The Occult Interpretation of Iron Man
film review by O. J. Anderson
Studios: Paramount; Marvel
Released: May 2, 2008
Length: 126 mins.
The title Iron Man itself recalls the Book of Daniel:
“And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” (2:43)
Clay is the flesh of mankind. And while the iron in Daniel is not referring to robotic technology, it is indicative of an unstable alliance or what could be considered an unholy alliance, the merging of man and machine, for example. This transhumanism is not merely the surpassing of the limits of humanity but more importantly the transformation of the image of God: man having been created imago viva Dei.
The unholiness of such an alliance is supported by the law of entropy, the two greatest threats to which are chaos and over-organization. Ergo, the more man tries to beat the system, the more he participates in and hastens his own destruction. This part is obviously left out of the film, but one need only consider the classic example of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died at the age of 50 after ingesting a toxic “immortality” potion.
Our man is Tony Stark, son of legendary weapons developer Howard Stark. In the first Act, Tony is being honored with an award at Caesar’s Palace. During a brief montage on the Starks, we hear several religious references: The father is “legendary” and his death was “the passing of a titan.” When Tony took over the company “the prodigal son returns and is anointed the CEO.” He then “ushers in a new era.”
We are also shown Tony Stark on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine; the cover reads: “Tony Stark Wants To Save The World.”
The award Tony is to receive is called the “Apogee Award.” This is an interesting award for a few reasons: 1) apogee is the farthest point in orbit from the Earth, so it associates Tony with the heavenly realm; 2) apogee can be used as the pinnacle of success or status, as though Tony has reached an important point in his development; 3) apogee can represent the final stage of a process: here it is ascension, becoming the hero.
Tony isn’t too interested in the award though. He is found in the casino gambling as the award is presented. Tony’s friend Colonel Rhodes gives him the award near a gaming table. Later we see him give the award to a man in costume, saying, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
These, of course, are Jesus’ words: “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:17)
It becomes clear at this point that Tony Stark is the film’s christos archetype, an ascending man. An anointed hero-god in the making.
Outside, a reporter from Vanity Fair Magazine stops Stark for an impromptu interview. She asks Tony for a response to his nickname, “The Merchant of Death.”
Tony counters by mentioning the military-funded breakthroughs in medical technology and intellicrops that prevent people from starving to death.
What we have here is a morally ambiguous christos, and a battle between competing viewpoints. The christos, the son of the titan, believes they are good, but the public sees them as destroyers; but this is the Gnostic version of God, the demiurge: an evil eugenicist completely devoid of compassion. Tony will eventually come around to this same point of view later in the film.
This reporter, who appears to be antagonistic towards Tony in this scene, then goes to bed with him that night. The next morning she awakens in Stark’s heavenly home in Malibu. It is a huge, white mansion sitting high on a mountain overlooking the beach, far higher than any other homes in sight. His ivory tower is the realm of the gods.
That day, Tony flies to Afghanistan for a weapons demonstration. Behind him, displayed on the fuselage of the aircraft, is a family crest with a two-headed eagle, a symbol of royalty. This double-headed eagle was used on the banner of the Holy Roman Empire, further strengthening the association of Tony Stark as a member of the Holy Empire.
The weapon being demonstrated in Afghanistan is Stark Industries’ premier weapon called “The Jericho” missile, a reference to the city that was destroyed in the Old Testament. This is another allusion to God the destroyer.
After the demo, Tony’s convoy is ambushed. As he seeks cover behind a rock and tries to call for help, a Stark Industries munition lands only feet away from him, close enough for him to read the brand. It explodes, sending shrapnel into his chest. This projectile comes as a form of gnosis which gives him a clarifying taste of reality; that is, the true nature of his father’s business.
He then goes unconscious and is taken hostage by a group of terrorists who want Stark to build them a Jericho missile.
Tony later awakens in a cave and finds a mechanical device attached to his chest. Another prisoner has rigged it there. It is an electromagnet preventing the shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him.
That other prisoner, Dr. Yinsen, tells Tony that he has seen this wound before, and everyone dies within a week. People with this wound in his village are called the “walking dead.”
It is clear now that our christos has entered the tomb mortally wounded, essentially dead. The cave could also be considered as a womb from which he will be reborn. Thus, the cave represents a tomb/womb.
In the tomb/womb, Tony updates the electromagnet. His new version is an “arc reactor.” Here we have another Biblical allusion: it was Noah’s ark that spared his family from God’s flood in Genesis.
Tony was wounded by weapons from his father’s company, but now he builds the technology (an arc/ark) to protect himself from the father’s shrapnel inside him.
After seeing the terrorists with his own brand of weapons, Tony becomes enlightened in the tomb/womb to the reality of his weapons’ use. This enlightenment, now a visible part of his chest, not only keeps him alive but also powers the massive Iron Man suit that he and Dr. Yinsen have been secretly building to escape.
He emerges from the tomb/womb as the Iron Man. A hulking man-merged-with-machine superman. He is now transformed both physically and mentally. Tony spent 3 months in the cave. Jesus spent 3 days in the tomb.
Outside the cave is an extensive weapons cache of Stark munitions the terrorists have been stockpiling. Iron Man destroys the weapons, setting them afire with his flame throwers. This is our christos repudiating his old self and the father, a form of rebellion. He is now reborn and destroys his former life.
After Tony is rescued, his first request is a cheeseburger. His personal driver is seen offering Tony a Burger King bag as they head into a press conference. “Burger King” is a symbol of the holy cow, or golden cow of the Old Testament. Tony’s eating of the cheeseburger represents his renouncing of “sacred cows,” or that which was revered.
Tony eats the cheeseburger at the press conference during which he announces that he will now shut down the weapons manufacturing. He tells them, “I had my eyes opened,” meaning that with his enlightenment he was able to see that the father/demiurge is a destroyer.
After the press conference, Tony meets with Obadiah Stane to reveal his new miniaturized arc reactor embedded in his chest. Obadiah Stane, we find, is the enemy of the christos; it was Stane who had organized the ambush on Tony’s convoy in an attempt to kill him as he reached his apogee, christos-hood.
The name Obadiah means “servant of the Lord.” He is God’s representative on earth, an archon figure. The name “Stane” is a negative reference to a “stain,” or an unwanted remnant of something else (the Father).
Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts, has his first arc reactor encased in a glass cube as a gift for him. This cube represents man perfected, and it contains gnosis, the christos force within. He is no longer the careless playboy, now he knows what he wants to do with his life.
Once Tony has the new Iron Man suit refined and ready for action, we are shown the incredible abilities of man and machine operating together. Iron Man can fly as fast as the latest military jets, has super strength, advanced onboard electronics, and various external weapons systems. He can fly across the world and defeat terrorists in short order, then save a falling Air Force pilot on the way home. Iron Man is the techgnostic superman. Not from another planet, not due to a chemical spill, and not born of miraculous circumstance. He is man perfected by himself.
After Iron Man saves a village of innocent people from a terrorist group in Afghanistan, Obadiah Stane watches the TV news briefing about a training accident. He is sitting near his chess board, a common cinematic symbol of the conflict between good and evil, and watches suspiciously. After trying to have Tony killed, then trying to have him legally removed from the company, he will now make a third and final head-to-head attempt on the super-man.
Stane has to travel to Afghanistan to retrieve the original suit, the parts of which were gathered and reassembled by the terrorists after Tony’s escape. God’s forces are behind the times, dated, and not nearly as advanced as the christos man. The terrorist says, “...and you dream of Stark’s throne.” This means that the super-man has ascended higher than God. This is Luciferianism:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 12:12-14)
Obadiah builds his own Iron Man suit, but he doesn’t have the power source. So he later must steal the arc reactor from Tony when his technicians can’t duplicate the technology.
There is a final showdown between Obadiah and Tony. As is common in these kinds of films, the character representing God is always bigger and stronger, the Luciferian christos is always the underdog and must use his cunning and skill to defeat God’s forces.
The original display arc located at Stark Industries comes into play during this showdown. This is the big arc reactor, the one that will save the world from the demiurge. Before he is killed by Stane, Tony tells Pepper to overload the circuits.
The arc reactor explodes sending a bright column of light high up into the sky overhead. The explosion not only kills God’s servant Obadiah, but it also goes all the way into Heaven and, presumably, destroys God.
In the final scenes there is another press conference for which a cover story has been concocted to protect Tony. But he doesn’t follow it. The last line of the film: “The truth is... I am Iron Man.” He is now the fully ascended christos superman, and not only has he reshaped the image of the New Man, but he has removed the image of God in the process.
Copyright © 2009 by O. J. Anderson