11 February 2014
The Fate of a Hero: Ironman The Modern Hero
Stories of heroes have been told, written, and passed down since the beginning of time; each unique but following a tight pattern. Joseph Campbell was the first to notice this and wrote a book called The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell wrote about the similarities of every hero’s journey while breaking it down into three steps: Departure, Initiation, and Return. In his book, Campbell compares many old Greek myths and heroic tales from centuries ago, and although he focuses on ancient myths, modern hero stories follow Campbell’s stages just as closely. Ironman is a prime example of a modern story that follows Campbell’s pattern. Tony Stark (Ironman) is an eccentric billionaire who owns stark industries, the world’s leader in weapon making. He lives a bachelor lifestyle without any worries until he gets his call to adventure. The story of Ironman tells the tale of Tony Stark’s life changing adventure while closely following the stages written by Campbell which would label him a hero by Campbell’s standards.
Tony’s heroism was instantly challenged in his call to adventure; an extremely harsh one with severe consequences. The call to adventure is when the hero realizes that his or her world will soon change dramatically. Tony Stark travels to Afghanistan to introduce his new weapon, The Jericho, and endures a deadly life changing call to action. After the weapon demonstration, Tony’s caravan is attacked by a terrorist group who kidnaps him. The terrorists lock him in a cave and give him the ultimatum to die or build weapons for them. Tony’s call to adventure directly follows Campbell’s description. “This first stage of the mythological journey-which we have designated the “call to adventure”-signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or about the sky, a secret island, lofty mountain, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.”(58) Just as Campbell predicted Tony’s fateful region was a distant land. He was removed from his comfort zone and taken to a place of unknown.
The next step of the journey is where the story of Ironman first strays from Campbell’s steps. Campbell refers to the next step of the hero’s journey as the refusal of the call. The refusal happens when a hero does not feel comfortable with the call to adventure, usually because of fear or uncertainty of the future. Tony’s hero journey does not follow Campbell’s typical journey at this step. Instead of refusing the call this particular hero goes against the norm and accepts his challenge. While in the cave Tony decides not to lie down and die but to fight back. He now builds the suit and becomes the Ironman. Tony’s acceptance of the call is a key part of this movie because a refusal would have gotten him killed.
Following the refusal of the call comes Tony’s supernatural aid, Dr.Yinsen. Campbell describes the supernatural aid as a being that mentors and gives advice to the hero while he or she is beginning their journey. While being kidnapped Tony was severely injure and knocked unconscious. When he finally awakes he is in a dark gloomy cave with .Dr.Yinsen. After surgically saving Tony from his injuries, Dr.Yinsen helps Tony answer the call to build the suit and break free from his kidnappers.
Next in Campbell’s hero’s journey is the crossing of the first threshold. Campbell describes it as, “When the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the...
Cited: Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1968. Print.
Iron Man. Dir. Jon Favreau. Prod. Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. By Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art
Marcum, and Matthew Holloway. Perf. Robert Downey, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Paramount Pictures, 2008. DVD.
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