We open in a basic establishing shot, as a military transport jet – a Globemaster III – lands on a runway, the main theme now playing in a slower, almost mournful pace (OST: “Vacations Over“).
Next we’re back on a runway somewhere, presumably a military air base. The reception committee for Stark looks fairly low-key, no press or anything like that around, just an ambulance, some soldiers and a small personal welcome wagon.
In terms of clothing, Pepper looks just as we last saw her: neat, professional, ordered. But her face is the opposite. She’s traumatised looking, her hair messy and going over her face. She looks like she’s been through hell, and we all know why. The last she saw of Tony involved him giving her an apparently thoughtful birthday present and a glib remark – she probably thought that was the last time she would ever have seen him until his unlikely escape. Behind her, looking far more stoic and reserved than we have ever seen him so far, stands Happy Hogan, in front of the Rolls-Royce. It is a moment of the utmost seriousness it seems.
The back of the plane lowers, in the sort of shot, that contrasts the gloom of the inside with the brightness of the outside, which you and I will have seen in loads of different films. It serves to give a slow and thoughtful reveal of the figures inside the plane: Tony, in a wheelchair, with Rhodes standing to his left. That Tony might have been more badly injured in his escape than it appeared has probably not occurred to us, and seeing this man in a wheelchair is genuinely heartbreaking for a moment. But he does stand up straight away, needing only some partial assistance from Rhodes, visually cementing their apparently closer relationship.
A close up of Pepper, clearly near tears, is juxtaposed with Tony talking down the planes ramp, needing Rhodes’ hand for support and guidance. Stark is back in his more traditional grab, with his more traditional appearance: fancy suit, neat facial hair, etc. But he looks grim nonetheless, not least because of his right arm in the sling or the serious look on his face. Rhodes has to warn him about the sudden drop onto the tarmac, like a nurse advising an elderly patient. Tony Stark has escaped, but the scars remain.
However, while he may appear to be babied, he’s not actually that far gone. A medical gurney rolls up to him, apparently to take him to hospital, and Tony’s reaction is immediate:
Are you kidding me with this? Get rid of them.
Tony is going to walk home it seems, or not at all. Rhodes silently turns the gurney away as Stark walks on, some of his previous dominance in the relationship partially restored by the act.
Pepper finally breaks into a smile. Maybe she didn’t quite believe Stark was alive and coming home until she actually saw him with her own eyes. Either way, it’s a heart-warming moment, to see her so emotionally affected by her bosses return. Stark, for his part, puts on a look of almost mock-seriousness in response, staring intently at Pepper’s apparent waterworks:
Your eyes are red. A few tears for your long-lost boss?
Tears of joy. I hate job hunting.
Their previous dynamic is almost instantly restored, some good natured quips and joking. Tony is willing to play light with the fact that he was practically dead and gone, and Pepper is willing to make her own glib remark about the whole thing as well. But Tony is still in a very serious place:
Yeah, vacation’s over.
He is strangely determined when he says these words. It’s the start of this sequence’s main idea, which is Tony’s decisive turn against the weapons industry.
Stark, Pepper and Hogan get in the car, and it takes only a few seconds for an argument to start:
Where to, Sir?
Take us to the hospital, please, Happy.
No? Tony, you have to go to the hospital.
No is a complete answer.
The doctor has to look at you.
They’re talking over each other in this part of the exchange, but everyone is still relatively calm, almost painfully so, as if Pepper, in particular, is consciously keeping her voice soft and low lest she sets off some effect in her boss. Tony, as we’ve seen already, has no time for medical check-ups or doctors. He has better things to do, and he’s going to do them:
I don’t have to do anything. I’ve been in captivity for three months. There are two things I want to do. I want an American cheeseburger, and the other…
That’s enough of that.
I love Tony’s declaration here. I suppose it stands to reason that the first thing he would want to do after getting home is to indulge himself a little, he hasn’t changed that much. Priorities, man. Pepper cuts him off immediately upon hearing the word “other”, with a disdainful look on her face. She’s well; aware, very much so, of Tony’s lifestyle and interactions with women, but that doesn’t mean she has to actually put up with talk about it – you’ll remember how quickly she wanted to get off the topic of Christine Everhart back in the mansion earlier. But that’s not what Tony actually wants (yet):
…is not what you think. I want you to call for a press conference now.
Call for a press conference?
What on earth for?
Tony changes his eye line forward for this exchange, having previously engaged with Pepper straight on. He’s made up his mind, time to move forward, and Pepper questions are not going to get answered.
Hogan, drive. Cheeseburger first.
But still, primary mission to think about. This exchange always makes me want a cheeseburger.
I’ll also note that this is the first cramped interior shot(s) of this nature since the very beginning of the film, and it’s basically the same three camera set-up, one for Stark, one for Pepper and one for Hogan. The angle is nicely switched around without making the surrounds seem that claustrophobic.
The framing of Stark Industries as Tony’s car approaches couldn’t be more obvious: a large model of an YF-22 fighter jet is centred, flanked in the background by numerous American flags, underneath which stand armed and uniformed American soldiers. What did that puff-piece at the Apogee Awards say again?
Tony ushers in a new era for his father’s legacy. Creating smarter weapons, advanced robotics, satellite targeting. Today, Tony Stark has changed the face of the weapons industry by ensuring freedom and protecting America and her interests around the globe.
This is Stark Industries personified: the very forefront of the American arsenal, who proudly display the examples of their power on the doorstep. And we are seeing all of this because of what’s coming next. We need to see Stark Industries as it is now, before Tony begins the process of tearing it to pieces.
As Tony pulls up, there is a large-ish crowd of suited people there to greet him, clapping and applauding. It is good to show that it isn’t just a small group of people who actually like Tony, but some/most of his employees as well. Chief among them is Obadiah Stane himself, standing out from the crowd with a garish gold-coloured tie and an expensive pair of sunglasses. From the moment that he appears he is stage managing the return of Stark, opening the door of the car, calling the crowd’s attention, making sure that he is at the centre of all things. He wraps Tony in a large hug, apparently nonplussed by the fact that Tony is wiping his mouth with a napkin beforehand.
Look at this! Tony. We were going to meet at the hospital.
No, I’m fine.
Uh huh. I guess we can chalk this up as just another example of Tony causing Obadiah to be unpleasantly surprised. Acting a bit meta for a moment, we know that Stane is trying to exert greater control on the company and Stark at this point, and this sudden appearance and press conference is something that Stane has not accounted for. He smiles and plays nice, but it is not hard to imagine the annoyance underneath it all.
Anyway, time the pay the bills with a bit of product placement! These films don’t make themselves you know. You need the support of institutions like:
Burger King! Not only seen visually in this painstakingly framed shot with the logo at the centre of the screen, but name dropped by Stane at the same moment.
Look at you! You had to have a Burger King, yeah? Well, come on. You get me one of those?
There’s only one left. I need it.
Heroes, villains, CEO’s, they all love the delicious taste of Burger King! They can’t wait one second more than possible, they just grab one of those burgers in the middle of dialogue, with Happy Hogan readily offering the bag to Tony without orders. Why not avail of their wonderful food today!?
For the record, I have no problem with product placement, because funding actually does have to come from somewhere. I do have a problem with it if it becomes too garish and obvious. This isn’t quite as bad as House of Cards’ mid-episode PS Vita advertisement, but it isn’t miles off either.
Anyway, Stane shepherds Tony inside Stark Industries (I think that last scene is the longest panning shot of the film so far by the way), where a bigger, more congested crowd of people – employees, security and journalists it would seem – await. More cheering, applause, now with the flash of cameras and the roaring of questions added. Stane accompanies Stark through the throng. Behind, Pepper stays back and breathes a very interesting sigh of relief. She seems truly happy and contented for the first time, at least from what we’ve seen. I guess this is a vision of the status quo returned: her charge, Tony, mobbed by reporters, being his usual charming self. Everything is going back to normal for Pepper, probably after months of a very different kind of work atmosphere.
Pepper only has a brief second to enjoy this moment when she is approached by a stiff looking figure, a tiny bit shorter than her and looking almost animatronic in his movements. With the nice suit and the neat hair, we can infer before he says anything that he might be from an official organisation. Meet Agent Coulson, soon to become Marvel Studios’ most popular minor character.
Can I speak to you for a moment?
I’m not part of the press conference, but it’s about to begin right now.
I’m not a reporter. I’m Agent Phil Coulson, with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
I’ll admit, when I first watched Iron Man, I actually did not pick up on this. More fool me, I guess I just wasn’t paying enough attention. Anyway, the true comic books fans out there will immediately have know the organisation that Coulson works for: S.H.I.E.L.D.
That’s quite a mouthful.
I know. We’re working on it.
It is good to get in a bit more pure comedy, and this deadpan response to Pott’s glib criticism is probably what started audiences falling in love with Coulson.
Potts is remarkably standoffish here, barely looking in Coulson’s direction as he speaks and mostly looking dead ahead. Coulson keeps his gaze, almost profile-like, on her at all times. It’s very clear that Potts does not actually want to be talking to Coulson.
You know, we’ve been approached already by the DOD, the FBI, the CIA…
I suppose this might explain Potts’ reluctance to engage with Coulson here. He’s just the latest in a long line of government organisations trying to get a word with Stark. But Coulson is firm:
We’re a separate division with a more specific focus. We need to debrief Mr Stark about the circumstances of his escape.
Comic fans might well wonder why S.H.I.E.L.D would be so interested in Stark’s escape at this point in time, but it is a fairly minor point I suppose. Potts dismissively promises to “put something in the books” for Coulson and he thanks her, walking off with a large and very genuine smile on his face, every inch the overly-polite and respectable looking “Government Agent” stereotype. Oh Phil, the adventures you are going to have. I wonder if Clark Gregg, now headlining a studio/network flagship TV series as this character, had any inkling while filming how much he was going to get out of this minor appearance?
Anyway, it’s back to the main action. Obadiah tries to take control of the press conference from the podium, but finds himself suddenly Stark-less. Tony has decided to sit in front of the podium. He’s one-upped Stane again, with Obadiah forced to give out an undignified “Ahhhhh” as he scans for where Tony went.
Tony, in-between taking out another delicious culinary delight from BURGER KING tries to take things down a notch.
Hey, would it be all right if everyone sat down? Why don’t you just sit down? That way you can see me, and I can… A little less formal and…
He scoffs down on the burger while saying this, as the crowd of journalists, more than a little bemused, reluctantly sits down on the press conference room floor. Stane, even more reluctantly, sits down next to Tony. You can really tell that this sort of thing is beneath his dignity.
Rhodes and Pepper share a brief exchange:
(Whispering) What’s up with the love-in?
Don’t look at me. I don’t know what he’s up to.
So, there is a concern growing. Pepper can guess that Stark is “up to” something, and whatever it is, it might not be all that good. Even for all of Stark eccentricities, this is a little beyond the pale for him.
TONY (to Obadiah):
Good to see you.
Good to see you.
It’s a very brief moment here, as Tony acknowledges Stane for the first time properly, but it flies by alarmingly fast. Stane moves to put his hand on Tony’s shoulder is a fatherly way, but Tony is already moving on to the next topic. It is a little disrespectful I suppose, but at this stage of the film we could also chalk it up to a certain familiarity between the two.
(to Stane) I never got to say goodbye to dad.
Stane’s looking down as Tony says this sentence, perhaps a little embarrassed by the position he’s in, but snaps his head back up, surprised, at Tony’s pronouncement. He repeats the line again (replacing “Dad” with “my Father”), this time saying it to the press. The music has stopped now, all of the attention, for the audience and the characters, is on Stark.
It’s such a strange way to open this speech. Not mentioning his father I mean, but the way it is initially directed at Stane. Is this just a statement of fact, or some kind of subtle accusation thrown Stane’s way? I don’t mean that Tony thinks Stane killed Howard Stark, but maybe that Stark Industries took more of his father’s time than Tony did? It throws Obadiah for a loop anyway.
I suppose, given the situation that Stark found himself in over the last three months, thoughts of his father and things left unsaid would have been at the forefront of his mind. But there is some hidden meaning to the way he says those words to Stane, I’m sure of it. Tony continues:
There’s questions that I would have asked him. I would have asked him how he felt about what this company did. lf he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts.
The journalists are hanging on every word here, and so is Stane, though he looks away when Tony mentions “doubts”. Tony struggles through this monologue, pausing between sentences to get his composure. This is a speech long prepared.
Or maybe he was every inch the man we all remember from the newsreels.
For this line, we focus on Pepper, looking taut and nervous, and Rhodes, who gives a very slight smile at the mention of the Howard Stark’s popular image, a headliner of the American arsenal of democracy. Stark moves on to other things from here, but the mention of his father in this context is important. We don’t really know much about their relationship at all – there’s this speech and that picture of the two in Tony’s garage – but it seems like it may very well have been a distant one, and that’s something that has effected Stark. When he wonders whether his father had any doubts, and expresses regret for never finding out, is Stark talking about feelings that only emerged in the last few months, or has this been something that has been gnawing at him for longer than that?
After a very pregnant pause, Stark continues, his voice starting to crack just a little as he recalls his recent experiences:
I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.
It’s been a while since we even thought of those soldiers in the humvee from the very beginning of the piece. And Stark here is talking on a mantle of responsibility for their deaths, because it was his designs and his weapons that led to their deaths. The larger issue of how the Ten Rings got their hands on Stark Industries weapons is going to be tabled for now, but it’s clearly weighing on Tony’s mind.
The journalists, restrained up to this point, finally find a voice:
What happened over there?
It would take a long time to answer that question, but Stark has a very simple answer ready.
I had my eyes opened.
Here it comes. The ambush, the captivity, the craziness of Raza, the relationship with Yinsen and that characters death, they have all influenced Stark for the next declaration.
Stark stands up. He was previously at everyone’s else level – even Stane lowered himself, grudgingly – but now he towers above them again, the King amongst men, addressing his subjects, ready to issue his proclamation.
I came to realise that I have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up.
There is a very strong power in Tony’s voice as he continues his speech. This is rehearsed, and he really, really means it.
And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division…
I love this moment. Up to now nobody has any idea what Stark has called this conference for. And this sentence, this section of it anyway, opens the floodgates. You can actually see Stane tense up at the words “shutting down” before he springs up in a panic at the mention of the “weapons manufacturing division” (compare the last two pictures, though it’s hard to capture the moment in stills). The journalists aren’t going to be held back either, they’re up and on their feet, shouting questions.
Stane, already with a prepared smile on his face, moves behind the podium and actually shoves Stark back, in the form of a few pats, as gently as possible, trying to make it seem as if he is just guiding him away. Potts’ mouth drops open. Rhodes looks faintly disgusted.
Stark keeps talking, but now Stane is desperately trying to grab the spotlight without just shunting Tony aside:
…until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be. What direction it should take, one that I’m comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country, as well.
Tony shouts over the cacophony of noise, not even looking at the imposing figure of Stane who has his arms over his shoulder. He has an almost angry look on his face too – it doesn’t want to be challenged on this point. His speech made, the damage done, he stalks off through the crowd barely looking at any of the journalists scrambling for a quote or a picture.
Stane goes into damage control mood:
What we should take away from this is that Tony’s back! And he’s healthier than ever. We’re going to have a little internal discussion and we’ll get back to you with the follow-up.
The “Tony’s back!” is said with a faux enthusiasm, which just barely masks the kind of annoyance that we know Stane must be feeling very strongly right now. Obadiah also says “healthier than ever” with a tinge of regret – though whether it is just a temporary annoyance over this press conference or a deeper resentment is not clear yet. The rest of his words are unimportant, already fading away as we move into the next shot, an establishing look at Stark Industries from the air. All that is important to note is Stane’s refusal to confirm Tony’s announcement, and his indications that there are things still to be discussed.
I mean, this is the equivalent of Lockheed Martin – which is the sort of company that the films Stark Industries is based on (they actually designed the YF-22) – suddenly announcing they will no longer make weapons. That company makes 74% of its money off military sales, so Stark is basically gutting his entire operation with these words.
Sometime later, we open on a different section of Stark Industries. This part is a bit different to the rest. The rows of military vehicles looks almost like a showroom or a museum section, and the helmeted workers indicate this is a place of hazard, but our eyes are firmly on Stane, driving up to the building on the right side on Segway of all things. I’m not quite sure what to think about that choice. It looks faintly ridiculous, this grey bearded, cigar smoking, fancy suit wearing executive zooming around on such a niche piece of tech, but I guess it’s supposed to mark Stane out as a bit elitist, or with the latest trends? Or maybe it is just meant to make him look distinctive.
Our eyes are also drawn to Happy, leaning back on the Rolls-Royce, casually smoking, which we haven’t seen him do before. Interesting. Stane pulls up in front of him.
Where is he?
Stane is demanding in his question, Happy subservient in his answer. Without Stane having to ask, Happy walks up and takes his Segway. So, this is the role Happy has to people like Obadiah. Note that as far as we know, Hogan does not work for Stane at all, but he does this seemingly without a second thought.
As he hands his fancy scooter off to Hogan, Stane glances at his right hand for a second, the cigar between his fingers, before moving on. I’m not sure what he was doing – he wasn’t looking at a watch or anything – but it struck me as odd, the way the movement was captured by the camera. Anyway, Obadiah is quickly moving into the dark building, obviously for a showdown with Tony.
There are some nice shots in this place, which is the building that houses the Arc reactor, the device that has been mentioned offhand a few times so far. This is actually the set-up for several crucial scenes later, as this facility will be the location of the grand finale. This initial shot shows the strange nature of it. It has the pristine look of a scientific workspace, but strangely coloured pipes and lights around it – gold for some reason – not to mention the oddly shaped glass contraption to the left, the thing that has Tony Stark’s undivided attention. Stane walks on, all business and bluster. He doesn’t even take the cigar out of his mouth as he talks, though it doesn’t even appear as if he is smoking it really – it might just be a status symbol for him. He puts his hands on his hips as he addresses Tony, like a disapproving father addressing an errant child.
Well, that…that went well.
Obvious sarcasm, but there isn’t a lot of bitterness in the tone. He’s just making an observation. This is a crucial conversation for Obadiah, clearly, as he tries to judge Tony’s mental state and the seriousness of his previous declaration. This is actually the first the two have been in the same place and talking alone in Iron Man, so a lot of their dynamic, set-up partly but not firmly so far, is going to be indicated by their exchange here.
Did I just paint a target on the back of my head?
Tony has lost the jacket, making the sling more noticeable. He seems a little more stressed here – the cuts are a little more prominent, the sweat of his brow. Here’s a man not in as much control of himself as was indicated earlier.
Your head? What about my head?
He walks behind Tony as he says this, domineering. This is a more serious declaration, and also a little bit of Stane’s true personality: how is this going to affect him? Who cares about Tony?
The angle switches now to talk in the entirety of the strange contraption Tony is looking at, which dominates the screen. It’s a weird fishbowl-esque thing, that glows with a moving blue light. People in labcoats work off to the right. We still don’t know what this thing is exactly, but it is impressive in its scale and colours at any rate. Tony is taking it all in, but Obadiah has other things on his mind:
What do you think the over-under on the stock drop is gonna be tomorrow?
Optimistically, 40 points.
That’s quite bad if anyone was in any doubts. Stane paces back and forth around Tony, while Stark awkwardly takes off his tie using just one hand. It’s clear who is far more comfortable in this scene right now, though we might still have a concern for Tony.
We pull in a bit closer for the rest of the conversation:
Tony, we’re a weapons manufacturer.
Obie, I just don’t want a body count to be our only legacy.
That’s what we do. We’re ironmongers. We make weapons.
Again with the “Obie”. They’re close, but Stane still feels more than a little standoffish with Tony at times. Anyway, this is Stane’s personal philosophy when it comes to his life right here. Plain and simple: he makes weapons. That’s what he does, and that’s what his company does. He says “we” here a lot, but it’s just a mask. The words “iron monger”, a powerful distinctive term, is dropped very effectively here, a hint towards what is coming. Though he’s never explicitly referred to as the term at any point, that’s who Stane is.
Stark’s turning away from that though. He still has Yinsen’s final words burned into him.
It’s my name on the side of the building.
And what we do keeps the world from falling into chaos.
Not based on what I saw.
Tony tries to assert himself a bit more in the face of Stane’s verbal attack. The resort to the “chaos” line is a standard weapons manufacturer idea, and is the exact kind of thing you can imagine Stane – and pre-abduction Stark – believing. But he doesn’t believe it anymore. He’s seen the truth, up close and personal.
As an aside, given some of the terminology used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I don’t think it would be too fantastical to imagine Stane as a member of HYDRA, if we wanted to tie various properties together. In that film there was a lot of talk of HYDRA spending the years post-World War Two propagating chaos around the world even while the organisations they secretly controlled said differently in public. That’s kind of what Stane is doing in his professional life, and it would be easy to have him have a hand in the death of Howard Stark – inferred to be a HYDRA job in The Winter
Soldier – somehow. But it’s just a fan theory.
Tony starts to make his own pitch to “Obie”:
We’re not doing a good enough job. We can do better. We’re gonna do something else.
Like what? You want us to make baby bottles?
I think we should take another look into Arc reactor technology.
Tony is insistent, Stane is dismissive. He picks the complete opposite of weapons manufacturing as a sarcastic example of what they could be doing, before the camera frames Tony’s last statement with the titular power source in the background. This is the Arc, the reactor that Tony claimed powered his whole factory when he was in Afghanistan. But Stane is instantly incredulous:
Come on. The Arc reactor, that’s a publicity stunt! Tony, come on. We built that thing to shut the hippies up!
Yeah, as a science project. The Arc was never cost effective. We knew that before we built it.
He’s really scathing in tone here, whiny and irritated. The Arc, the kind of relatively clean energy that would “shut the hippies up” doesn’t really interest him. It might be enough to power a factory, but appears to not be commercially viable. Until now.
Arc reactor technology, that’s a dead end, right?
Am I right? We haven’t had a breakthrough in that in what? Thirty years.
It’s obvious in these moments that Stane is fishing for something. It isn’t even something he is trying to really hide, the strength of his inquisitiveness is in the tone. Tony picks up on immediately, after just a brief examination of Obadiah’s visage.
Could you have a lousier poker face? Just tell me, who told you?
Never mind who told me. Show me.
It’s Rhodey or Pepper.
STANE: (points to Tony’s chest)
I want to see it.
TONY: (unbuttoning his shirt)
Someone blabbed. A lot of people could potentially have known about the thing in Stark’s chest – beyond Pepper and Rhodes really – but whoever told him, Stane found out. And this is something worth exploring. Was Tony waiting for the right moment to reveal the device, on his terms? Stane, in a rare moment, has one-upped him here.
Tony takes off the sling, apparently not that required, and unbuttons his shirt to reveal the disk in his chest, doing so with a serious look on his face. The music suddenly starts off here, with dulcet, mysterious xylophone tones over soft violin (OST: “Golden Egg“), giving the right air of strangeness.
Stane only takes the briefest look – as if he just wanted to confirm the thing was real – before he gives a quick glance around and buttons Tony’s shirt up himself, to no objections from Tony himself. It’s an odd gesture, as if Stane is covering up something he wants nobody but him to see, as if worried someone else is going to swoop in and steal his prize. Because that’s how he looks at this device. If we weren’t troubled by Obadiah before, we sure are now.
He suddenly smiles in a more friendly manner at Tony, then puts his arm around him, as paternal as you like.
Listen to me, Tony. We’re a team. Do you understand? There’s nothing we can’t do if we stick together, like your father and I.
A very deliberate mention of Tony’s father here, perhaps meant to manipulate Tony after his own namedropping of Howard Stark earlier. Tony regrets not getting to spend more time with his father, and here is Obadiah offering himself as a replacement. Tony suddenly looks somewhat embarrassed, as if only just realising the consequences of his earlier actions.
I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads-up, okay? But if I had…
What? Stane would have talked him out of it? Is that something Stane can do? Because it would make him one of the only people from what I’ve seen.
Tony. Tony, no more of this ”ready, fire, aim” business. You understand me?
That was Dad’s line.
Stark smiles as he says this, not offended by the appropriation, even if he recognises what Stane is doing by using it.
You gotta let me handle this. We’re gonna have to play a whole different kind of ball now. We’re going to have to take a lot of heat. I want you to promise me that you’re gonna lay low.
Stane remains close to Stark, but still a few inches above him as he says this, the authority figure that Stark, literally, has to look up to. But Stane sounds conciliatory and trustworthy, like somebody you actually could leave such things to. And if he wants Tony to lay low, he must have pure motives right? The two walk off during the last sentence, the camera lingering on the (larger) Arc reactor. We’ll be seeing it again. This is the start of another circle, as Tony and Stane will end their relationship in this room by the close of Iron Man.
For The Film
This section establishes the second act firmly. We’re back in the States, and have set-up the situation quickly and efficiently: Stark is going to be changing things at his company, but will have opposition. We get the most substantial characterisation for Stane yet, as well as a greater understanding of the relationship between him and Tony. The main crux of Iron Man from this point – Tony’s crusade to become a better man – has begun, though we might well wonder at the wisdom of blundering into this process so brutally. We’ve also done a little bit more with the Stark/Pepper relationship, and left a new plot thread dangling in the form of Agent Coulson.
Tony is back, and a changed man. He appears physically improved but still somewhat weak. But mentally, he is as strong as he has ever been. He determinedly pushes through with his announcement of his company’s new direction, and has the miniaturised reactor to prove it can be done successfully. But he’s still Tony Stark: he operates on his own initiative, and often only thinks about what he has done after he has done it. He still relies on people like Stane for support and advice, even if he only realises it belatedly. A lot done, more to do.
Has clearly been through hell during Tony’s abduction, etched across her face upon their reunion. There are no hugs or anything like that, but what Tony’s return means to her is very obvious. She is annoyed at his reluctance to seek medical advice immediately, and later slack-jawed at his press conference announcement. He can still surprise her, but in a concerning way. She’s also haughty and somewhat dismissive with Coulson, indications of the workload she has had to shoulder during her boss’s absence.
The loyal driver/bodyguard still, more stoic when seeing Tony than we have noticed. On hand with a cheeseburger later, and then waiting patiently outside the Arc reactor facility, Hogan remains the patient servant – even with Obadiah Stane and his Segway.
Appears only briefly, supervising Tony’s return, and trying to make the process as easy as possible. He’s fallen back a little into a subordinate role in the friendship, and later stares grimly on as Stark makes his momentous announcement, clearly a little aggravated by the content.
He does a good show upon Tony’s return, making sure that everyone sees how happy he is to have Stark back and still kicking. But the hidden resentment is still there, in every moment that Stark one-ups him. He is surprised by the way that Stark makes his announcement, not to mention the content of it. Later he tries to talk Stark down, but appears to relent when a bigger prize than the weapons industry appears. He’s clever that way, and years working under Tony appear to have made him capable of picking his battles. We learn more in this section about how good Stane is at putting on the right public face, and at manipulating Tony with the words that he chooses. He’s not outright villainous yet, but we’ve started to get a truly unsettling feeling about Obadiah Stane.
Polite, reserved, yet insistent, Coulson absorbs Pepper’s somewhat rude demeanour with a smile and sticks to the task he has to carry out as if it is nothing at all.
Next time, Tony needs to do some impromptu surgery.
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Abaut Stane glancing at his hand: if you wathc the scene carefully, you can see how he (Jeff Bridges) touches accidentally the end of the cigar with his index finger for a second, so I suppose he burnt it a little, and thus the glance.