action sets in. After an attempt on his life, he ends up far from home with broken armor and no easy way to fix it. He’s in a T-shirt in the snow, with everybody in the world thinking he’s dead — and to survive the cold alone, he has to steal a poncho and trek through unknown territory to break into somebody’s garage. He’s never been quite this vulnerable.

He’s also having panic attacks after everything that went down in New York (you know, in The Avengers). At times, this seems like just an easy, obvious way for the script writers to exhibit Tony’s psychological stress, but it works best after Tony encounters Harley, a kid and aspiring inventor who becomes Tony’s sidekick for a while. Harley even helps repair the broken Iron Man suit. But one of the kid’s shining moments is when he talks Tony out of one of his anxiety attacks by saying, “You’re a mechanic. Why don’t you build something?”

So Tony buys a ton of supplies from a hardware store and gets cracking. The makeshift weapons and traps he creates are ugly but effective, allowing him to infiltrate his enemy’s headquarters even without his Iron Man suit.

Some people say the inclusion of a kid in Iron Man 3 is a tad contrived, but I love it. Maybe it’s because I worked with kids for so long, but I totally believe in the ability of children to put things in perspective and get down to the meat of reality. Harley did this for Tony — and of course, watching Tony be his usual jerk self to a smart, capable kid is hilarious.

Pepper

Finally, Tony’s relationship with Pepper is stronger than ever in Iron Man 3. His love and loyalty in their romance is one of his most redeeming traits, and I appreciate that the film showcases it without milking it too much. Just when we’ve forgotten about Pepper to focus on Tony’s problems, the villain reveals Pepper undergoing a torturous metamorphosis at the hands of Tony’s enemies, and seeing Tony’s pained reaction to it humanizes him even more.

It’s also great to see Pepper’s reactions to Tony, at any time. She’s always been easily frustrated with him, but this is the first movie that made me see why she’s in love with him, too. Their chemistry feels more realistic now than ever, in my opinion. An example is when Tony swoops in to rescue Pepper from being crushed under debris. (Don’t worry, she rescues him plenty of times, too.) Instead of comforting her, he makes a crack about her hanging out with his ex-girlfriends, causing her to laughingly say, “You’re such a jerk.” She’s relieved almost to tears to see him, insensitive wise cracks and all.

And let me tell you something: it never hurts when people — especially sometimes-jerks like Tony Stark — actually explain themselves. Tony does this at the beginning of the film when Pepper is upset at him, helping me see him through her eyes.

Iron Man 3And so Tony Stark has started making lot more sense to me. I feel like I saw so much more of him in this film — not just him all suited up as Iron Man.

As his actor Robert Downey Jr. explains in a Hollywood Reporter interview, “He didn’t really have integrity when we first met him, and then he gained it as he used technology to save his own skin.” Yet what’s most interesting about Iron Man 3 is seeing him as “The Mechanic,” tinkering around in his lab, worrying about his responsibilities, saving people with a remotely-piloted Iron Man suit, and building gadgets on the fly to finish his missions. I finally see that it’s not the suit that makes him who he is. And now that I’ve seen his ingenuity and integrity, I’ve finally learned to like everything about his personality, too.

— Ashley

Manga for Beginners: My Journey into the Big, Mad World of Japanese Comics (Guest Blogger Post)

After lots of research and false starts, I’ve finally started reading manga! (And yeah, I’m still a total beginner, so send me manga recommendations!) Check out my “simpleek” post about the different series that got me started.

simpleek

Welcome back to another guest blogger week on simpleek! This week we have the very awesome Ashley Hagood of Robo♥Beat. Ashley’s blog focuses mainly on the things she loves the most, which are science fiction, fantasy, and video games. If you’re looking for a blog that focuses on  film, TV, books, or games with a sci-fi and fantasy angle, most likely you will find it on her blog. Nothing Ashley blogs about is ever boring, and she brings fresh and insightful perspectives on the genres. She’s also a contributing writer for Population GO. Aside from her love of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and video games, Ashley is a new fan to manga. For her guest post, Ashley talks about what it’s like to navigate the wide and wonderful world of manga as a newbie. Read her picks for the best starter manga if you’re also a newcomer…

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Guest Post: As The World Falls Down – A Labyrinth Retrospective

This week’s post is special, because it’s a guest post from fellow blogger simpleek! Her blog focuses on a video games, manga, anime, and fashion. I can’t remember exactly how I discovered her site last summer, but I imagine it was one of her lovely Mass Effect-related posts that initially drew me in… Whatever the case, she is one of my all-time favorite writers, and I highly recommend you check out her site if you haven’t already! Here, she pens (er, types) all about why she loves the ’80s movie Labyrinth, which I really want to watch again now…

Ah, the ’80s. A decade full of big hair, leg warmers, acid wash jeans, and cheesy, and at times, downright strange films. Howard the Duck, anyone? I was born in the ’80s, and while most of my growing up has been done in the ’90s, I was still old enough to remember some of that decade. There were a ton of films I grew up watching that came out of the ’80s, like Dirty Dancing, John Hughes films, and Back to the Future. All great films and maybe some not quite age appropriate for my innocent little self during that time. I blame my father for not screening some of these films properly before letting me watch them.

One film I adored from the ’80s and still watch lots of times when the mood strikes me is Labyrinth. This 1986 Jim Henson directed fantasy film starred a really young Jennifer Connelly and ’80s British rocker David Bowie. Of course, who could forget the puppets used in this film to create this magical world? It wouldn’t have a Jim Henson stamp on it without them!

Jennifer Connelly as Sarah
Jennifer Connelly as Sarah

Labyrinth tells the story of a teenage girl named Sarah who is navigating that awkward transition from child to adult. At the beginning of the film, Sarah is a bit of a spoiled child who rather spend most of her days playing dress up and acting out her favorite scenes from the book she loves, The Labyrinth, than take responsibility for anything or anyone. When Sarah fails to come home on time to babysit her baby brother Toby, while her father and stepmother go out for the evening, she gets scolded for her irresponsibility. Seeing Toby as an unwanted burden in her life, Sarah declares out loud how she wishes the Goblin King would come and take him away.

David Bowie as Jareth
David Bowie as Jareth

Within an instant of the words leaving Sarah’s mouth, Toby vanishes from his nursery room. Someone really needs to educate Sarah on the phrase, “Be careful of what you wish for. You might just get it.” The Goblin King Jareth appears before Sarah to tell her how he has granted the wish she so desperately desired. Deeply regretting what she has done, Sarah begs Jareth to bring Toby back. Bringing her brother back, as Jareth explains to Sarah, won’t be as easy as taking him away. He tells her she has thirteen hours to solve the labyrinth that will lead to his castle to rescue Toby. Otherwise, her brother will be lost to Sarah forever. And so begins Sarah’s fantastical journey in Labyrinth. In the course of her journey, Sarah befriends and is aided by a number of strange creatures, such as Hoggle, a grumpy dwarf, Sir Didymus, a noble fox-like knight with a dog as his trusty steed, and Ludo, a gigantic but gentle beast.

Labyrinth was one of those underrated films to come out of the ’80s. The reception of Labyrinth wasn’t particularly well-received when it was first released, but it received cult status many years after its release. When I learned how underwhelming this film performed at the box office, I was shocked. I don’t know what exactly were the expectations of most moviegoers during the ’80s. There were films that came out of that decade that were really weird, had barely any plot, or were absolutely stupid. It makes you wonder how any of these films were allowed to be made back then. Case in point, Howard the Duck. That movie was far more bizarre and bad than Labyrinth ever was. I must have been one of the few who saw the gem in Labyrinth as a little girl. While my friends have fond memories of watching The Dark Crystal or The Neverending Story (two films I have never seen until now) growing up, one of my go-to fantasy films from the ’80s has always been Labyrinth.

Labyrinth_poster

What’s not to like? It had a strange world to explore, creatures not found in reality, magic, a girl who comes of age, and David Bowie’s awesome rock star vocals and looks. Underground, As The World Falls Down, and Within You are three of my favorite songs from the film. I crank up the soundtrack on my iPod whenever I’m feeling dreamy or nostalgic. I also shipped Sarah and Jareth pretty hard. I mean, it’s weird considering the huge age gap between Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie at the time they made the movie, but the film seems to hint at Jareth being in love with Sarah without crossing any inappropriate or creepy boundaries in the movie. Labyrinth does have a bit of romance mixed in if you look closely enough. Albeit, it’s a romance not meant to be, but there’s still one in there. Seriously, just listen to As The World Falls Down and it becomes pretty obvious that it’s Jareth’s way of expressing how he really feels about Sarah. So much love and longing in that song alone. What can I say? It appeals to my romantic side when all other modern day rom-com films fail to do so these days.

Labyrinth is a film that has awakened my imagination and whimsy as a little girl. Even now when I pop the DVD into my player to escape and relive the thrill of watching this film, it brings back all the good feelings I had when I watched this movie for the first time in my life. I still get giddy over the masquerade ball sequence in the film and the ball gown Sarah wore. It also brings back memories of me imagining myself wearing the very same gown and even playing dress up with my mom’s clothes in a feeble attempt at piecing together the same dress from the film.

May I have this dance?
May I have this dance?

This movie embodies everything I love about fantasy stories. If it’s possible to get transported to a different world for a day or even a week, Labyrinth would be one of the places I want to go to. If you have never watched Labyrinth and are a huge fantasy lover, I highly recommend it. You’re going to want to go Underground.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, and VIDEO GAMES!