In Detail: Iron Man – The Party (01.07.33 – 01.13.36)

Tony Stark is up for a party, and nothing could illustrate that more than the thumping music, the roar of an engine and the sight of one of those sleek, beautiful sports cars racing down a urban landscape, bypassing lesser, slower cars with ease.

This Audi R8 gets to have its engine prominently displayed, along with the “STARK 4” registration plate. Gotta pay for the Gulmira action scene somehow! Anyway, Stark is a playboy is coming out for a spin, and this brief moment is supposed to remind us of the kind of lifestyle Stark (as well as being an advertisement for Audi).

Stark arrives at the gala, all style and grace as the camera pulls up and around the parked car. A tip for the valet, a movement to button the tux, this is all flash and money, to make clear in our mind the kind of celebrity superstar that Stark really is. Almost immediately Tony is drawing the eyes of beautiful women in very expensive looking dresses, not to mention the flashing of paparazzi cameras.

One of the only people who doesn’t seem to be aware of Tony’s big entrance is Obadiah Stane, talking to a reporter somewhere on the red carpet, looking resplendent in a nice tuxedo.


STANE:
… Weapons manufacturing is only one small part of what Stark Industries is all about, and our partnership with the fire and rescue community…

This gala is for the Fire Brigade apparently (there is a fire truck in the background of one of the earlier shots, lights blaring) but what’s really important is the first part of this piece of dialogue, where Stane actually appears to be peddling the Stark line, downplaying Stark Industries’ manufacturing of weapons. This is the sort of line you’d expect from someone who is onboard with Tony’s new vision, paving the way for the company to work on something else, something non-lethal like…fire engines? With the repeated looks at Raza back in Afghanistan, this sort of thing seems designed to lower our suspicions of Obadiah just a tad, and make the coming revelation that much more impacting.

Stane is suddenly distracted by the sound of cheering and female yelping to his left, and here comes Tony Stark. The tux, the flashing lights, the female adulation. One blonde actually has something to say:

WOMAN:
Hey, Tony, remember me?

TONY:
Sure don’t….

He doesn’t even look at her, walking on without a care. Is this the true return of Tony the womaniser, or is this more of a Bruce Wayne thing, where Tony is acting out to deflect attention from his more secret activities?

Marvel’s obligatory Stan Lee appearance also follows, at Tony pats a bathrobe wearing OAP who is surrounded by beautiful women:

TONY:
You look great, Hef.

The Lee cameos are just one of Marvel’s little idiosyncrasies – even Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D got in on that act – but as a brief nod to the core audience, they could be a lot worse. Lee being a doddering old man like he is portrayed here, looking around confused when he is tapped on the shoulder, does sort of fit.

Tony walks right up to Stane all smiles.

TONY:
What’s the world coming to when a guy’s got to crash his own party?

STANE:
Look at you. Hey, what a surprise.

Obadiah’s reaction is a bit hard to read. His words sound like they are picked very carefully, as if he is both surprised to see Tony at this event and unsure of how to react. It’s a very public moment – the camera are still going off throughout this scene – but it’s also somewhat personal, as Stane ensures that his words and reactions can’t be misinterpreted too much. Tony seemed to be a recluse living in his basement, now he’s out and about just like he was before. And, he’s still stealing Stane’s spotlight, literally in this case.

TONY:
I’ll see you inside.

STANE:
Hey, listen, take it slow, all right? I think I got the board right where we want them.

Stane whispers this in Tony’s ear, a tone and look of genuine concern evident. He doesn’t want Tony pulling another press conference moment and, in conjunction with what we heard him sayIng to the reporters, this is another indication that Stane is on Tony’s side and is helping whim with his new and improved vision for Stark Industries. Tony is acquiescing in this:

TONY:
You got it. Just cabin fever.

An indication of just why Tony is at this party, trying to get away from the recluse he realised he was becoming…and that the world was seeing him as.

Inside the party (the sumptuous Walt Disney Concert Hall), party guests mill around, soft jazz plays and everything appears to be in full swing for this gala. Tony head straight for the bar, where a familiar face is waiting.


TONY:
(To barman) Give me a Scotch. I’m starving.

AGENT COULSON:
Mr Stark?

TONY:
Yeah?

COULSON:
Agent Coulson.

The impeccably pressed suit, the deadpan manner, nothing has changed about Agent Coulson since the first time that we saw him.

TONY:
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. The guy from the…

COULSON:
Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

TONY:
God, you need a new name for that.

COULSON:
Yeah, I hear that a lot.

Again, I can’t believe that I never quite picked up on that on a first viewing. Stark, kind of like Pepper earlier, is barely paying any attention to Coulson, not even looking at him directly.

COULSON:
Listen, I know this must be a trying time for you, but we need to debrief you. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and time can be a factor with these things.

Stark couldn’t care less, because he’s spotted something much more interesting across the room: Pepper. Moreover, Pepper, in a backless blue dress, her hair styled and looking very different to how we have been traditionally introduced to her.

TONY:
(Distracted) Let’s just put something on the books.

COULSON:
How about the 24th at 7:00p.m. at Stark Industries?

TONY:
Tell you what. You got it. You’re absolutely right. Well, I’m going to go to my assistant, and we’ll make a date.

Quite the brush-off. Tony goes straight over to Pepper.

TONY:
You look fantastic! I didn’t recognise you.

And she does. Not to emphasise the point, but she does look stunning. The only glimpses we’ve had of Pepper so far in Iron Man have shown her as purely professional – business suit, black shoes, fixed hair, no real bling. She didn’t look ugly in any way, but she wasn’t a bombshell. Here – this dress, the hair, the lipstick the jewellery – she looks completely different, a whole side of her that we haven’t had the chance to see yet. She’s surprised to see Tony, and in a slightly negative way.

PEPPER:
What are you doing here?

TONY:
Just avoiding government agents.

PEPPER:
Are you by yourself?

She’s concerned, much like Obadiah. Just what kind of nonsense could Tony pull here?

But then things go in a very different direction:

TONY:
Yes. Where’d you get that dress?

PEPPER:
Oh, it was a birthday present.

TONY:
That’s great.

PEPPER:
From you, actually.

TONY:
Well, I got great taste.

You’ll remember, way way back near the start of the film, Tony gently teased Pepper about a gift he had gotten her for her birthday (and the fact that he remembered). It was not only Tony’s “Save The Cat” moment in terms of character definition, but it helped to make his relationship with Pepper stand out, as opposed to his relationship with the likes of Christine Everhart. We never found out what the gift was, only that Pepper liked it and that Tony was, evidently, very pleased with himself for picking it out.

Now we know that the gift was this dress. It’s an interesting gift to give. Assuming that Tony actually did the legwork in getting it, it is at once both thoughtful and a bit creepy. The dress certainly looks good on Pepper, it can’t be denied. But it’s a remarkably intimate garment to gift to someone, with a very sexual side to its appearance and material (or rather, the lack of it in certain areas). Was the dress some kind of come on from Stark? Or is this really just what he thought Pepper would appreciate, a gift that is remarkably more forward than the usual kind of thing between employer and employee.

Compare with the gift that Pepper got Tony in the last sequence. That was personal too, and the kind of gift that went beyond a simple professional relationship. Like this dress bringing out a different side of Pepper in Tony’s eyes, the display case for the reactor, with the caption, was meant to show off a side of Tony’s personality – his non-literal “heart” – that isn’t immediately obvious to both people. Pepper obviously liked the dress – she’s wearing it after all – and Tony liked the display case. These two know each other to a degree that has not really been seen to any great extent with other relationships in Iron Man so far.

TONY:
You want to dance?

PEPPER:
Oh, no. Thank you.

TONY:
All right, come on.

PEPPER:
(Being led onto the dance floor) No…

It is a bit of a strange moment now. There’s an awkwardness between the two before Tony even asks her to dance, due to Tony’s surprising presence at the gala and Pepper’s clothing. Then Tony asks her to dance, and literally doesn’t take no for an answer. Pepper protests gracefully and quietly, but is obvious in her unease with being asked to dance by Tony, and then being dragged away by him even when she declines. There’s something in this section to be said about gender roles and the dominant position that Tony takes with Pepper. We can chalk this up to Tony’s experience with women maybe, whom he is constantly leading around and playing with like toys. He isn’t used to being turned down, and perhaps thinks that Pepper really does want to dance with him and just needs a bit of encouragement. The fact that this is an undercurrent of disrespect for women goes uncommented upon.

Pepper allows herself to be led onto the dance floor, smiling blandly at others taking note of Tony’s sudden appearance and the fact that she is dancing with him. The two settle into a gentle sway, but this if offset by how obviously nerve filled Pepper is, sighing and biting her lip.

TONY:
Am I making you uncomfortable?

PEPPER:
No. No. I always forget to wear deodorant and dance with my boss in front of everyone that I work with in a dress with no back.

TONY:
You look great and you smell great.

PEPPER:
Oh, God.

That’s a great little run-on sentence from Pepper. We’ve never seen her really unnerved or panicked before – her tears upon Tony’s return was the most potent emotional display from here thus far in the film – but this is Pepper worried, because of the social situation Tony has, literally, dragged her into. Office politics might seem an odd consideration in this setting, but for a woman in the position that Pepper is in, right hand to a man like Tony Stark, being seen like this must be disconcerting. Tony’s reply probably doesn’t help, being a bit forward in tone, matched by the unashamed look in his eye, clearly exhibiting an interest.

He decides to respond to the situation with humour, like he always does:

TONY:
But I could fire you if that would take the edge off.

PEPPER:
I actually don’t think that you could tie your shoes without me.

TONY:
I’d make it a week. Sure.

PEPPER:
Really? What’s your Social Security number?

TONY:
….Five.

PEPPER:
Five?

TONY:
Right.

PEPPER:
Right. You’re missing just a couple of digits there.

TONY:
The other eight? So I got you for the other eight.

It’s easy banter between these two, which helps to cut the tension for just a moment (and to illustrate, again, how reliant Tony is on Pepper).

But then suddenly things get a bit more serious again, and Iron Man gives Tony and Pepper a moment, just a few seconds, where they are wordlessly looking at each other, in this setting and doing this activity, suddenly realising, or so it seems to me, the place that they are heading to together. Pepper’s awkwardness lapses, Tony looks a bit more serious. And, just as with the “You’re all I have” moment earlier, there is a very definite sense that the two are closer to acknowledging the true depth of feeling that they have for each other.

But then the moment is broken:

TONY:

How about a little air?

PEPPER:
Yes, I need some air.

Pepper answerers very quickly, snatching at anything to make the tension disappear. The two wander off, with a brief look at a very grumpy Agent Coulson to bookend the scene. He’s not getting that date, and he knows it.

Cut to Tony and Pepper on a balcony elsewhere in the building. Overlooking a busy street. The camera is back further that it was now, allowing us to take in the two more singularly, without the distraction of party guests and music, save for the occasional passing of a few couples. Pepper is tense, playing with her hair, which is strikingly out of character for someone as apparently prim and proper as she has been seen up to this point.

PEPPER:
That was totally weird.

TONY:
Totally harmless.

PEPPER:
It’s was totally not harmless, by the way.

TONY:
We’re dancing. No one’s even watching.

PEPPER:
Everybody who I work with…

Tony is very soft spoken in this moment, almost murmuring his objections to Pepper’s distaste for what they just did. But he’s not admitting fault either, he seems to be trying to mollify Pepper to an extent. We might appreciate how strange a step this is for Tony, trying to show genuine affection towards a women he possibly loves, as opposed to just trying to get her into bed as fast as possible. Pepper’s reaction, while perfectly justified as she will explain in a moment, might have thrown him.


TONY:
No, you know why? I think you lost objectivity. I think they just… people… We just danced.

PEPPER:
No, it was not just a dance. You don’t understand because you’re you. And everybody knows exactly who you are and how you are with girls and…all of that, which is completely fine. But, you know, then me, you’re my boss, and I’m dancing with you.

I actually found it a bit unsettling, and maybe bad for the character, that Pepper is rambling on like this in the face of a romantic advance, stumbling over the words and shying away from voicing firm opinions. It just seems so contrary to the women that she has been shown to be so far in the film, knowledgeable, confident, professional and sure of herself. But, then again, none of that involved personal romantic stuff, so maybe that is just this side of Pepper’s personality, unused to dealing with such things, especially when it comes from someone like Tony Stark.

TONY:
I don’t think it was taken that way.

PEPPER:
Because it makes me look like the one who’s trying to…

TONY:
I just think you’re overstating it.

PEPPER:
You know, and we’re here, and then I’m wearing this ridiculous dress, and then we were dancing like that and…

And then things get more serious, with some light tones in the background featuring some xylophone melody (OST: “Extra Dry, Extra Olives“, the closest Iron Man comes to a love theme). The shot sets things up for a kiss, that classic view of two people in profile, with the added smalsh of there being a balcony in the background. Pepper’s words get slower, and then they are just staring at each other, like they were before.

It’s a nice, tender moment, with a certain inevitability about it, that you have seen a thousand times before. Many of us will know the sheer terror and excitement of that moment, when you lean to kiss the girl or guy for the first time.

But Pepper is hesitant, her facial expression donating second thoughts long before their lips are on the verge of touching.

And then the spell is broken:

PEPPER:
…I would like a drink, please.

TONY:
Got it, okay.

PEPPER:
I would like a vodka martini, please.

As if she realised the danger of the thing that she was about to do, Pepper breaks it off, grasping at the excuse of needing a drink.

Tony, seemingly not entirely comfortable with everything himself, immediately agrees to go and get Pepper a drink, with an odd up close shot focusing on her as she shouts out her drink order to an already departing Tony, maybe just to show how deliberately slow and nerve-settling she gets out the words. Ah, to alcohol, 5he cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

Tony heads to the bar, ordering a drink in his own unique style:

TONY:
Two vodka martinis, extra dry, extra olives, extra fast. Make one of them dirty, will you?

But an unpleasant surprise awaits. Tony scans the room and quickly averts his eyes when he sees the oncoming Christine Everhart, whom we last saw getting kicked out of Tony’s mansion way back in the first ten minutes of the film. She’s looking much the same as always, only with more of her covered than the last moment she was onscreen.

EVERHART:
Wow. Tony Stark. Fancy seeing you here.

TONY:
Carrie?

EVERHART:
Christine.

TONY:
That’s right.

I suppose it is intentional that you don’t really have a clear idea about whether Tony is joking or serious here. Either way, the conversation is not off to a good start.

EVERHART:
You have a lot of nerve showing up here tonight. Can I at least get a reaction from you?

TONY:
Panic. I would say panic is my reaction.

Awkward…I do love how Stark bites his lip and tenses up here, unable to walk away because he’s waiting on the drink, forced to listen to Everhart even while Pepper is waiting for him elsewhere. But then things take a much more serious turn.

EVERHART:
‘Cause I was referring to your company’s involvement in this latest atrocity.

That piques the interest, certainly. But Tony isn’t biting just yet, turning to humour.

TONY:
Yeah. They just put my name on the invitation. I don’t know what to tell you.

But Everhart, for all her faults as a journalist, is at least tenacious, and presses the issue.

EVERHART:
I actually almost bought it, hook, line and sinker.

TONY:
I was out of town for a couple months, in case you didn’t hear.

This is much like their first conversation actually, in dialogue and framing. We cut back and forth, the lines are short, everything is rapid-fire: Everhart’s criticisms and Tony’s blasé attitude towards them. Still, at the last point he does get a bit more annoyed (right around the same moment he was getting annoyed earlier).


EVERHART:
Is this what you call accountability? (hands Tony some photographs) It’s a town called Gulmira. Heard of it?

Um, yeah. Yeah we have. Now isn’t that a weird coincidence. From earlier, in the cave:

TONY:
You still haven’t told me where you’re from.

YINSEN:
I’m from a small town called Gulmira. It’s actually a nice place.

Too much of a coincidence. Tony is immediately intrigued, and the reveal of what’s on the photographs is delayed for a few tantalising seconds.

Oh, hey Bakaar. The coincidences keep piling up, don’t they? Anyway, continuing with the plot hook established with that first panicked look at a Stark Industries bob about to go off in Tony’s face in the opening sequence, we now see the dark, twisted side of the industry Stark was overseeing: his weapons, branded and all, being used for atrocity and carnage somewhere in Afghanistan, in the hands of people who should not have them. Even worse, one almost looks like a working Jericho missile system. The horror of the situation is accentuated by a sudden echoing ring from the score. However, I will say that there is a bit of a plot hole in this whole thing which is this: American weapons like this, in the hands of a terrorist group, would be surely be headline news worthy. Why is Everhart going to Tony with this and not the press that she is, nominally, a part of? Just looking for a reraction?

TONY:
When were these taken?

CHRISTINE:
Yesterday.

TONY:
I didn’t approve any shipment.

CHRISTINE:
Well, your company did.

She remains piercing with her accusations, Tony is defensive, in a way he has never been with her before. It’s interesting that Tony moves to defend himself and not his company, almost as if a certain disconnect between the man and the organisation that bears his name is already evident, a state of affairs reaffirmed in Tony’s last words to Everhart on the subject:


TONY:
Well, I’m not my company.

And he isn’t, not anymore, not since the cave, the escape and Yinsen’s death. But, if Tony Stark is not the company, and is not approving these shipments, then who is? Oh, I think we might have an idea at this point.

Outside the gala, Tony confronts Obadiah, who is now busy trying to get media cameras out of his face. Tony is upfront with Stane:

TONY:
Have you seen these pictures? What’s going on in Gulmira?

Obadiah’s reply, hushed so no listening ears might pick up on it, is absolutely chilling:

STANE:
Tony, Tony. You can’t afford to be this naive.

The final breaking between Tony and Stane is going on right before our eyes. With those words, Obadiah picks up the mantle of a villain, and he isn’t going to be dropping it. His words are simple and said directly, the well practised justification that Stane must have been telling himself for a long time.

Tony is immediately serious, accusing, angry in his retort. This is not just illegality, immorality and betrayal. This is Stane having a personal hand in Starks’ ordeal.

TONY:
You know what? I was naive before, when they said, “Here’s the line. We don’t cross it. This is how we do business.” lf we’re double-dealing under the table… Are we?

Stane just stares back at Tony for a moment, the violins swelling in a nervous note. He’s considering. Considering how to handle this, whether to come up with some excuse, some lie, some way out, or to just keep going. This is actually one of the defining moments of the entire film, and Stark’s life.

Obadiah moves Tony to face the camera, for the surface reason of getting a good paparazzi shot of the two of them together. We might also notice Everhart in the background, looking on but apparently not privy to the details of this whispered conversation.

Tony simply stares, almost comatose with shock, as the revelation comes:

STANE:
Tony. Who do you think locked you out? I was the one who filed the injunction against you. It’s was the only way I could protect you.

Stane, in response to Stark’s decision to completely alter Stark Industries modus operandi, is trying to get rid of Tony from the business entirely. Worse, much worse, he’s involved in selling guns to terrorists, the very terrorists that captured and tortured Stark in Afghanistan. And even worse, he phrases this admittance as if he was doing Stark a favour, protecting him by keeping him ignorant and trying to get him out of the way. What else could Stane be hiding? We’ll find out soon.

The breaking is done. The friendship is decisively over, Stane doing away with it easily, with just a few words, and not even sticking around very long to hear any of Tony’s thoughts on the matter. Tony starts after him as he walks away, tense with anger, and with what may be the beginning of tears in his eyes. Everyone, the press, guests and even Everhart walks away from him as the camera pans out. He seems more on his own than ever.

The question is, what will Tony Stark do now?

For The Film

This is an intervening sequence, coming between two different action sequences, designed to move the plot forward and get two very important things done. First, the Tony/Pepper relationship, and the romantic undertones to it, has to be explored in greater depth, accomplished by a somewhat awkward come-on from Tony and Pepper’s flustered reaction, which belies her obvious interest. Secondly, it needs to finally delineate Stane as a villain of the story, albeit one who might not be the primary antagonist (which, at this point in the film, still seems like it is going to be Raza), accomplished by that characters decision to break away from Tony and simply admit the underhanded things he has been doing. Tony Stark steps back into his usual environment here, the glitz and glamour of celebrity, but is left feeling cold and isolated by the conclusion. He’s a changed man, and circumstances are changing around him.

Characterisation

Tony Stark

At the start of this sequence, Tony Stark is racing back into the role he once played, the devil-may-care playboy, at least in appearance. But what he really wants to do is get closer to Pepper, it’s just the method of doing so leaves a bit to be desired. Struggling to find a romantic connection after a life of keeping distance, his efforts with Pepper are hit and miss. Then, a shockwave to his life, which hits him like a tonne of bricks, leaving him angry, confused and almost tearful. That anger is important, and how he reacts will show much of the man Stark intends to be in the future.

Obadiah Stane

He’s finally had enough of the pretence. For the whole film, he’s been in a shadow, playing the loyal friend even while despising his position and working against Stark. Now, he breaks free from those shackles and almost proudly declares his antagonism towards Stark and the manner in which he has been going about fulfilling it.

Agent Coulson

Still as tight and mostly unreadable as he was before, Coulson seeks Stark’s attention and is visibly annoyed when he doesn’t get it.

Pepper Potts

She appears out of her depth in this sequence, mortified by her boss coming onto her in such a public fashion. But her attraction to Stark is a real thing, something that she is unable to really rationalise and deal with properly, balking out of confronting issue twice over. But the look in the eyes is real enough.

Christine Everhart

She’s back, and a bit better at the journalism thing now. Her disgust at what she sees as Stark’s hypocrisy is keenly felt, and raises her up in the audience’s eyes, even if her overall role in the story is still quite small. She’s a catalyst for the Stark/Stane breaking, and that’s enough.

Next time, Tony returns to Afghanistan.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

This entry was posted in In Detail, Reviews, TV/Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to In Detail: Iron Man – The Party (01.07.33 – 01.13.36)

  1. Pingback: In Detail: Index | Never Felt Better

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