There will be pictures. This is the most visual section of the film I have covered so far, so stand by for a lot of images.
We open on the best hero shot of the film so far. The music is blaring with deep horns and tight violin (OST: “Mark I“), the striking of the hammer actually matching the beat really well. Tony stands next to a furnace, only in a sweatshirt, perspiring and grubby but looking utterly determined, hammering away at a thick piece of metal as sparks fly around him. The movement is firm, but calculated, lacking wild rage or imprecision. When we get a look at Tony’s face, he looks very, very annoyed, but still in control. This is his birth as a superhero, completing the final parts of his mechanical contraption.
He places the piece of metal he was working in a bucket of water, and then carries it to Yinsen, sitting at a nearby table working on some electronics, his face lacking any of the grimness of Stark’s.
It’s a helmet, the music falling a bit lower and focusing on electronic guitar as it steams on the table. It’s an imposing thing, thick but with wide eye-holes.
A quick montage follows, the tension ramping up nicely. Tony tapes up his fists, throws on what looks like heat resistant clothing and engineering gloves, protects his neck, while Yinsen gets the torso of the suit into position. There are no words, none being necessary at this point.
Tony then gets strapped into the suit, and while a full look of the thing in all its glory is yet to come, we do start to get an idea for its actual size. Tony looks decidedly puny in this chest plate, his head peeking out of the top like a rabbit coming out of a hole.
Yinsen is losing just a little bit of his cool as well, looking sweatier than before and speaking with more panic. We know the two are being watched, so once they put their plan into action they have a very limited timeframe in which to execute everything. Bits of this suit need to be drilled together, hydraulics have to be hooked up.
As they work, they go over the plan again:
Okay? Can you move? Okay, say it again.
41 steps straight ahead. Then 16 steps, that’s from the door, fork right, then 33 steps, turn right.
This is all Yinsen of course, he being in the cave structure longer than Stark, knowing the ins and outs of the place better. This bit of dialogue indicates how smart Yinsen is though, having done enough to track just how many steps will be required to get from their current position to outside, including the directional changes that will have to be made.
Elsewhere, Raza peers at the camera monitors, glimpsing bits of Yinsen but unable to see Stark. He’s no idiot, but remains calm and collected, sending guards to check on the two immediately. He’s still in control, and as far as he knows the duo have no ability to escape from him. He just stays, intently looking at the monitor, trying to work things out.
The two goons sent to check on the two get to the cell door and start shouting through the peephole, demanding Yinsen stop whatever it is he is doing. Stark seems immobilised at this point, so it’s all down to Yinsen:
Say something. Say something back to him.
He’s speaking Hungarian. I don’t…
Then speak Hungarian.
Okay. I know.
What do you know?
(In Hungarian) One minute, one minute!
Tony’s tone and demeanour is, despite his lack of movement, calmer than Yinsen here, the bespectacled man stressed and increasingly fraught from the stress of the situation. His clumsy Hungarian doesn’t mollify the guards.
The camera cuts back to them, then pans down to reveal the opening of the doors had been rigged with what we can reasonably expect to be some kind of explosive. The tension rockets up even more, now with an unbearable timer counting down in the audiences’ head, to the moment when those doors open and the men on the other side get blown up.
It doesn’t take long. They open the door, get blown to bits in the resulting fiery explosion, and everywhere in the cave people react. Raza is stunned and furious, urging his men to stop what is happening with shouts of “Yalla, yalla, yalla!” an Arabic phrase loosely translated as “Let’s go!” or “Hurry up!” Everywhere, soldiers of the Ten Rings are arming themselves and running.
Tony and Yinsen have taken out two, but there are a lot more coming.
How’d that work?
Oh, my goodness. It worked all right.
That’s what I do.
Yinsen has a glimpse at the two dead bodies of the guards during this exchange. His tone isn’t one of disgust or shame as he remarks “It worked all right”, but neither is it very exuberant. He has little pity for the Ten Rings soldiers, but he isn’t an action hero either. He wants to get of their alive (maybe), and taking a few of his enemies with him in the event of failure is fine too. Tony is a little more action-heroish, coolly acknowledging the success of his explosives.
Yinsen moves to set up some kind of software program for Stark’s suit, for which he receives a series of barked instructions from Stark. Research elsewhere tells me that the computer code on display is actually firmware usually used for LEGO robotic toys, so it sort of makes sense in the context of this situation. In reality, I’d say the computer exists to give us a literal progress bar on the status of the duo’s escape attempt, and to increase the tension – nothing is going to happen until that bar reaches 100%, and the clock is ticking. Tony starts to lose his composure a bit in this moment too, urging Yinsen to be more descriptive in what is on the computer screen.
Ten Rings soldiers charge through the cave structure yelling. Yinsen “buttons” the last of Stark’s suit up, but is losing what is left of his composure rapidly:
Every other hex bolt.
Nothing pretty, just get it done. Just get it done.
A quick cut to the progress bar shows it only half full and not likely to jump to 100% any time in the next minute. Yinsen sees this even as Stark continues to reaffirm their original design. Stark can’t see Yinsen’s face, but we can and we know he’s coming to a fateful decision.
Make sure the checkpoints are clear before you follow me out, okay?
We need more time.
He says this very quietly, acknowledging an undeniable fact that needs tackling. He turns to Stark, his decision already made.
Hey. I’m going to go buy you some time.
This is it. Yinsen is writing off his own chances of survival in this exact moment, declaring that his purpose now is to simply facilitate Stark’s escape, and to lay down his life doing so. We know Yinsen never had any great expectation of escaping alive anyway, but this is a far more direct and, ultimately, heroic manner of expressing that sentiment. Stark is stunned and tries to talk Yinsen out of it, but he’s trapped in his mechanical behemoth with no ability to prevent him doing whatever he is going to do.
Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan! Yinsen!
But Yinsen can’t do that. The plan’s caput and only a whiff of death will keep it from stalling completely. Yinsen picks up one of the rifles from the dead guards and goes charging up the cave structure, firing into the air at intervals.
Tony can only turn and gaze out, the anger evident in his eyes, the frustration at being unable to do anything about Yinsen’s probable fate. When he does get going, we can only imagine what will happen to the Ten Rings.
The Ten Rings soldier charge around the cave, and then go screaming backwards in the face of Yinsen’s gun toting charge. Its a little sequence straight out of Star Wars, Han Solo versus the stormtroopers in the Death Star, only more deadly in the end: Yinsen rounds the corner and is faced with a dozen armed men, led by Raza, guns coked and ready to fire. Yinsen’s actually been aiming his gun in the air when firing, indicating an aversion to actually killing directly, and has nothing to react with. We cut before we see his fate, but we know it can’t be good.
In the cell, the loading bar hits 100%, the lights dim and our ears are full of mechanical noises, gears and hydraulics moving. But we don’t see anything, not yet, and this starts a little sequence more akin to a horror movie than a superhero origin.
A larger group of armed soldiers advance into the cell, noticeable slowing as they reach its entrance. The movement pauses so we can take in the dead bodies of the two unfortunate guards who got blown up by Tony and Yinsen’s trap. The mood is tense, these men are nervous. Imagine any film or TV show involving a group of soldiers taking on some kind of monster and you’ll get the idea. Marvel even did the exact same thing again in their introduction to the titular hero in The Incredible Hulk.
Two particularly hapless looking Ten Rings members are ushered forward to have a closer look, entering the cell dripping with sweat and apprehension. There isn’t anything to see, one of the only sources of light being the computer with its now complete program.
Until we get a lower shot, the soldiers blurry in the background, with our focus on a tube of metal with a glove sticking out of the bottom, a glove flexing in anticipation. Stark is like a predator hiding in the shadows, just about to pounce.
One of the soldiers turns about when a light appears, and we only get a brief look at the metal around that light before a whirr and a blow sends the soldier flying across the room, the distinctive pop of his H&K echoing as he fires at the last second. The remaining soldiers pull a Predator, firing randomly into the room, at anything and everything, hoping to kill the monster. They think they got him when all is silent, even the music, only for Stark to emerge from the shadows in all of his hulking glory, smashing the remaining soldiers off the wall, absorbing bullets like they are nothing.
Then we get the rotating hero shot, coming to a halt as we take in the Mark I in all of its immensity as the tight violins return. It’s big and unwieldy, looking none too comfortable. It has extensive attachments on the arms, including some flickers of flame that can only spell some kind of fiery weapon. It turns awkwardly, its gears grinding. It has the appearance of a metal behemoth, a monster from nightmares. There is little sign of humanity in this thing, not even Tony’s eyes very visible through the holes in the helmet. The Mark I is based off of the earliest Iron Man suits from the comics, which were bulky, grey things, with no sign of the sleekness or colour of the later incarnations. The film version has been bent up and made to look a bit more ramshackle, given the situational and I think it’s an amazing piece of prop hardware.
And then the advance, first shown from a peculiar foot based shot, as the remaining soldiers at the end of the tunnel blindly open fire. It doesn’t stop the Mark I.
Two particularly brave individuals charge down the tunnel with suicidal abandon, but are tossed aside or punched backwards with the most amazing ease. This thing looks and acts like a robot, with no kind of care for the people in its way. The camerawork is more stuff straight from horror, with GoPro cameras, shaky techniques and the “monster” blurry in the background, all to give us that sense if desperate fear and claustrophobic conditions.
Tony comes to a crossroads, pausing only to clothesline another obstacle into oblivion. The rest of the bad guys in the immediate vicinity are running for their lives now, and Tony advances after them, his suit clicking distinctively every time he alters direction.
Now we actually see the eyes behind the metal, and they are grim and determined looking, the combination of flesh and machine altogether unsettling.
A door gets locked, and one hapless bad guy is trapped on the wrong side as the Mark I keeps up its relentless pace, the birds eye camera views from its joints coming again and again. He pounds on the door and screams for help, but his comrades refuse to assist him. In more shots straight out of the horror genre, the Mark I catches up with its prey, its shadow looming large like some kind of metal Dracula. We cut away to the other side of the door, the unlucky souls fading screams the only sign of his inevitable fate, caught and munched on by this colossus.
It continues as Tony starts pounding on the door, the thud’s echoing into the distance, increasing in tone every time he strikes. The bullet holes in the door show the briefest glimpse of what lies beyond, the bulk blocking out shafts of light. The door starts to give way. The soldiers start edging back, terrified. Eventually, a few run, just as the Mark I smashes through the barrier, flattening one of the soldiers who decided to make a stand. It’s a great little sequence to demonstrate the power of the Mark I, both in terms of its physicality, and in a psychological sense.
Tony advances again, and with another swipe his arm actually gets lodged into the walls of the cave, the Mark I struggling to get free. As he does so, wordlessly exhorting the machine to get free, another of the more brave bad guys takes out a pistol and goes for a coup de grace type shot, right into the temple.
It’s actually a darkly comedic moment in the midst of all the horror, as the bullet bounces off and ricochets back into the Ten Rings soldiers head, killing him instantly. Tony takes a brief moment to consider that situation, pulls his arm loose, and continues.
Elsewhere, Raza loads up what looks like a grenade launcher and strolls into the oncoming path of Tony’s machine. In a hurricane of screaming men and panicked retreats, he appears to be the eye of the storm, still remarkably calm, even just slightly annoyed at the escalation of events in front of him. He isn’t suicidal, simply prepared, and he stands ready, near the entrance of the cave, to give the Mark I a taste of something a bit more powerful than a bullet.
Tony rounds a corner in the background, as we see a prone and badly wounded Yinsen in the foreground, trying to cover up his wounds with what looks like a sandbag, clearly on his last legs. I suppose that was inevitable. Tony screams Yinsen’s name, in response to which Yinsen can only warn him, desperately, to watch out.
Raza fires and Tony jerks back in the face of the rocketing grenade. It misses and, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t even seem like Tony needed to move in order to avoid it. Raza is just a terrible shot.
Its Tony’s turn and we get the first shot of the Mark I in CGI form. It’s not really brilliant computer graphics if I’m being honest, although maybe it’s just because I’m watching on a small screen. Regardless, the CGI Mark I just looks sort of fake in the real surrounds. Tony opens up a panel on one of his arms and pulls the trigger on a missile of his own. This too misses, but the explosion sends parts of the cave crumbling down on top of Raza, cutting off a brief scream from him. Classic media treatment of death – “Did Raza just die? I don’t know, it was very unclear” – and we can be reasonably sure that Raza isn’t quite gone to meet his maker just yet.
Stark bends down to assist Yinsen and we get our first bit of dialogue in a few minutes, with a simple two camera set-up. The music gets lower, with what I think is a flute or a similar wind instrument providing the sparse accompaniment, a melody that actually sounds vaguely like something from The Lord of the Rings if I’m being honest. Interesting to note, the sandbags Yinsen is laying on carry the American flag, and have the words “NOT TO BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED” on them. Even the Ten Rings’ sand is stolen.
Yinsen is bleeding, pale and slurring his words a little bit.
Come on. We got to go. Move for me, come on. We got a plan. We’re gonna stick to it.
This was always the plan, Stark.
Yinsen’s words are tinged with sadness, but also have a palpable sense of acceptance. Yinsen seems like a tired man, almost resigned to the fact that his time to lay down his burdens has come. We know from the last entry that he had little actual expectation of getting out of the cave alive, and his line here essentially indicates that his self-sacrifice was something that he planned for directly – though the previous scene made it seem like it was a spur of the moment decision. Maybe he had just been thinking about it for a while without making a decisive call. Tony can try and get Yinsen moving, but it’s obvious he isn’t going anywhere.
Stark has one last card to play:
Come on, you’re gonna go see your family. Get up.
But Yinsen torpedoes that plan too:
My family’s dead. I’m going to see them now, Stark.
We could also infer this from the last entry too, that Yinsen would “see them when I leave here”. We might also remember one of the brief flashes of anger, when he declared the Ten Rings to be a pack of “murderers”: that came from a very personal place. His declaration here is obviously a sad one, a pained memory he no longer wants to contemplate. The loss of his family would obviously have informed his decision to sacrifice himself for Stark – maybe Yinsen does not really have anything left to live for outside the cave – but there is a bit more to it.
As Yinsen continues, the camera switches back between him and a silent Stark, who is finally understanding some things about his friend, the pain of it etched across his face, and the frustration that he is going to have to leave Yinsen behind.
It’s OK. I want this. I want this.
Yinsen has the barest beginnings of a smile on his face here, but it doesn’t make his statement any less heartbreaking really.
Tony gives Yinsen a small smile of his own, one more of resignation than anything, and gives him one last gift:
Thank you for saving me.
Don’t waste it. Don’t waste your life.
This then, is Stark’s true call to arms, and the statement that will influence everything that he does in the future. Yinsen has laid down his life for Stark, so that Tony will have the opportunity to better his life and do something more worthwhile with it. Something more worthwhile than sleeping with beautiful women and getting drunk, living an empty shell of a personal life while accepting the plaudits of his professional one. This is Iron Man’s “With great power, comes great responsibility” moment (and comes from some top notch performances from Downey Jr and Shaun Toub).
Yinsen passes after a few more shallow breaths, Iron Man not willing to belabour the point. Tony, now wanting a more vindictive kind of payback, doesn’t wait around for the sake of sentiment, shoving the helmet back onto his face and turning towards the cave entrance.
We cut to outside where, in the blazing sunshine, the remainder of the Ten Rings wait, guns pointed at the cave entrance, the music faded into near silence. The mood is incredibly tense, with the changed light conditions offering something a bit different to the previous horror in the caves. The silence is also eerie after the loud throbbing of the soundtrack in the early part of this sequence. Everyone waits.
We hear Tony before we see him, the deep thumping of the machine heralding its arrival. Then the light in the chest plate, then the outline and then the Mark I steps into the light.
The soldiers are taken aback, seeing this thing in broad daylight for the first time. Perhaps their fear in the tunnels had turned it into something much more gargantuan, or something that wasn’t man shaped. Either way, here is the (CGI) Mark I, standing at the entrance of the cave, in what looks like another hero shot, a well built up one.
A short moment for a deep breath, and then the gunfire comes, another Predator moment. Sparks fly off the Mark I, and miraculously no bullets find Tony’s eyes or hands. He does stagger back a bit under the sheer weight of the fire, but remains standing.
The gunfire ceases, the clips apparently empty, leading into another moment of silence, this one almost awkward. What now?
It’s a cheesy line, but a good set-up for what follows. Stark’s back as the powerful and arrogant individual of before, who waits to let his enemy expend their strength before attacking himself, as if to show to an even greater degree how much more deadly he is. The flames on the end of Stark’s arms burst into life, and two steady streams of fiery death shoot out of the Mark I as the next part of the soundtrack, a similar track to the few that came before but with a more rising tension/desperate twang to it, begins (OST: “Fireman“).
Flamethrowers have the double advantage in film of being both horrible weapons whose entire purpose is to burn people alive and looking extremely cool and eye catching. You can’t help but be captivated by the orange liquid death here, the strange way that the fire seems almost malleable as Stark unleashes it, even crossing the streams in an odd moment. The Ten Ring soldiers fall back, some caught in the fire, screaming their lives away. The outside of the caves, that hectic area packed with the flotsam and jetsam of the Ten Rings’ operations, is engulfed in the conflagration of the Mark I.
Aside from getting rid of the last of the opposition, Stark is also performing the other part of his plan: destroying the weapons. His weapons. Anything with a “Stark Industries” label is getting torched here, the crates and boxes wreathed in flame, ready to go up when the heat gets to be too much for the explosives inside. Stark’s faced the horror of seeing his work fall into the hands of those for whom it was never intended – Remember the emotion of “I think you got a lot of my weapons” – and this is his direct solution. As a sign of a man who has now turned against the weapons industry, it couldn’t be blunter.
As Stark walks amid the boxes, we also get a brief shot of the back of the Mark I, which is all gears and moving parts, a vulnerable spot. We remember that Stark has never turned his back to the enemy yet. There is a reason for that, and the visual focus on this weak point will have a payoff in a moment.
On a ridge a bit away, one bright Ten Rings member gets on a .50 Cal and cocks it, commencing a withering fire on the Mark I. For anyone who doesn’t know, a .50 Cal is an immensely powerful and devastating machine gun, whose larger rounds can generally make mincemeat out of anything that doesn’t have the thickest armour.
Finally, the Mark I has met an enemy it cannot with stand, Tony staggering back under the fire, raising his arm to protect his face for the first time. The spark effects for the .50 Cal muzzle flash and sparks are a little lame if I’m being honest, but probably looked a lot better on the big screen.
The other Ten Rings soldiers suddenly rally a bit, joining their other comrade by laying down a constant fire on the Mark I. One industrious soldier, having been bypassed in the flamethrowing, takes aim and hits some kind of thread in the rear of the Mark I, causing Tony to stumble, one of the legs apparently now inoperable. The monster does have a weak point.
The action now has become this maelstrom of bullets and flame, the players engaged in this death battle in the middle of a hellish landscape. Tony tries to fight back as best he can, but his efforts are superfluous at this point: things start to explode, the firework like trails of missiles and rockets combusting becoming obvious. The Ten Rings soldiers, suddenly realising they have voluntarily remained in an area filled with explosives on fire, begin to flee for the last time.
With the music at a fever pitch, Tony struggles to his feet once more, though the Mark I is apparently incapable of walking anymore. Just how is he going to get out of this one? We might well wonder.
He unlatches a panel on his left arm, revealing a big red button. If there is one thing the world of science fiction has taught me, it’s that big red buttons are designed almost exclusively to do big things. The Mark I mashes the button and we take a deep breath.
Flames spurt out from the legs of the Mark I, and Tony actually lifts off the ground, just as the remainder of the explosives go up. A gigantic fireball erupts, rising over the mountains, sending bits and pieces scattering…and there goes the Mark I, arcing into the sky with the smoke trail behind, the music now exploding into the rhythmic violins once more, a heroic accompaniment to the final miraculous escape.
The Mark I soars out of the fireball before the rockets suddenly cut out, the machine seemingly having just enough juice for one big burst of flight. Suddenly Tony is making a beeline for the ground, at a velocity fast enough to produce a shrieking whistle. The Mark I begins to fall apart midair, as Tony screams before the final, brutal, contact with the sandy desert beneath, sending up a cloud of debris along with the dull reverberating thud.
A down low advancing shot shows us the immensity of the boring desert, accentuated by the blue skies to the rear and the mountains to the right. Scraps of the Mark I are everywhere and, once some smoke clears, Tony lies, half submerged in the sand, the last remnants of his amazing machine barely clinging to him. He carelessly clangs the barely whirring arms off the sand before pulling off the helmet, revealing a cut, burned and very tired looking face that stares listlessly into the sky. He groans in pain, but is triumphant all the same:
I guess it wasn’t.
Here’s the problem.
Tony has, during his weeklong sojourn in this cave, managed to do the following:
-He has created, from the dissection of some missiles and some basic moulding/welding techniques, an immensely strong power source.
-He has built a complete mechanised suit of armour, strong enough to deflect bullets and wieldy enough to be a capable fighting machine that can take on people hand to hand.
-He has managed to weld several deadly weapons to this machine.
-He has someone managed to graft on a rocket propulsion system of enough power that it can get the machine into the air almost instantly, and at a very high velocity very fast.
-And, the kicker, the entire contraption is so sturdy and safe, that it will keep the occupant from any harm, even in the event of a catastrophic fall from a gigantic height.
The suspension of disbelief an audience must have gets pulled on a lot in this sequence. Tony is an exceptional man, but to have done all of this? In a week? It seems a bit much. As another character will put it, in a memorable sequence later in the film, he has done all this “IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!” And that is a bit of a plot hole, if we are all being honest with ourselves. If a greater amount of time had passed, if there were more obviously components that could have done this in the cave….but no.
It wasn’t a bad action sequence at all though. Tony’s escape was a thrilling one, something that mixed traditional military-style excitement with elements of horror, showcasing the kind of power that the machines Stark can build are capable of exerting. The Ten Rings barely stood a chance, and even their most powerful players were helpless in the face of Tony’s assault. But it did not come without its costs, and the entire affair is well weighted by the death of Yinsen. Iron Man is going to be a film where not every hero is guaranteed to make it out alive and his death is used to illustrate that point, as well as providing the right kind of end for his arc. Yinsen dies heroically, not wasting his life in the service of terrorists. And that example is one that will now inspire Stark to do go on and change his life immeasurably.
First though, he has to actually get home. The next few shots bring us crashing back to the reality of Stark’s situation – he’s wondering in a desert, with no idea where exactly he is, without food, water, or even proper clothing, barely able to protect his head from the blazing sun by wrapping some rags around it. The standard desert tropes are used here – the wavy lines to indicate the intense heat, the out of focus main character to indicate the oppressive and hallucinogenic properties of the surrounds, the vaguely Arabic wind instruments to give that lonely air of desperation (OST: the beginning of “Vacation’s Over“). Tony is alone in this expanse. How is he going to get out of this one?
And suddenly there is salvation. Tony crests a hill, and above fly two US military helicopters, so low that they must have seen him. The music swells back into a more traditional hero tune, more American, as Tony starts screaming for their attention.
With a “V for Victory” symbol, Tony collapses to his knees as one of the choppers lands in front of him. It is a very joyous moment, seeing Stark complete his rise from the darkness of the cave.
And then there is more happiness, as five soldiers emerge from the chopper, the leading one clearly Colonel James Rhodes. We had no idea of Rhodes’ fate remember: he could easily have been killed in the ambush where Stark was captured. But here he is, and we can infer that he has been spending the last week looking for Stark in the mountains.
Stark and Rhodes’ relationship has been a little strange so far, with Stark being dominant and frequently rude to a man who seems to admire him greatly. We have barely gotten the sense that the two are actually closer friends. But I think nothing better illustrates the closeness of their relationship than Rhodes’ first line here:
How was the ‘funvee’?
Just a sarcastic, almost ribald joke, mocking Stark for one of his own quips earlier. I think only the best kind of friends would be able to see each other again after such an absence and open with a line like that.
Stark simply smiles at the rejoinder from Rhodes, his eyes closed as if he is remembering that moment he mocked Rhodes before, declaring that the “humdrumvee” was the other car. It must seem like so long ago.
Rhodes gets down to Stark level and looks him dead in the eyes.
Next time you ride with me, ok?
It’s an emotional declaration of a man who nearly lost a close friend. He pulls Stark in for a one armed embrace, the kneeling man’s head bowed in exhaustion, Rhodes’ face a mixture of relief and happiness. This moment seems to actually be about Rhodes more than Tony, since we get more of a focus on his reaction to proceedings, perhaps to emphasise how missed Tony was, and how important it was that he was found.
Tony has escaped from rock bottom. The question now, is what is he going to do with this new opportunity?
For The Film
This section provides the first action scene of real scope, as the Ten Rings gets its ass handed to it by the rampaging mechanical genius of Tony Stark, a sequence that whets our appetite for the stuff to come later with the more refined suits. We see the first titular “Iron Man”, and it is impressed upon us that even this rickety device is a game changing weapon that is not easily countered. The first character death of consequence occurs, handled well, providing the inspiration for Stark to make good his escape and go on to be a better person. This is also the end of the first act, more or less, and we have spent that act establishing the universe, all of the main characters and getting the primary core of the origin story out of the way. The mini story that every act should tell has been told well here: the fall and rise of Tony Stark, both externally and internally.
He is now a million miles away from the man who seemed so hopeless when initially captured. Dominant, forceful and brave, Stark spends this sequence getting some payback on the Ten Rings, utilising the physical end product of his vast intelligence and mechanical know how to destroy their operation and win his freedom. The loss of Yinsen clearly affects him deeply, but does not restrain his joy at being rescued too much. Stark has proven himself the kind of hero that can alleviate his terrible circumstances, and now faces into the challenge of bringing that new man home.
Here, Yinsen enacts his pre-thought plan of sacrificing himself so that Stark may live, gladly doing so. Discovering that his family have already been killed – probably by the Ten Rings – shows us a man who had very little left to live for anyway, and helps us to understand his motivations in nursing Stark back to health and aiding in his escape plan. The effect Yinsen has had on the plot will long outlast him.
When everyone else around him is running scared of the metal monster, Raza stands firm, showing some of his own kind of bravery in the process. He refuses to back down from Tony’s assault, and his apparent death is the result. Perhaps he does lose his nerve in the end, missing the Mark I from a relatively short distance, but we can’t deny Raza’s determination – determination that may yet see him return in some fashion.
Rhodes looks tired but happy to have found Stark, and we get some of the first true indications of how deep their friendship goes. Stark’s an important man, but to Rhodes his rescue/escape means a whole lot more than the recovery of a famous billionaire.
Next time, Stark returns to the States.
To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.