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Iron Man is back! And how.

Unlike the second movie in the series about the techno-guru in a robotic suit, “Iron Man 3″ is an action-packed, crowd-pleasing joy ride of a movie, with dazzling special effects, solid acting, intriguing characters, witty one-liners, humor, pizzazz and so many storyline twists and turns, not even a year’s worth of relentless marketing could spoil them all.

A fitting follow-up to the first “Iron Man” (can we forget “Iron Man 2″ ever happened?) this third installment rivals last year’s “The Avengers” for pure, adrenaline-laced, comic book fun at the movie theater.

This time, however, Marvel Comics’ lovable jerk, Tony Stark (played with brilliant debonair by Robert Downey Jr.), isn’t battling corporate espionage or his own mortality, but “demons” – as in his own demons, the fruit of his arrogant ways come back to haunt him.

“We create our own demons,” Stark begins, in a cliché but still clever sort of opening (I won’t give away the spoiler as to why it’s clever – stay for the scene after the credits to find out).

The film that follows is certainly more about entertainment value than it is about moral lessons, and so I hesitate to overanalyze what is little more than a frolic in movie-making magic, yet the film’s premise does illustrate well one of the reasons morality is so important.

In short, we’re not God. We don’t know the ultimate consequences of our own actions. And the choices we make, even the foolish, selfish and harmful ones, don’t often bear the fruit of consequence right away, leaving us in the self-delusion that certain gratifications are “harmless” or even for our own good.

This is the mistake Tony Stark makes. With an abundance of charm, wit, good looks and money, he is “free” to enjoy all the temptations of the world. With selfish, reckless abandon Stark lives for himself and his own pleasure.

Consequences? What consequences? He sees none.

But as even “Iron Man 3″ recognizes, the sins of youth – yes, I said “sins” – set lives and wheels in motion. What once seemed so easy, so harmless, ended up hurting others without Stark’s knowledge. Now those reckless actions have created powerful ripples, have turned allies into enemies and threaten, as he says in the film, “the one thing I can’t live without.”

What, then, shall protect us from the long-term ramifications of deeds done without apparent consequence in the short term? From actions we can see no reason to be hurtful, yet have the power to destroy us?

One answer, of course, is a prescient omniscience. Certainly, if we knew everything that would happen based on this deed or that, we could make sound choices.

Yet since that is humanly impossible, we have morality (or more accurately, ethics). Specifically, we have the benefit – if only we will rely upon it – to heed One who is omniscient, the God and Father of Jesus Christ, who plainly states what deeds done in youth bear the fruit of blessing in old age and which, whether we can see consequence or not, bear the fruit of ruin.

So often, a man thinks he can forge his own morality, free from the omniscience factor. Such a thought is arrogant at best. For who can know the future and thus choose his deeds for good or ill? What he deems “good” may in the end create the very monster, the “demon,” that arises to cause his fall.

To such a man, he would best heed the lesson learned by Tony Stark.

“I had just created demons,” Stark explains, “and didn’t even know it.”

Content advisory:

  • “Iron Man 3,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 30 obscenities and profanities, all but a few of the lighter variety.
  • The film contains a few sexual innuendos and storylines, but most of its sexuality is of the extraneous sort, such as a brief shot of a beauty contest, where all the buxom babes are in bikinis, and the bad guys’ lair, where women in various states of undress are scattered about, in beds, lounging, even … playing ping pong. In addition, the Pepper character conducts several scenes and stunts at the end of the film in a sports bra, but the movie contains no outright nudity (save for a marble statue) and no sex scenes.
  • The film’s action sequences are naturally violent, with plenty of explosions and hand-to-hand combat. Additionally, several of the villains in the film have the ability to spontaneously regenerate limbs and heal, so there’s several more gruesome scenes where body parts are blown off, only to regrow. Most of the violence, however, is the comic book sort, not played for realism or gore.
  • The film has many religious references, though these are not significant themes. Even the term “demon” is merely meant as a tormentor of the past. Yet there is mention of heaven, hell, a terrorist who is clearly portrayed as a Muslim with Islamic symbols about him and some jokes about church and talking “like a Baptist preacher.”

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