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Iron Man at 50: Tony Stark still seeking redemption

Published: Thursday, March 28 2013 3:45 p.m. MDT

“We live in a hostile world where we don’t take a lot of time to think about fantastical things that happen in the world. There aren’t a lot of reports about good in the news anymore. So to see these (superhero) characters doing good things in television shows and other stories, I think that really resonates with people on a certain level.”

Although the Iron Man analyses of White and Perry emerge from different paradigms, they both consider the two recent "Iron Man" movies to be accurate depictions of how the title character has been portrayed in comic books. Furthermore, they also concur that redemption is a consistent common thread tying together the Iron Man franchise across sundry decades and media platforms.

White’s personal affinity for Tony Stark is rooted not just in the character’s ability to achieve a certain level of redemption in the first place, but also to sustain and maintain his hard-earned progress.

“(Stan Lee) gave Iron Man a heart ailment so people would sympathize for him,” White explained. “Because otherwise a rich, womanizing playboy industrialist doesn’t arouse much sympathy. …

“The fact that he’s got these flaws like his addictive personality (means) he’s got to overcome them to be who he wants to be. So it’s this constant struggle, not only for redemption but (also) for self-improvement and maintaining the character he wants to be rather than the person that he’d be if he just let it all go by starting to drink again or sleep with a lot of women.”

A key ingredient to Iron Man's redemptive flair is a resiliency that often defies logic.

"In the face of adversity he always overcomes," said Tony Yeafoli, a comic book aficionado in Las Vegas. "He doesn't stop and he always manages to overcome his trials. He's a success story that tells us that, no matter how bad things get, we can still move forward. We just have to find the courage to keep fighting — even when the outcome isn't completely clear."

Box office bonanza

With Robert Downey Jr. cast in the title role of 2008's “Iron Man,” the film won widespread praise from critics by combining wry humor with ambitious action sequences.

“The first ‘Iron Man’ movie came out at a time when superhero films were making the transition from being a two-dimensional studio product based solely on the comic books,” Perry said. "(‘Iron Man’) really put up a standard for making comic book films accessible to the public. You don’t need to know anything about Tony Stark when you go into that movie, and when you’re done you’re going to be totally in love with the character and what he does.”

In 2010 Paramount Pictures followed suit with a sequel, “Iron Man 2.” Both of the franchise’s films grossed more than $300 million at the domestic box office. “Iron Man 3” drops on May 3.

“Throughout production for this film they’ve referred to it as a ‘technological political thriller,’ which is something that sounds really exciting because it sounds different from the rest of the Iron Man films," Perry said. "Hopefully we’ll see another turn of Tony Stark as a character in the upcoming film.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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