Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: Iron Man 3


The latest in a series of apparent terrorist attacks have wounded a friend of Tony Stark, an inventor who also masquerades as the superhero, Iron Man. While investigating the attacks, Stark learns that he is indirectly responsible for them. A scientist who Stark brushed off years earlier appears to have turned evil. Stark must battle his own anxiety while working to save the world from a dangerous situation.

How is This Relevant to Foster Care / Adoption?
Some children in foster care suffer from PTSD; Stark seems to be suffering from it as well. He has anxiety attacks on-screen, and also explains, “you experience things. They’re over, and you still can’t explain them… I can’t sleep.” Stark has become hypervigilant in the wake of some of his experiences, and experiences nightmares. Stark is frustrated because people keep wanting him to talk about the incidents that traumatized him.

Strong Points
Stark seems to grow less selfish as the film progresses. Another character – James Rhodes – is consistently selfless and heroic.
Stark is ultimately able to walk away from some parts of his life connected to his past trauma.

Some viewers might identify with Aldrich Killian – disabled, socially awkward, and abandoned by the more popular Stark. And although Stark takes some responsibility for what he did to Killian, Killian responds by becoming a villain. He kills many people, including some that trust him, and he is ultimately killed.

Weak Points
Stark is helped by Harley, a ten-year-old boy. However, some of their interactions could be very difficult to children dealing with abandonment issues. Harley expresses that his father abandoned the family unexpectedly, six years ago. Stark tells him crassly, “Dads leave all the time. There’s no need to be a pussy about it.” The audience laughed at this line. Later, Harley tries to manipulate Stark into spending time with him, telling Stark, “Admit you need me. We’re connected.” Stark mocks him, and says, “move out of the way or I’m going to run you over.” Harley asks, “So now you’re going to leave me, like my dad.” Stark says, “Yup,” and drives off. Later, he sends gifts to Harley. Even some of Harley’s assistance to Stark seems problematic – he counsels Stark through an anxiety attack. The pattern presented – an absent adult depending on a child for emotional and tangible support, and then making up for it with gifts – isn’t too different from unhealthy patterns that happen in real life. Harley seems perfectly placated by the gifts.

Some scenes might be triggering to some viewers: A man spontaneously combusts, a drug seems to turn people violent before killing them, terroristic threats are made, a beloved character is badly injured and Stark examines his body. A terrorist attack is made against Stark’s home. There is considerable gun violence. In one scene, Stark has fights a woman. One character appears to be tortured. One character threatens to commit suicide to save another. A character is unexpectedly shot to death. A character falls into a raging fire.
Chances are your kids (especially boys) want to see this one. It’s a superhero movie with explosions, familiar faces, and cool costumes.  And some problems. There are enough potential triggers in this film that parents should probably watch it before their kids do, to pre-screen it. Iron Man 3 is a very entertaining film, but for families with kids who’ve experienced abandonment or trauma, it might be a good one to skip.
I'm also troubled by how Killian turned to evil in the face of cruelty. In X-Men, Magneto does the same thing, but X-Men does a better job of showing that people have an active, important choice in how they respond to the bad things that happen to them.

Questions for Discussion After the Film
Have you ever felt like Tony Stark – something has happened, it’s over, and yet it still keeps you up at night, gives you nightmares, and sticks around in your mind? When do thoughts of it pop up?
Why did Tony Stark “brush off” Aldrich at the New Year’s Eve party? Do you think he would act differently if he had another chance?
How does Harley feel towards Tony? Why? What do you think of how Tony treated Harley?

You might also like


  1. I just saw Iron Man III last night. While it was entertaining, I did cringe multiple times during Tony's interactions with Harley. If I were watching this with a child, I would be sure to talk about Tony's comments to Harley and how Harley's reactions might have been different from how he actually felt.


    1. Thanks for your comment --- I had the same reaction towards the interactions between Tony and Harley, especially because in the world of the film, the interactions were played off as humorous, when in real life, they're harmful...


Open Adoption Blogs