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Iron Man 2

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

A scene from the movie "Iron Man 2" starring Robert Downey Jr.
Some viewers will be perfectly happy to accept the stylish sci-fi follow-up "Iron Man 2" (Paramount/Marvel) at face value, looking for nothing more than diversion from this almost entirely gore-free, though steadily clash-laden, action story. Yet below the glossy surface of director Jon Favreau's second adaptation of a popular comic book series that originated in 1963, others may perceive a cautionary tale about the two-edged potential of modern munitions.

The sequel's opening scenes find freewheeling weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) the lone arbiter of global peace, thanks to the high-tech suit of armor that transforms him at will into the titular, seemingly invincible, hero.

As Stark's subpoenaed appearance before a Senate committee—chaired by the comically irksome Senator Stern (Garry Shandling)—makes abundantly clear, however, this is not a state of affairs that sits well with the political establishment. Summoned to testify at the same hearing, even Stark's friend and former military liaison, Lt. Col. "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard) is forced to admit his doubts about his buddy's monopoly on world power.

In a parallel to the nuclear arms race of the 1950s and 1960s, a rival to Stark—who is nothing if not characteristically American in both his virtues and his vices—emerges in the person of gifted but warped Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke).

Bearing a personal grudge against Stark—their fathers were partners until an acrimonious split that Vanko blames for his dad's subsequent ruin—and armed with an Iron Man-like outfit of his own invention that emits whiplashing bands of destructive energy, Vanko eventually allies himself with another of Stark's opponents, smarmy competing industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

With further plot developments producing yet another would-be Iron Man, as well as a legion of remote-controlled Iron Man-style drones, and with Stark wavering between responsibility and moral breakdown, Justin Theroux's script explores the impact of weapons-based clout as concentrated in the hands of the good, the bad and the uncertain.

James Bond-style playboy Stark also entangles himself in romantic complications, as fetching newcomer to Stark Industries Natalie (Scarlett Johansson) further confuses his already ambivalent relationship with his ever-supportive, but frequently exasperated, executive assistant "Pepper" Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Though Stark's lustful ways are referenced for laughs, there's nothing more than kissing onscreen, and this second installment sees him moving further down the path toward domestic respectability.

The film contains considerable, though virtually bloodless, action violence; some sexual humor and references; at least one instance of profanity; a bleeped use of the F-word; a couple of crude expressions; and occasional crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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John of Monte Corvino: At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. 
<p>John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John traveled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. </p><p>Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. </p><p>John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. </p><p>Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighboring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. </p><p>When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.</p> American Catholic Blog We look ahead to the coming of the Son of Man, standing erect and with heads held high. We live in hope, not in fear. Our experience of God is no longer limited by human weakness or even human sinfulness. God has always been one step ahead of us, with a plan that exceeds our greatest desires.


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