6 Seriously Flawed Moral Decisions By Movie Superheroes
Superhero movies have become so grown-up as a genre that we often forbid children from even watching them now. These days, you can't get a superhero movie greenlit unless it's a dour meditation on the gray areas of morality.
Which makes it even weirder that the worst things superheroes do are usually totally ignored by the film. They just skim right over the fact that ...
Iron Man's Mission In Life Is To Endanger Children
Tony Stark has some character flaws, but most of them are pretty ordinary. For instance, he drinks too much, he's an egomaniac, and he sometimes makes robots that try to kill the world. But Iron Man also has a bit of a child endangerment problem.
"We just gloss over it like the alcoholism ... and the sexual harassment ... and the-"
We know what you're thinking: "Child endangerment? Are you mixing him up with Batman, the other billionaire who fights crime with gadgets?" And to that we say, at least Batman asked Robin to volunteer to jump into a gunfight with nothing but hot pants. Iron Man doesn't even ask before putting children in harm's way.
Never mind the risks of flinging explosives into terrorist-occupied villages while hoping all nearby children know to flee from the sounds of AC/DC. In Iron Man 3, there's a sequence in which Tony is on the run and happens upon a young boy named Harley Keener. Stark has no super armor, murderers are on his tail, and he chooses to hang out with an innocent child. Yes, the kid has a stupid name, but is it hope-he-gets-hit-by-a-grenade stupid?
"Children aren't safe around me, son. Not when my suit is off. No, wait, that came out wrong. Don't run! I didn't mean it like that!"
And Tony doesn't just pass by Harley during his desperate flight from certain death. He awkwardly opens up to the kid and lets him join in a fun investigation into the Mandarin's attacks. Tony Stark is a man who has Captain America's phone number, and when he's being pursued by terrorists he chooses instead to grab the nearest boy and look for clues? He's already proven in the movie that he vastly underestimated his enemies, so he probably shouldn't bet a strange kid's life on his certainty that no cyberterrorists can track him to rural Tennessee.
Even after the adventure is over, Stark is apparently convinced that the bad guys are completely wiped out and that no one would ever think of targeting Harley, because he invests exactly zero SHIELD resources into protecting the kid and essentially disappears from his life like an incredibly snarky imaginary friend. They might as well have filmed a post-credits sequence where the kid is tied to a table in a Hydra base getting interrogated by a snake-headed man, because that's almost certainly what happened after Tony left.
"Wait, how do I use this?"
Ever the learner of lessons, Tony continues his child-endangering ways in Captain America: Civil War. The feud between him and Steve Rogers stems from a conflict over what to do with the Winter Soldier. Captain America considers him a friend, while Iron Man considers him an assassin mind-controlled by Nazis. Both sides have valid points, and it ends up turning into a fight. So while Cap recruits a team of highly trained soldiers, Stark makes a beeline for a teenage Spider-Man and practically blackmails him into joining his side. Again, to fight a man he's very sure is an unstoppable killing machine.
To make matters weirder, Tony found Spider-Man by spying on him until he figured out he was secretly a high school kid from Queens. And since he's obviously collecting intel on metahumans, he could have just as easily gone one borough in any direction and recruited a ninja lawyer, a superstrong private detective, or an invincible badass -- all of them full-grown adults.
"I'm here to talk to you about the
So yes, any nerd knows Spider-Man is the best hero, but as far as Tony knew, Peter was just an awkward teenager with potentially awesome abilities. Of all the choices, why pick him to go up against history's greatest fist fighter and a Nazi cyborg assassin if you're not specifically trying to watch a child die?
Superman Had To Have Been Willfully Ignoring Batman For Many Months
Hot Take Alert: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was not a good movie. Despite coming from the same studio that produced the Oscar-winning masterpiece Suicide Squad, the fan reaction to BVS ranged from disappointment to 9/11 comparisons. The movie combined the two most popular characters ever with the most popular Batman story ever and it still went over as well as Jared Fogle leaping out of your child's birthday cake. The point is, you can't hate this movie any more even now, when you're also picturing Jared Fogle bursting out of a cake wearing only two inches of an Italian herb-and-cheese loaf.
They didn't even bother making the bat symbol look like a bat. That's a fucking bird.
Some fans claim the extended, R-rated cut of the film is better. Which in this case is like saying, "You have scrotum cancer, but good news: All scrotum cancer diagnoses come with a free cowboy hat." And while the extended version does help explain some of the nonsense in Batman V Superman, it also adds some plot holes of its own that make the heroes look like even bigger dicks.
The torturously longer version tacks on an entire subplot explaining why Superman has a problem with the Bat in the first place. Admittedly, any explanation is better than "Lex Luthor told me to kill you, so unless our moms have the same first name, you're freaking dea- Wait, what's that? You said your mom's name was what?!"
"Holy shit, when's your birthday?"
So, in the film we learn that Gotham and Metropolis exist right across a bay from one another. We also learn Batman has been active for about 20 years and that his violent vigilantism has escalated to the point where he's practically crippling jaywalkers.
Superman, as journalist Clark Kent, starts investigating Batman's overzealous crime-fighting and decides he's not happy with it. It makes sense Superman would disagree with mutilating criminals, but that's the problem. Are we supposed to believe Superman is just now finding out Batman exists?
The Bat is kind of sneaky, but he drives a car shaped like a bat and gets summoned by an iconic spotlight, also shaped like a bat. He's not exactly a secret. He beats suspects to the brink of death and then burns bat shapes into their mangled flesh while they scream. The whole time Superman was in town, was he overhearing this with his super-ears and just thinking someone at Chili's was dropping a hot fajita pan in their lap?
Guess Robin didn't die loud enough.
Actually, forget super-senses -- this kind of thing would be the top news headline every day, probably at Clark Kent's own newspaper. If he somehow didn't know about the hilariously world-famous vigilante from one town over until just now, you have to seriously question his abilities as both a superhero and a reporter.
The Hulk Took A Terrible Job In A Densely Populated City
If you turn into a city-smashing monster at the smallest bit of excitement, you need to spend a lot of your time drifting. No one wants to rent you an apartment when your 53 previous homes were suspiciously destroyed by Hulk rampage and also you're shirtless wearing torn purple pants.
"HULK HATE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION DAMAGE CLAUSE!"
Marvel was once able to milk an entire TV series out of the Hulk drifting somewhere, doing Hulk stuff, then sadly drifting on at the end of each episode. 2008's The Incredible Hulk, the Edward Norton one, went a different direction. The movie opens with Bruce Banner settled into a life, working in a bottling plant with no safety standards in a seedy part of Rio de Janeiro. And when you think about it, in the history of anything, is there a worse place for a Hulk to live?
No, previous paragraph. There isn't. Not only is that terrible job almost certain to piss him off, Rio is about as densely populated as it gets. A single Hulk-out could mean the deaths of thousands and thousands of sculpted butts. And the fact that Bruce has to shove himself through muggers and literal rapists to get to work? That can't help.
"I'm sorry. Don't hurt me, because it would essentially be suicide."
And let's not forget an elite military force is scouring the globe for him and he is in a place where his famously wanted American face would be especially conspicuous. The only way Bruce could have a higher chance of a fury rampage would be if he got a job testing mousetraps with his penis or proof-reading Garfield comics.
If Ryan Lochte, the world's most chill dude, can't handle Rio, a gamma-filled Bruce Banner doesn't stand a chance. And sure enough, one of the first things we see is Bruce having a confrontation with his co-workers. Apparently tensions run high in noisy, miserable, 110-degree warehouses. What is he doing there? He's a genius biochemist. Couldn't he make artisanal suntan lotion or butt cream? Are you telling us there's no market for butt cream in Brazil? Come on, Hulk.
Howard Stark Hid A World-Changing Element To Play Mind Games With His Son
We're not going to win any awards for thematic analysis by suggesting dickishness might run in the Stark family. Tony "Iron Man" Stark practically built his brand by being an ass to everyone. And as we see in Marvel movie flashbacks, he got that from his father.
Fans of the Agent Carter series -- or one guy named Jeff, as they are known to the Nielsen Company -- can tell you that Howard Stark was a megalomaniacal ass. The only reason Howard didn't build his own robot suit was because his poontanging schedule didn't allow it. In short, being a douche is a dominant gene in the Stark DNA.
Along with questionable facial hair choices.
You probably don't remember Iron Man 2, since you spent the movie discussing how the film's villain, Whiplash, could have been solved by any ordinary security guard with a gun, but the plot involved trouble with the palladium in Tony's chest. You see, palladium is great for powering a rocket-launching jetsuit, but has the troublesome side effect of slowly and painfully killing its owner. And since Zack Snyder already called dibs on "superhero movie where you just watch a guy wither and die for 150 minutes," they had to find a way for Tony to replace his toxic pacemaker. So he got help from his dickish dead dad.
Tony knew he needed an entirely new element to replace the palladium, because Iron Man exists in a universe where rewriting the fundamental laws of chemistry is less complicated than heart surgery. Luckily, he discovers his father already dreamed up the mystery element, but took his research to the grave. Double luckily, Nick Fury shows up with a diorama and a video tape that form a complex series of clues only Tony can decipher. So he has a team-up with his deceased father to achieve a historic scientific breakthrough while also discovering his father secretly loved and respected him all along!
"Hey, future son. I just want to say that I- HEY! DON'T TOUCH MY SHIT, YOU MISTAKE OF A CHILD! ... that I love you."
It's a sweet story if you're a Stark, but bizarrely selfish if you're anyone else. Howard created a miracle element that could have changed the world, and instead of developing it into a life-saving, free-power-generating technology, he hid it in a cute game only his neglected son could solve so that he could learn he was loved far too late. Which means one day Howard Stark had to have thought, "I love my son, but I'd also love to set the world record for most convoluted way to tell him that."
If Howard would have only hugged that kid, the second Iron Man movie could have actually been about robot suit battles instead of scavenger hunts.
In Spider-Man 3, Forgiving a Murderer/Bank Robber Means Letting Him Go Free
Let's recap this film a little bit, since human brains aren't designed to hold onto information as useless and awful as the plot of Spider-Man 3. The theme of the movie is forgiveness, which is appropriate because after he made this, Sam Raimi's future career depended on it. Also, every character in this pile of garbage is an obnoxious jerk who hurts everyone around them.
Everyone makes mistakes, like each of the 17 screenwriters who wrote this.
Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, the Green Goblin, forgive each other for whatever nonsense it was they were fighting over, and Mary Jane forgives Peter for punching her in the face.
"You forgive me for this, MJ? Huh? You accept my apology for this sweet shit!?"
The apologies don't end there. Spider-Man forgives the Sandman, who killed his uncle and definitely several more people during the many bank robberies he commits over the course of the film. And when we say "forgives the Sandman" we mean Spider-Man stands there and watches the teary-eyed murderer crumble away like a glitchy PS1 cutscene.
"Bye! Don't kill anyone else, you sandy rascal!"
You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait, there was no trial for the killings?" Nope. There will also be no restitution to the other victims, who were not consulted as to whether or not they were willing to forgive. But don't worry -- the Sandman, like most psychopathic sand monsters, will presumably just stop after he finds out there are no consequences for robbery and murder.
Also, let's be clear on one more thing: Throughout the entire film, the police are powerless to stop Sandman. And this isn't the cool Marvel movie universe where there are Norse gods, super soldiers, and terrific archers. In this world, Spider-Man is the only superhero available to stop Sandman if he decides to kill his way into another bank vault. Unless Spidey decides to once again forgive him on behalf of society.
"I can't stay mad at you!!! I'll put these chocolates in your tummy myself if I have to!!!"
On a similar note ...
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Should Never Have Been Set Free
Guardians Of The Galaxy couldn't have ended on a happier note. The Guardians defeat Ronan The Accuser with a combination of dancing and holding hands, which is a thing that really happened. Star-Lord gets his ship back, Groot comes back from certain death as an adorable dancing baby, and our heroes even get their criminal records expunged. It is a perfectly wonderful ending that ties up every loose end. Or does it?
What is going to happen when the news breaks to the rest of the galaxy? The premier interstellar police force just let a crew of violent criminals go. And sure, they saved a planet, but they did it with a weapon of cosmic mass destruction they had themselves been smuggling. There wasn't even a trial or a psych evaluation, and they left with no real reassurance that they'd stop slaughtering people.
"That's it! Time out for five minutes!"
In fact, before the Guardians fly away, their raccoon makes it clear he thinks robbery is a virtue. And their Drax shows he obviously has no idea murder is wrong. Gamora's situation is even worse because one of the crimes she is pardoned for is actual freaking genocide.
You see, Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, the Conqueror Of A Decade's Worth Of Post-Credit Scenes. Along with her sister, Nebula, Gamora committed atrocities in the name of her corduroy-chinned father, up to and including wiping out entire races. When she enters prison with the rest of the Guardians, almost every single inmate wants her dead because of her bloody trail of murder.
So say you're some space guy in the galaxy and you hear they pardoned the masterminds of a prison riot that, let's not be coy, got hundreds sexually violated and/or killed. They're the same people who gave a planet-melting gem to the worst guy in the universe, and have collectively killed too many sentient people to count. Would it really matter to you if they helped defend space police headquarters or that they have fun dance-alongs to classic pop hits from Earth? Who is running the damned Nova Corps payroll board?
"You've eaten 583 space babies, but you've been a big help in the prison library. I guess what we're saying is: Here's a bus ticket and a space baby fork! You're free!"
Stephan infrequently tweets over at @StephanRoget, where he's mostly chuffed he didn't need to use an underscore or anything. Nathan is a Christian and is positive that "letting murderers run free" is NOT what Jesus meant by forgiveness. Check out Nathan's hilarious website here. DO IT.
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