Posts Tagged ‘Iron Man’

When GI-JOE:  Real American Hero premiered in the early 80’s as a television companion to already published comic-books, viewers were introduced to an eclectic cast of characters comprising the ranks of both “The Joes:  America’s Highly Trained Special Mission Force” and “Cobra:  an evil terrorist organization determined to rule the world.”  One of the craftier villainous characters was Destro, a partner to Cobra Commander in his nefarious plots at world domination and destruction who wore a metal mask.  Born James McCullen Destro, of Scottish clan McCullen, Destro was the founder and CEO of Military Armament Research Systems (MARS) Industries, a weapons manufacturer whose technology and profits often fueled Cobra’s evil missions of terror and world-domination, as clan McCullen had long been the suppliers of weapons in various conflicts throughout history (imagine an evil Tony Stark/Iron Man).  As such, Destro uses his wealth, position, and influence for evil and does so willingly.  Nevertheless, he would, and sometimes did, work against Cobra if it is in his interest as ultimately Destro served himself.

Recently, in a sermon at National Community Church, Mark Batterson told the story of a Scottish man named Thomas McClellen who was born in 1837.  In 1857, at age 20, young Thomas made a covenant with God in which he pledged all that he had, all that he was, and all that he might become to the service of the Heavenly Father and the cause of His kingdom.   Thirty years later, at 50, McClellen recommitted himself to this covenant and did so a third time at age 70.  At present, five generations of the McClellen family have followed in the footsteps of their ancestor and philanthropically distributed millions of dollars through grants to many people and organizations fueled by the Gospel to make the world a better place.  Thomas McClellen was the “anti-Destro” and left a legacy that needs no mask, metal or otherwise.

As you walk through the world, what sort of legacy remains in your wake?

Advertisements

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

Phil Coulson, Agent of the Strategic Homeland Intelligence Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD), and supporting character in the Iron Man films and, more importantly, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.    One man. No special abilities. A greater hero than the Avengers combined…because he combined them.  He believed in The Avengers, the heroes, when they didn’t believe in themselves.  His death served as “The Push” that was needed to coalesce the Avengers into the Family of Heroes the world needed them to be in order to defeat Loki and the Chitauri invasion.   Coulson knew a push was going to be needed and was at peace with and willing to have his death be that catalyst.  His sacrifice saved New York City – and the world – more than Iron Man’s willingness to fly the alien bomb into space.

This is all thought-provoking and inspirational pondering;  the type of fictional stories that inspire and spur on humanity; giving us hope the world will continue to spin on.  Such inspirational stories in real life are rarely like this and they involve homeless men, a wake, and telephone poles even less.  Nevertheless, one such story does involve a homeless man, another a wake, and yet another, a telephone pole of sorts.

Peter Bis lived on a bench near Union Station in Washington, DC.  Peter Bis was an institution on Capitol Hill. Peter Bis always referred to himself in the third-person.  Known by many on Capitol Hill as a friendly homeless guy who talked to everyone and actually remembered you, he recently passed away.  There’s actually a memorial spot under the tree near the bench he used to sleep on where people have been leaving flowers and messages (which I recently visited).  From interns to congressional power-players everyone knew him and often chatted with him.  I used to see him all the time when I was an intern with the Heritage Foundation seven years ago, as his “Sheldonian Spot” – long before there was a Sheldon Cooper – was less than a hundred feet from the front door of my intern housing that Heritage provided.  While saddened at his passing and the loss of this quirky institution of a man, I didn’t really grasp the extent that was Peter Bis until I realized that articles were written about him, in memorium, by National Review, The Washington Post, National Journal, and The Huffington Post (linking to a article in Roll Call).  The area that many consider to the the most powerful square footage in the world – as far as power, politics, and influence goes – has mourned the loss of a homeless man; a single life who spent most of his days on a park bench.  That’s inspiration.

A dear friend of mine will sometimes tell the tale of something that happened at his father’s wake years ago.  A young man arrived at the wake, one my friend had never seen before.  He slowly approached the casket and just stood there for what seemed an eternity.  Standing there, this younger man broke; the dam burst and the emotional flood water swept forth with great intensity.  My friend watched this both intrigued and mystified.  As the young man turned around and walked back down the aisle my friend asked him: “how did you know my father that it would produce such a reaction?”  The younger man explained:  “I didn’t have a Dad growing up and your father was the only man I ever knew who took time for me, who talked to me like a man, like a son, who invested in me; I’ve never forgotten that”   Therein was a life to emulate.

Telephone polls aren’t considered to be inspirational either but I happen to know one that is, it’s at Lake Ann Camp and I climbed it…and then jumped off.  Even though I’ve already told the story, it’s told from my point of view.  It isn’t told from the viewpoints of any of the thirty-plus people who watched it happen.  Recently one of the Reborne Rangers from Alpha Week 2012, Maggie Syme, posted a  picture to Facebook of what the scene looked like before my climb of that dastardly telephone pole.  The caption she included with the photo said “The most inspirational moment of my life; Thank you, Aaron Welty”  I saw  that photo – with that caption – and I was speechless.  Yes, I conquered The Leap.  Yes, it was hard – seeming near impossible at moments – but I’d been through tougher things; things I’d even talked about earlier that week.  In being taken so aback my this, I thought, and even said, “it’s not like I saved NYC from an alien invasion like The Avengers did.”  Later, Maggie told me that she cried long and hard after seeing me make that climb and leap because it had impacted her that much.  I’ll never forget, Katie Decker, another Ranger, leaning over my exhausted body as I lay face down on the ground, telling me “you just changed my life”.  At the end of the week, Josiah Wyse, whose incredible story I’ve also already  relayed, told me that there were two moments that week where I left him without words: one was bequeathing the lightsaber, the other was this climb.

This was a huge “lollipop moment” for some; a moment that was much more significant for them then it was for the one doing it, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for me at all.

Mind your surroundings, be aware of the power and impact of your life; be an inspiration to others and invest in them.

Reborn Rangers praying before I began my climb.

What is your name?  What is your quest? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” – The Keeper of the Bridge of Death

What is a Quest?  The term is defined as “a long and arduous search for something” or “An expedition undertaken in medieval romance by a knight in order to perform a prescribed feat”.  I looked a few days ago through the dictionary that sits just to the left of the dais on the floor of the House of Representatives for what it had to say about “Quest” and what I was presented with was nothing but lame jargon…on the floor of the House of Representatives?!  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  Tim Keller purports that a quest is a journey upon which one embarks  – not entirely of their own choice – that either leads to their death, or they return from the journey so changed that they cannot return to their old life.  Conversely, an adventure is something chosen freely that one embarks upon and at its end is able to return to their old life as it was before they left.

Looking at an example such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings is a quest, while The Hobbit or There and Back Again – as it is also calledis an adventure (even if the the trailer for the upcoming film may hint  at it being a quest rather than an adventure).  Bilbo comes back to his old life as it was before he left it.  In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Sam, Merry, and Pippen do not – and – spoilers – Baromir dies.  Frodo and Gandalf go with the elves to the Grey Havens; Aragorn marries Arwen, becomes a father, and embraces his destiny as the long expected King of Gondor;  Gimli and Legolas become life-long friends; Merry and Pippen are now the tallest of Hobbits and in the books must return to the shire to defend it from destruction; and even though Sam marries Rosie and lives inHobbitton for some time – sans Frodo, his dearest friend – he eventually is called to the Grey Havens as he had been a  ring bearer too, never to return to the Shire once he leaves.

Much like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars is a quest, Dune is certainly a quest, as is the Terminator franchise; in these cases the main characters go through things that leaves them vastly different than when they began.  Luke Skywalker goes from a lonely and forlorn  farm  boy on a backwater word to the hero of the Rebel Alliance and the last of the Jedi Order.  Han Solo: from rouge smuggler to, Rebel hero, hunted bounty, General, and the pirate who actually has a change of heart and finds it within himself to love a princess.  Leia: from youngest member of the Imperial Senate, to Rebel leader, orphan without a home, hunted fugitive, warrior princess, and willing to risk it all to save the life of the pirate who’s heart she won.  And Obi-Wan Kenobi…from Jedi, to hermit, to teacher, to sacrificing himself for a cause greater than himself:  allowing the rebels to escape the Death Star and calling out the potential he saw in a 19 year old farm-boy who he’d spent the child’s entire life thus far guarding in secret under the guise of “a crazy old man” (who thought it too dangerous to go alone, so he gave him his father’s lightsaber).  In Dune, there is no doubt what-so-ever that young Paul  Atradies cannot go back to the life he lead as the son of Duke Leto on the water-world of Caladan once his family leaves their home to manage spice production on Arakis at the behest of Duke Leto’s cousin, Emperor Shaddam the IV.  Paul goes from a young teenager to the Duke of House Atradies after the murder of his father and subsequently  the undisputed leader of the Fremen – the native people of  Arakis – waging war on House Harkonen and the Emperor for the freedom of Arakis and the Fremen; eventually waging war across the galaxy and becoming Emperor of the known universe himself.

These stories are fraught with danger and intense conflict which bring about great transformation and change within it’s characters, but it often isn’t “all pony rides in May sunshine”  We often shy from quests because we don’t like the pain and difficulty that must be persevered though and the unknown that is the fork in the road:  deciding to do what is right or shirk from it.  It’s why some, when faced with such choices, become the hero while others become the villain of the story and such a choice leads to a destiny of “glorious purpose” bent on selfish and devious ends.  It’s why Yoda voiced concern about Anakin Skywalker and was reticent to know what came after suffering because he didn’t know if perseverance and character would result in Anakin’s life or resentment and anger and it took a generation to ameliorate that mistake amidst Yoda questioning the readiness of the younger Skywalker.

The truth though, is that human beings need quests, especially men, and Superhero movies – from Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Iron Man and the Avengers, and Green Lantern – to video game franchises, like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, readily support this idea.  Often though, destiny does not call upon us at the moment of our choosing and we are reluctant to get involved.  We’d rather save whales, because that’s easy…and not the universe.

And so I will end as I began: Who are you and what is your Quest; what are you searching for…and are you willing tto embrace that quest in the same manner which young Talia Al’Guhl escaped the pit…jumping without the rope?

In May 2008, movie-goers the world over were introduced to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man; it changed things forever. Marvel had formed their own movie-making apparatus and had an ambitious plan: release movies about the origins of characters in the Marvel universe (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) that made up the more recent incarnation of the Avengers, known as “The Ultimates” and release them in a specific order, connecting one to another to build up to something that had never been done: an Avengers team-up film. That film released this weekend and the assembly required was worth it.

Picking up where some of the previous movies ended, Nick Fury and the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) are in possession of the Tesserac (or Cosmic Cube) last seen at the end very of Thor and in Captain America. SHIELD is running tests on the cube, hoping to turn it into a new energy source for Earth. Unexpectedly, Loki (Thor’s brother and the villain in the Thor) materializes via the Cube, and begins wreaking havoc on SHIELD HQ to steal the Cube and use it to subjugate Earth with some extra-terrestrial assistance. Comprehending the gravity of such a threat, a rouge Asgardian allied with a an army not of Earth or Asgard, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the Earth. Such a defense is not without difficulty, as personalities and world-views clash spectacularly. Captain America follows orders; Iron Man and Bruce Banner don’t trust Nick Fury and Banner doesn’t trust himself, Black Widow and Hawkeye have personal issues to work through, and Thor is, well, Thor; throwing around muscle and Mjolnir, his hammer, at anyone who looks at him wrong and dialogging as if William Shakespeare were possessing him. It’s not until the team suffers a sobering defeat that they coalesce and, thus inspired, become the teammates that Nick Fury (and the audience) knows they can be (and needs them to be). As always, something awaits those with patience at the end of the credits and the big reveal won’t disappoint those familiar with the Marvel-verse, but may leave the average movie-goer wondering what the big deal is; trust me, it’s huge.

There’s no question where the lines are drawn in this film: there are heroes and there are villains, human and flawed. Captain America struggles to lead the team as a man separated from all he knew, often charging shield first into battle. The Invincible Iron Man is found to be less so, but willing to make the sacrificial call others won’t. Black Widow feels compelled to rectify past sins and pay the debt she owes to another. Hawkeye learns he has others he can trust and lean on, needing not to be so distant upon wherever he is perched. Thor begins to see that he doesn’t always have to be the one out front, and that despite all that’s happened, he still cares for Loki and wants his brother to return home to their family; face justice, yes, but reunification more so, to show the past (and Loki’s origin) is the past. Bruce Banner finds someone who believes in him in Stark and a family in his fellow Avengers, fearing less the green-gamma demon within. And the gruff, yet fatherly Fury? He shoulders the burden of managing such a powerful force, knowing all to well the cost of fighting such a war and making the hard choices. The final scene at the absolute end of the credits illustrates how amazing it is to see this team unite on, and off, the field of battle. This film, as well as some of it’s predecessors, gives reason to believe in heroes in a time of great tumult and uncertainty.

Executing an endeavor such as The Avengers, making a movie not only about beloved characters, but also a dream team of fan-boy heroes AND have the story of each character moved forward, is a Herculean task to say the least and cannot be done by just anyone. Enter Joss Whedon, the mind behind Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse and Astonishing X-Men; he’s no stranger to heroes or the Marvel universe. So much of this film was classic Whedon; from snappy dialogue filled with humor, internal and external conflict, character motivations, the exploring the dynamics of family, and the heroes never emerging unscathed. At times it felt like I was watching aspects of his previous work spill over onto the greatest canvas he has ever been given and the picture he paints is, well, marvelous. Not to mention that Harry Dean Stanton’s roll in the film might be the greatest cinematic “in-joke” I’ve ever seen (and only Whedon would have done it). It’s clear that after toiling in the shadows of Hollywood for so long, working to tell the stories that he burst at the seams to tell despite difficulties and cancellations that Joss Whedon is the Prom King now; Long Live the King.

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy far from the Milky Way, an ancient threat that feeds on the fear of others known as Parallax has escaped imprisonment by the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic law enforcers who wield green rings which channel the will power of the wielder into anything they can think of. Having escaped, Parallax hunts down Abin Sur, the greatest of the Green Lanterns and the one responsible for imprisoning him. Wounded in their encounter and fading fast, Abin crash lands on earth and instructs his ring to choose his replacement; the ring chooses Jordan. In short order Jordan is transported light-years from earth to the planet Oa, the home-world of the Green Lantern Corps; here he begins his training at the hands of Kilowog (a brutish alien version of R. Lee Ermey) and Sinestro (an emotional magenta skinned Vulcan looking character). As the story progresses Jordan’s two lives collide and new villains and heroes are born.

In all honesty, I loved this movie. Not everyone will but I did. In full disclosure though I’ve been a fan of Green Lantern since the Justice League show on Cartoon Network so I’ve been waiting for it for about a decade. When DC Comics unleashed the Blackest Night crossover a few years ago it only solidified my position as a fan of the Corps. When it comes to a film like this my greatest concern is how close the movie stays to the source material and I never apologize for that fact. Green Lantern did a marvelous job here (no pun intended). Most of the characters were spot on as were costumes and locations like Oa. (Ryan Reynolds was what I expected Jordan to be, but even if Blake Lively had a good moment or two I hope she steps up the game going forward; she has to for the story arc of Carol).

One of the most important elements in the film was properly dealing with the relation between the Power of Will and the Power of Fear, illustrated by the colors green and yellow, and how they are often antithesis to one another. It brought to mind the mantra from the Dune universe “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total inhalation; I will face my fear, I will let my fear pass through me and when it is gone only I will remain”. Critics complained that there was too much Computer Generated Images (CGI), and while A LOT of the movie was that, to not do it in such as way would have made the cost of the film astronomical and harder to execute. Additionally, critics expect all superhero movies such as this to be on par with The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man; without his powers, Hal Jordan is “Pete Mitchell” from Top Gun and with the power of his Lantern Ring he can’t be Batman. This is a film about finding courage (and the will to act) in the midst of overwhelming fear, and the places that courage comes from. It illustrates the power and influence of fathers (and how much younger men are affected by it) and mentors (in much the same way the Star Wars film did). It also hints at the cost of fighting as one’s enemy does (I expect the sequel to deal with this more), as well as the dangers of great power and the arrogance that can come with thinking oneself unassailable.

This film is a big step for DC and Warner Brothers, as it is really the first mainstay DC character to get his (or her) own movie (not TV show) and your name isn’t Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Seeing as how Marvel Studios is creating their own Marvel “movie-verse”, DC is finally taking a stab at the same (as illustrated by the inclusion of Dr. Amanda Waller; a character I expect to see much more of going forward who crisscrosses DC story-lines often and nods to the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO)). In short, I look forward to future adventures and returning to Oa.

Finally, I couldn’t help but see a Christian parallel when it was the Sun that was ultimately the undoing of the interstellar baddie. On that note I will simply end with something I wrote years ago, inspired by Christian belief and the Oath of the Lantern Corps – “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We Cannot Escape His Sight, He who loves us with all His might, He Casts Out All Fear, Jesus Christ, the Light”

*UPDATE* I just returned from an unexpected special Green Lantern in 3D screening in DC. One of the points in the film I didn’t cover but should have is Hal Jordan’s struggle with being chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. Tomar-Re, one of Hal’s mentors (and his wisest), makes it very clear that Hal was chosen by the Ring even if he doesn’t understand why; that the Ring doesn’t make mistakes. Hal really struggles with this because in most areas of his life he is a failure who cannot overcome his fear. Ultimately, the Ring’s choosing Hal gives the character a sense of destiny that is both freeing and a burden; a burden because it is a difficult undertaking, but freeing because the die is cast and any sense of confusion and doubt about the path is past once he realizes why he was chosen. This is probably my favorite subplot in the film because ever since Star Wars and Terminator destiny has fascinated me.

In something totally unrelated, I am convinced that post-production conversion to “3D” is just a Hollywood gimmick, but when it’s actually filmed in 3D that is something else entirely.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron