Serena Williams makes the 2014 edition of TIME magazine’s list for the top 100 most influential people of the past year. Read her feature here:
The champion who won’t give up | TIME 100 by Dwyane Wade
Do y’all know how striking this scene in an action movie was to me? Main lead, who is young and gorgeous and the whitest of whites, oversteps his bounds. He touches a commanding officer. In any other action movie the dressing down would not be this severe (Elba’s adlibbing on this is terrifying…forget kaijus, Raleigh looks more scared by him than anything that crawls out of the breach and half the audience squirmed in chastened sympathy because WOW). And the thing is, Raleigh is right. His initial argument that Stacker is holding back Mako is for all intents and purposes, the correct assessment. He’s RIGHT. But he isn’t in a position to tell that to a commanding officer, especially the way he does. So Stacker puts him back in his place. Raleigh KNOWS he went out of line the minute he touched Stacker and rather than argue or shout “you know I’m right” or storm off or IGNORE a commanding officer like any other action movie would have the hero do, Raleigh backs down. Stacker doesn’t even let him get away with just the nod and choked back frustration, he makes him VERBALLY back down as well. There is no question who is in charge here. Raleigh is obviously angry and frustrated and still riding the testosterone high of kicking Chuck’s face, but he FREAKIN’ BACKS DOWN LIKE ANYONE WITH SENSE IN THE MILITARY WOULD. It’s always baffled me that main rodeo cowboy hero of every movie can just walk all over rank and command and not pay for it because he’s “special”. Raleigh only sort of does this once (and remember, his argument is valid) and he’s immediately reminded that’s not what he’s there for. And he KNOWS because he never complains about it, never goes off and stews about how unfair Stacker is, never holds it against Stacker later. He knows he crossed a line and he belly crawls back across it because it’s all about respect and he overstepped.This is something 9 out of 10 action movies wouldn’t address.
This is carried through in really fucking interesting ways throughout the movie, actually. You remember the scene where we get introduced to Stacker? The Becket boys are joking with Tendo about his disaster of a love life, and it’s cute and fun and casual and dude shenanigans — and then it gets announced that the Marshal is on deck. The camera happens to be on Tendo, and you see him — you see on-fucking-screen how his shoulders straighten and he sits up and his tone of voice changes and goes professional. And you see it again, too, in the post-double event scene where people are in a joyous, packed crowd around Mako and Raleigh — and then Stacks shows up at the door, and a path fucking parts for him like he is smoking-hot Moses in a double-breasted suit.
That’s presence, folks. That’s charisma, and even more than that, it’s people respecting a natural fucking leader who has earned respect.
It’s been pointed out that people disobey Stacker in PacRim all the fucking time. You’ll note that it’s not something undertaken for shits and giggles, though. Instead, it’s because they’ve made an evaluation in the field and disagree because they think it’ll cost lives — each time, it’s presented in a sympathetic light, and each time, the movie shows that their disobedience Does Not Get What The Disobedient Ones Want. Remember that Yancy and Raleigh disobey Stacker’s order to stay back, and Yancy gets dead (and it’s not clear that they actually manage to save the dudes on the ship). Chuck and Herc disobey the order to stay back because they’re trying to save the other Jaeger pilots, which they not only fail to do, but they get hit with an EMP pulse from the kaiju. If Mako and Raleigh don’t arrive when they do, both it would’ve been a long, long fall into water for two Aussie pilots, and the world would have been well and truly fucked.
The movie underscores this with what I consider to be the goddamn climax of the whole thing. I mean, what’s the biggest command that Stacker gives? Like, the single biggest one?
To me, it’s gotta be when he tells Mako (Mako! Specifically!) during Pitfall that she can do this. She can finish it. And Mako does it, even though it clearly fucking costs her not to try and go to Striker’s aid, even though it isn’t phrased as an order. Stacker knows he doesn’t have to phrase it that way, because he knows that he has been Mako’s fixed point since she was ten years old. He knows that she knows what should happen. And he knows that he is right. And that Mako agrees, too, because again: fixed point for how many years now? The command doesn’t need to be verbalized as such. It doesn’t even need to be entirely articulated, because the Drift that Mako and Stacker share isn’t a physical one inside a Jaeger with a Pons mechanism. Instead, it exists because Stacker and Mako found each other in the wreckage of Tokyo. Stacker raised Mako, and they share the same value system and the same way of looking at the world and the same fierce pride and devotion and willingness to lay down personal attachments to other lives if it means saving the motherfucking world.
That’s their Drift.
So Stacker tells Mako that she can make this sacrifice — his life, for the world. It’s a parallel to the situation that Yancy and Raleigh have to make in Alaska, with the fishermen versus the city of two million, and the one that Herc and Chuck have in Hong Kong, with the lives of their fellow Rangers versus one of the few great coastal cities left. Yancy and Raleigh and Herc and Chuck choose to disobey, and each time, not only does it not get them what they want, but it’s got shitty consequences.
This time, instead of laying it down as an order, Stacker tells Mako that she can finish it. She’ll always be able to find in him in their particular version of the Drift.
And Mako obeys because she agrees with him.
And they save the world.
Let me emphasize that: the world gets saved without further loss of life because Mako and Raleigh follow Stacker’s directive to Mako.
Stacker fucking Pentecost, everyone. This fucking movie, everyone.
That last gesture is completely, “Swallow your pride, child, because lives are too important for this petty bullshit.”
And when Raleigh says “Yes, sir,” the matter is over.
No, but you don’t understand why I liked Iron Man 3 so much.
In all the other Avengers movies, we see characters going through pain and trauma and heartache. We see Steve lose practically his whole world and still carry on. We watch Bruce struggle with trying to figure out just how the Hulk fits into his life and his psyche; it is implied that he deals with depression and tries to end his life. We hear Clint and Natasha and their angst about the “red in their ledgers”, the things they have done, and we watch as Thor essentially comes of age and deals with the pain of having his brother fall down deeper and deeper. We KNOW the pain and the issues and the upset are there.
But Iron Man 3 is the first time we actually get to witness—REALLY witness—the aftermath of heroics.
In the first part of the movie we see Tony Stark dealing with real, honest-to-god PTSD. He has panic attacks, he can’t sleep, he gets reckless and has a harder time taking care of himself, he obsessively spends hours working on suits so he can protect Pepper—even though in doing so he is unintentionally threatening their relationship. Rarely has such a thorough job been done in showing that all the flash-bang-let’s-save-the-world action would, in real life, have some serious psychological consequences.
Then, as the film progresses, we see him laid low. REALLY low—we see him get taken apart piece by piece. He loses his home, he loses contact with the people he cares about, he loses his suit—which means, in the context of the past few films, that he is in some ways dead. “He is Iron Man”, after all, isn’t he? The public sees him as one with the suit, and in a sense, so does he—a good deal of his self esteem, his sense of being able to defend people, is locked up in what he can do in the suit. And now he’s stranded in the middle of nowhere—he can’t fly, he can’t fight much, he’s still suffering from PTSD, he’s being actively hunted by the few people who don’t think he’s dead. All of his real ability is locked up in his brain, a place not everyone would think to look. We see him almost completely broken down.
And then we watch him build himself back up again, but with one major difference: he does it without the suit.
In most of the second half of the film, in almost all of his major victories, Tony is not in the suit. He breaks into Killian’s mansion essentially with odds and ends he’s cobbled together. He saves the passengers from Air Force One with a suit he’s remotely controlling. He wins the final battle with a whole bunch of suits that he is not in at all. Rhodes saves the president, and Pepper kills the villain. Not Tony. And at the end of the day he blows up all the suits and tosses his mini arc reactor into the ocean.
Iron Man 3 is brilliant and underrated precisely because it lets the hero be a real man—a man, not a man in a suit. A person who can still work wonders even when he’s at his very lowest, when he’s stranded and battling mental illness. Someone who can’t operate completely alone, who lets other people have some victories as well—heck, who needs his friends and teammates to win. And as he says at the end of the movie, while he may not always wear a suit, he will always be Iron Man.
And personally, I think that is an A-freaking-plus storyline to bring into this franchise.
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(I would add only that of course IM3 is the first movie to explore that because it’s the first one set post-Avengers, but yes to all of this. I loved everything about this movie.)