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Location: Fort Myers, Florida, United States
Interests: baseball, literature, British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, writing, punk music, law, politics
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So, I went to the first showing of Iron Man 3 the other day, but sometimes it takes me a little while to get my thoughts in order. Maybe that's not it. Maybe it's that I like to keep those thoughts to myself for a while, to savor the thinking process alone until I'm fully ready to communicate. Anyway, whatever. I've seen it twice now, and I like it.
(I've called this review spoiler free, and it will be, but I'm not going to guarantee that I won't mention anything about the plot whatsoever, so if you don't want to even know a skeletal plot framework, bale now.)
Iron Man 3 is structured like a classic quest story, something like The Odyssey or The Aeneid, in which the hero is forced from his environment and must endure various trials and conquer various situations in an effort to return. As with all such tales that are actually good, the real point of the story is the hero's character development and the lessons his trials teach him.
Arguably, each installment of the Iron Man trilogy is a morality play, much more directly than Marvel's other superhero franchises. The first film was a very clear story about a selfish man learning to care about the good of others. The second film developed the concept even more, teaching about consequences, human weakness, and the need for the help of others. The third film, at its heart, is about the real essence of love: pure, sacrificial, selfless love.
Since it's not an actual plot point, I'll add here that the film is set at Christmas. According to director Shane Black, the movie was always intended to be set then (not released then), and aspects of it are meant to mirror A Christmas Carol. (Trust me, that's not specific enough to be a spoiler.) It is true, however, that the Dickensian idea of past, present, and future interacting in a unique way is certainly evident.
I've seen three major criticisms of Iron Man 3: That it lacks plot, that it has too much plot, and that it has no soul.
I don't really understand the accusation of no plot, given that the story is structured clearly and has a beginning, middle, climax, and ending that are all obvious. The second accusation, that too much happens, is subjective. I don't personally agree, given that I understood everything that was happening and thought that all of it served the story. It's a longer film, but everything that happens makes sense in context.
Finally, the accusation that the story is soulless really rankles with me more than the others. I wonder sometimes if I've seen the same movie as other people. The plot is fast-paced and humorous, but it's also intensely character-driven. It's about the quest of a hero who is learning what it means to be a real man who can love fully. His personal pain, growth, and eventual epiphany connected with me deeply.
To sum it up, Iron Man 3 is a good movie with top-shelf acting performances and an excellent script. Marvel has done it again, and I keep wondering if they can manage to make the streak of success continue.
Just a quick aside: As a political conservative, I've always been particularly intrigued by some of the more conservative political overtones of the Iron Man trilogy. Good and evil are very clear throughout, and there's no waffling when it comes to taking care of evil, even if doing so requires a show of physical force. The other day, I came across this quote by Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr, "I have a really interesting political point of view, and it's not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can't go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal." Kind of interesting, no?
(Note: The film has the usual level of strong language found in most Marvel films. Some women appear less-than-fully-clothed, though no more so than you'd see on most beaches (more's the pity). There are a few crude references.)
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Superman. I'm serious. Atop this page, you're seeing a picture of Henry Cavill, the British actor who will soon be gracing our theater screens as the newest Man of Steel. At just 22, Henry was runner-up to play James Bond, only losing out to Daniel Craig. He also played heartthrob Charles Brandon in The Tudors (A show I didn't/wouldn't watch, but on which he had great success). Recently, he played half-god Theseus in Immortals. It's not hard to believe Henry as half-divine, really. In fact, when he screen-tested for Superman, wearing Christopher Reeve's old leotard, he was so stunning that the director didn't even test anyone else. Henry was it. He should be riding high just about now, right? I mean, it's like that scene in Spinal Tap when they turn the amp up to eleven. If you turn "good looking man" up to eleven, you get Henry Cavill. Add a dash of Hollywood success, and a lot of people would be high on the fumes of their own good fortune.
Except it's not like that. In recent days, Henry has told a story. It's about a chronically overweight kid who grew up on the British Channel Island of Jersey and went to boarding school, where his schoolmates nicknamed him "Fatty Cavill." His big break (when he was 17), the role of Jim Caviezel's son in The Count of Monte Cristo, was great, except that they told his mom to make him lose 20 pounds before they would even give him the part.
But that's all gone, right? I mean, goodness. If you Google "Henry Cavill" today, your screen will assault you with photo after photo of a man so unearthly that he keeps getting cast as super-beings. Shirtless? Check. Grinning? Check. In a suit? Check. No woman in her right mind could find anything wanting.
Back to that Superman screen test, though. While director and crew were marveling at the glorious blessing of finding Mr. Perfect, Henry was quaking inside with the terror that he was the "fat Superman" who would never get the part. When he talks about being bullied in school, the pain is still so fresh that it bleeds out of him. His weight fears are still so acute that he seeks affirmation from his girlfriends, only to disbelieve their emphatic assertions that he's great the way he is.
Insane, right? One of the most beautiful men in the world can't even seem to connect with the fact that he's ok, let alone gorgeous.
The thing is, though, that I can't point at Henry and call him crazy without three fingers pointing back at myself, and I don't think many of us can. We all have areas of insecurity, and a huge percentage of them have no basis whatsoever in current reality. I picked Henry because he's such an extreme example of the way our past can distort our present, but really, any of us could be up there.
I feel heavy because I used to be. I feel socially awkward because I used to be. I feel like I can't cope, because in the past, there were times that I couldn't. Like creepy undead skeletons, past experiences cling to my ankles, even while I walk into the next phases of my life. And too many times, I let them, believing that I can never shake off their cold, bony fingers.
But Jesus says something different. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV) As a child of God, I have no reason to live haunted by past pain.
It gets even better.
Sometimes God doesn't just take something away. Often, He transforms it, from something hideous into something beautiful. See, I always thought Henry Cavill was probably a jerk, someone who'd had it easy all his life and felt entitled to his success. Nothing could be further from the truth. His struggles have helped to make him a kind, considerate, and thoughtful human being, gloriously out of place in an egotistical business. Simply put, he's a great guy. He's let his pain make him soft, not hard. We all have a choice of what to do with our insecurities. I don't believe Henry has a relationship with God, but for those of us who do, pain has even more incredible potential in our hands.
A broken lamp isn't good for much. It's the once-was has-been of something that gives light. We might be able to imagine what it's supposed to do, but it has no ability to do it. In the hands of a master craftsman, though, the broken shards of a lamp can become something new, something even more incredible at diffusing light than the original, unbroken piece.
We've all been broken at some point in our lives. The question is, will we live as if that brokenness is neverending reality, or will we give our insecurities to the One who created us in the first place, believing in faith that He can craft something more beautiful than we've ever imagined from the shards of our broken hearts? I don't know about you, but I'm ready to put on my Super Suit.
Please keep my dad in your prayers. He's experiencing serious health challenges. We don't know the cause yet, but he's in a lot of pain.
Update: Thank you SO much for all your prayers and good wishes. My dad has an intestinal condition called Epiploic Appendagitis that is very painful, but not dangerous. He's feeling better today, and the meds should have him back to normal in no time.
I aimed my camera out the window a few minutes ago, wanting to show my sister what the stormy south Florida weather is like right now. This is the photo that resulted, unedited.
Maybe they never would have cured cancer. They might not have painted the next Mona Lisa, or written the next great American novel. That’s not really the point.
If the only value in life is what we do, then I can see your side of things. After all, we live in an overcrowded, under-funded world. What does it matter if one more person comes shrieking into this life or not?
If that were really the case, Dr. Gosnell, nobody would care.
The reason people care, that thing that rises up in the hearts of the religious and the atheist alike, is why your actions are such an affront to this world that it’s like you took a blackened paint brush and colored over the sky.
Of course, the unspoken thing, that idea that hovers every time anyone discusses your case, is the thing people don’t seem to want to consider: If it’s wrong to stamp out a life moments after it’s born, then what about before? Maybe this is why the news has been hesitant to report your atrocities.
Sometimes people will argue, around tables and in Internet forwards, that it’s about what might have been, what the children you slaughtered might have accomplished. After all, they say, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Jesus Christ—they were all born in disadvantaged circumstances. What if someone had decided to terminate them?—we’re supposed to ask, with furrowed brows.
Wasted potential is a sad thing, but once again, it’s not really about that. If it were, then those with no potential would have no value. We would be a world of Peter Singers, ready to neutralize anyone who is before or beyond the point of realized potential. Like the hellish Utopia portrayed in The Giver, we would promote achievement by stamping out those who don’t achieve.
But somehow, Doctor, we read The Giver, and we know instinctively, no matter our creed, that there’s something missing. That when you destroy a life, whether productive or not, you’ve committed violence against the very fabric of humanity. That people become part of us all just by living, even if they never do a single important thing.
The children you killed in the most callous of ways might never have been astronauts or philosophers or poets. They might have underperformed, underachieved, and lived out their lives without anyone knowing who they were. But it would have been just as wrong.
A guttering, flickering candle is still burning. Even when the light is weak and waning, it is still light—that mysterious brightness that banishes the darkness around it.
Dr. Gosnell, we will never know if the children you killed would have been lanterns with light so bright the whole world would have taken notice, or if they would have been tiny candles, seen only by a few. The truth remains: Each life you took changed the world with its presence, and their loss makes the world darker for each of us.