I Am Ironman–1 John 3:12

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. –1 John 3:12

Tonight–actually a week ago–I attended a special advance screening of the new film Ironman. Since you might well have not seen this movie in the few days since it opened on May 2, I thought I would assure you that it was definitely worth every penny that we spent to see it. Did I mention that we had free passes?

Seriously, I’m not that much a fan of comic-book movies.  Spider-man was okay and Fantastic Four sort of bored me. Probably what bugs me most is the rather obvious direction these films go. The heroes, though flawed, remain heroes, and the villains, as hard as the writers attempt to make them difficult to perceive, can be recognized from their first appearance on-screen.

In Ironman, the baddest of the bad guys is Obadiah, played by Jeff Bridges. You can tell he is evil, due to his bald head and his warmth toward the hero. If he weren’t bad, there’d be no reason for him to be taking up frames.

The worst thing that Obadiah does in the too-long span of this film is attempting to kill our hero, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey. What drives Obadiah toward homicide? Was he born a killer? Not really. Obadiah, in this film, like Cain in Genesis, moves toward murder because his own actions are evil. In this case, Obadiah wants to protect his illicit arms sales to good guys and bad guys alike, since better weapons lead to a better world. Tony Stark, for all his flaws, had a conscience and attempted to restrict sales simply to the good guys.

Comic book morality barely registers on the complexity meter. You have a good but troubled hero with amazing powers and an inexplicable point of vulnerability facing off against unscrupulous and utterly wicked villains with equally (or maybe more) amazing powers and a less obvious point of vulnerability. Typically, the hero is tempted toward a misuse of his power, but in the end, virtue always triumphs over evil.

While life is not quite so simple, in the end, we (heroes?) are tempted toward a misuse of our powers. Sin, we discover, leads on to sin, when we surrender ourselves to the evil one. Before long, perhaps like Obadiah, we find ourselves doing things unimaginable at the outset.

Our call is to be Ironman: uncompromising and willing to use our abilities for good. Living thus, we won’t be able to fly, but our lives can be every bit as heroic as the comic-book hero’s.