The Tao of “Iron Man”: 5 Life Lessons

Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is underway, and for those of you who could not give two fucks about a Justice League movie, it’s been quite a trip, hasn’t it?

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Expect a DC version of one of these to hit theaters sometime never.

It seems fitting for Phase Two to begin where Phase One started things with Iron Man. However, among all the Asgardians and Hulks and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, it’s easy to overlook that an entire Iron Man trilogy has been released. How does it compare to the Dark Knight trilogy or the Spider-Man films of yore? Honestly, the Iron Man trilogy is a bit of a mixed bag. The first film was incredible, the second one was… credible, and the third one was pretty much The Incredibles.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

So they say.

But let there be no mistake: There were plenty of important lessons to be taken from these three films, and some of them just might end up making a Justice League film possible. Or at the very least more tolerable.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

We’re looking in your direction, Aquaman.

5. It’s possible for a superhero
to enjoy being a superhero

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what separates Marvel from DC comics. Spider-Man loves to go web-slinging, Captain America always wanted to be a hero, and Iron Man…

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Let’s face it. Half the time, we don’t know if it’s Tony Stark or Robert Downey, Jr. who’s enjoying himself more in these movies.

Now, compare these Marvel superheroes to their DC counterparts, and you have one hell of a role reversal. Not only are Batman and Superman brooding orphans in desperate need of therapy and ass, but the only people having fun in their movies appears to be the villains.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Apparently, enjoying yourself is illegal in the Dark Knight trilogy.

Now, we’re not saying Batman needs to smile more or that Superman should start cracking wise. However, we will say that heroes who have as much fun as Tony Stark does tends to make them more approachable, more charismatic, and the films they appear in more entertaining.

After all, while it’s fun to see Bruce Wayne occasionally dip into jerk-mode, it’s flat-out hilarious to know that Tony Stark actually is an asshole whether he’s fighting crime or not.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

And best of all, he probably knows it.

4. It’s all right for a hero to use lethal force

Look, we understand that Batman doesn’t like to kill people.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Unless, of course, we’re talking about Michael Keaton.

However, after what we saw in The Avengers, it’s going to be hard as hell for a Justice League movie to handle interplanetary conflict without the good guys killing something. Also, they can’t cheat it by having Batman or Superman killing monsters from another planet, because if they do all it proves is that DC superheroes are racist.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Which, in all honesty, would not surprise us one bit.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at the Iron Man trilogy for a minute. You know how many people Tony Stark kills in the first movie alone? 56. That’s more than the total kill-count for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins put together. Does this make Iron Man any less of a hero? According to everybody but Batman, no. It was all in self-defense against terrorists who were hard at work trying to orchestrate the next 9/11. Batman, on the other hand, would have not only shunned Tony but would have probably gone out of his way to stop him.

Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

And accidentally kill Tony Stark in the process.

Like we said, we understand that letting the bad guys live is what separates DC heroes from their Marvel counterparts. However, even Captain America uses lethal force, and he’s the Eagle Scout in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If he’s cool with it, then whatever moral superiority Batman and Superman think they have with their no-killing policy is null and void, lame, and makes for a significantly worse movie. Never mind a worse cinematic trilogy.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Say what you will about this guy. At least Catwoman doesn’t blow him up.

3. Super-smart is the new super-sexy

While Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did a great job of establishing Batman’s detective skills, the more inventive side to the Dark Knight unfortunately left much to be desired. Not only was so much of Batman’s brilliance outsourced to Morgan Freeman in the Dark Knight trilogy, but it was done at an enormous expense once we saw how useless Batman was without his Batsuit.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Fortunately, he was paired with someone who invented a cure for paralysis with his fists.

Iron Man, on the other hand, achieves his highest creative potential when thrown into these situations. For example, when trust into the same conditions as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, Tony Stark was able to invent his way out of the situation.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Christian Bale’s Batman, on the other hand, can’t invent a cup of coffee without his butler.

This is probably the most important contribution Iron Man 3 made to the Iron Man trilogy. It reaffirmed that without his armor, Tony Stark is still a force to be reckoned with. Also, while we admit that Batman probably would have been able to do the same in the comic books or TV shows, that’s not the Batman we saw in the Dark Knight trilogy. Advantage: Tony Stark.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Had Tony Stark been dropped off here, he probably would have flown his way out.

2. Fighting crime without a mask
is its own form of heroism

Imagine for a moment how badass it would have been if Bruce Wayne revealed his identity to a camera crew while simultaneously daring Bane to attack Wayne Manor. That’s what Tony Stark did in Iron Man 3, and you know what? It was dumb as fuck. It blew up in his face and nearly got him and the woman he loves killed.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

It also destroyed one perfectly good stuffed animal.

However, while it is questionable why Stark didn’t whip out all his Iron Man suits during this scene, it doesn’t change the fact that Iron Man exhibited the type of heroism we never see Bruce Wayne do. Batman lives in fear of someone discovering his true identity because of the danger it would expose to those around him. Tony Stark, on the other hand, invites this danger, and it does have a few advantages when you think about it.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

For one, that whole damn compound was probably insured.

Those helicopters could have attacked the White House that afternoon, or Manhattan, or Gotham General Hospital. Instead, by inviting the Mandarin to attack his mansion, Tony Stark willingly took one for the team that day, by which we mean everyone in the whole damn country. Does this mean that Batman is not a hero? Of course not. However, willfully discarding one’s secret identity for the sake of protecting others is a type of heroism that Batman is simply too afraid to get into.

Also, if it’s because Batman doesn’t want anything to happen to the kids he has working for them, then maybe he shouldn’t be fighting crime with them in the first place.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Tony Stark went to every possible expense to tell this kid to fuck off.

1. Sometimes making a superhero movie
can make you into a real life superhero

It’s hard to believe that a history of substance abuse and even a stint in jail can land you the role of a superhero, but that’s precisely what happened to Robert Downey, Jr. According to Iron Man actor/director/swinger Jon Favreau: “The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye… He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That’s Tony Stark.”

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

In all his glory.

When you add to the mix that the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe could have crumbled if Robert Downey, Jr. let himself go all over again—or worse, died—it’s nothing short of remarkable that Phase One was even able to be completed, never mind an entire Iron Man trilogy. However, that’s part of the reason why the Iron Man films are so enjoyable. In Robert Downey, Jr.’s own words, Tony Stark “struggles with his lifestyle, he struggles with the drinking… He faces the same issues a lot of people do.”

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

Just like he did.

By assuming the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr. became him in real life. He became a hero to everyone who ever suffered from substance abuse, or ever knew someone who did. Or… hell, everyone who ever liked his movies. Including this one.

X Important Lessons to be Taken from the Iron Man Trilogy

He is Iron Man.

Follow Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter!

468X60AD