A few years ago, I had an idea to do reviews of all of the Marvel movies. I still have drafts of quite a few of them, but around the time I saw the first Infinity War movie, I realized something important: I’m not that into the MCU. I mean, I like it fine, the films are enjoyable and everything, but I wouldn’t consider myself an MCU fan of any sort, and I do tend to kind of roll my eyes a bit each time some new big Marvel thing is announced. Partly that’s just me being an asshole, but the whole Marvel wagon has been circling around for the past decade or more, and like most things with appeal that wide, its depth has turned out disappointingly superficial. I scrapped my plan to review the MCU films shortly after posting my Guardians of the Galaxy review, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t really regretted it.
But then lately, I’ve had Iron Man on the mind.
Not the character, but the film. I quite like Iron Man, or I did back in the day. There’s something about it that feels noticeably different than pretty much every Marvel film that’s come out since, and it’s an interesting beast to look at on its own. If nothing else, even if you’re the sort of bog hermit who avoids Star Wars like the plague and disdains the common folk for their love of Stranger Things, you would still do well to sit yourself down and watch this film. It’s a superhero film, yes, but despite its flaws, it’s was a damn sight more self-aware than most when it came out, and it’s remained that way to this day.
3P Reviews Series: Iron Man
Audience Assumptions: None
Content Warnings: Mention of death, violence, war, racism, sexism, terrorism, capitalism, wealth disparity, guns, explosives, drones, Al-Qaida.
Part One: Sentiment
Most of us have seen the movie and know the story, but to delve into why it works, you need to snip off the film’s ties to the rest of the MCU and the mega-franchise it spawned.
Iron Man is a fairly basic story about billionaire engineer Tony Stark, who uses his technical skills to build military weapons. Although arrogant and immoral at first, a traumatic incident sees him turn a new leaf, and in an effort to undo the pain he’s caused over the years, he builds a mechanical suit and becomes a superhero. That’s the dust-jacket summary, and if we’re honest, it’s probably what most people remember of the film if they haven’t seen it in a while. Iron Man is upheld by plenty of Marvel fans as one of the best the franchise has to offer, but it’s also over a decade old, and if you’ve seen it recently, chances are it’s because you wanted to rewatch all of the Marvel films. It’s not nearly as grand in scope as the later Avengers films, and because Tony Stark is one of the most frequently used MCU characters (appearing as a major player in no less than nine of the films), it can be hard to ignore what later films would make of him.
I think it’s worth the effort, though, at least for now.
Let’s break this down like you’ve never seen the film. There are four main recurring characters to keep track of, which is a nice simple number. Tony is the protagonist and plays as a smart but often unpredictable and deeply flawed character, the sort of person who manages to pull off the “asshole but in a cool way” archetype about 30% of the time, with the rest of his time spent spread-eagle on his back after hitting a wall, being a genuine asshole, or working in his garage to cool theme music. It all evens out to make Tony enjoyable to watch on-screen, though you also get the sense that this is how real billionaires imagine themselves and you feel obligated to resent Tony on their behalf.
Pepper Potts is Tony’s personal assistant whose relationship with him is somewhere between maid and mom. She is also the love interest. We don’t see much of Pepper’s life outside of where it relates to Tony, but her portrayal conveys a more nuanced figure than her role within the plot might suggest. She’s one of Tony’s friends, despite him taking her for granted, and she’s largely involved in ensuring his interests translate to the business side of things. She’s left cleaning up his PR messes, and she plays a rather pivotal role in the last third of the film, plot-wise. Her relationship to Tony is not a healthy one, and the film implies that she stays in it because she’s smitten with him, but as she becomes canny to his escapades, their relationship becomes more balanced and Tony starts to acknowledge her importance in his life. They also get a few enjoyable scenes together that establish their social dynamic — Tony as chaos incarnate, and Pepper as the one who wears the pants between them.
Tony’s other friend is James Rhodes, or Rhodey, who ultimately plays a much smaller role in the film but is still an important emotional support for Tony. Rhodey is an Air Force pilot who works closely with Tony as part of the military-industrial complex, but they also get along personally to a greater or lesser degree. Rhodey is disciplined and professional, and like Pepper, often has to clean up after Tony’s messes, but as someone who works outside of Tony’s company, he has the capacity to put his foot down and often serves as a barrier. He’ll hold sway over Tony to pressure him into explaining his disjointed thought process. Tony pretty much always has the capacity to get around whatever barrier Rhodey puts up, often by sweet-talking him, but Rhodey can still barter favors with Tony in exchange for assurance that he at least half-knows what he’s going to do with said favors.
Obadiah Stane is Tony’s mentor and adopted father-figure, a former business partner of his father who was briefly in control of the company between when Tony’s parents died and before he was old enough to run the company himself. Stane is business-facing first and foremost and has a sort of forced familiar relationship with Tony that occasionally borders on sincerity. Tony trusts him to the same degree that he does Pepper and Rhodey, and teases him constantly as he is wont to do, which Stane begrudgingly accepts as a cost of the job. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out that Stane is the secret villain, and once he lets loose and builds an iron man suit of his own, he’s pretty tedious, but Tony’s perception of their relationship makes the initial dynamic interesting. Stane provides a similar capitalistic lens as pre-epiphany Tony, appearing as one of the many people who are considerably more professional than our dipshit protagonist, while still being fundamentally horrible in his own right. His concerns to keep Stark Industries making weapons creates a nice opportunity for the film to explore ideological morality, at least a little bit. At that point in the story, Stane is an obstacle to Tony, but not yet an active villain. He’s gone around Tony and isn’t heeding his requests, but the bigger problem is that Stane is comfortable profiting off of weapons sales and doesn’t particularly care about who gets hurt in the crossfire.
And that’s all the setup you really need for a compelling story. Main character, friend, love interest, villain. There are plenty of other minor characters, some of whom appear in other MCU and Iron Man franchise films in more pronounced roles, but Iron Man keeps it simple and focuses its characterization on these four. Pepper, Rhodey, and Stane all form emotional tethers for Tony, and his disconnect from all of them over the course of the film, with his connection to Stane permanently severed, creates a good bit of internal character drama even without his life-altering encounter in the Afghanistan cave.
A lot of superhero films have a personal component. Tragic backstories are a dime a dozen in comics, and broad overarching themes carry across some of the more famous story arcs. However, I would argue that Iron Man is a lot more internal of a film than most of its ilk. It’s part of the reason I get frustrated when people draw comparisons between it and Doctor Strange (which is twice as basic and half as interesting). Yes, it has the cool rockets and robo-suit and the talking Siri butler and the, I dunno, fast sports cars or whatever, but that’s just set dressing. You can make a successful blockbuster on those elements alone (plenty of people have in the past). However, a surprising amount of time in Iron Man is spent with Tony outside of the suit. Ultimately, the name itself is a bit of a gimmick, a fun gadget the character hides behind to avoid the consequences of his actions.
As the film itself points out directly.
Part Two: Illuminate
As with many Marvel films, Iron Man is separated into three parts. They work well I would say, transitioning smoothly to the finale and building upon Tony’s arc over the course of the film.
I opened this (review? discussion? whatever these things are) by describing the characters, because I think that’s the most important part of the film when you’re viewing it in a sort of vacuum like we are. This is Tony’s story, like him or not, and the film very quickly establishes who this person is and what’s going to happen to him.
The film itself opens up with a tight little scene of Tony travelling through Afghanistan with a group of soldiers. We understand that he is a businessman who is here sort of as a war tourist, and that he’s famous enough for the soldiers in the car with him to be excited they get to be the ones to escort him. Robert Downy Jr. has been praised to the moon and back for his performance here, and it’s well-deserved; Tony comes across as playful, aloof, awkward, arrogant, genuinely funny, and, well, an asshole, over the course of just a few exchanges of dialogue. We can get into the weeds with whether humanizing billionaires comes with its own baggage (more on that in Part Three), but for now, we’ll stick to how Tony works within the confines of the story. It’s just simpler to keep it to one thing at a time for now.
Tony needs to come across as “bad” in the first part of the film. He is going to go through a sort of a redemption arc, so it helps if he starts out as a bit of a prick. However, he also needs to have some consistent personality, and the creators of the film went with “fun.” It’s hard to pull off this kind of a character, and they tend to wear thin over time, so I want to give respect to the director, writer, and actor for nailing this role, because the strength of this character is his presentation. Even before we get to know him, we can see that Tony is the sort of character we’re not supposed to like, but can look forward to liking once he softens up a bit. He’s flawed throughout the film, but his most egregious flaws change from the opening to the ending. In the first few scenes, Tony is unlikable because he thinks he’s above everyone. He’s not only powerful, he’s smart — he knows technology, so he thinks he’s earned his power. As far as Tony’s concerned, the world bends to his will and people are toys to be manipulated. He views the soldiers taking a selfie with him as annoying plebs, news reporters trying to hold him accountable as prospective lays, and his coworkers as his personal servants. Even compared to other high-profile players like Stane, Tony’s disconnect from the rest of the world is jarring. He thinks he’s untouchable.
That’s what makes the follow-up and the inciting incident of the film so substantial. When the car hits a IED and chaos ensues, Tony gets his first real look at both his own vulnerability and the fruits of his labor: the people he was joking with moments before are now dead, and he’s been seriously injured by a shell with his own name on the side. The impact of that event sticks with him rather literally, as the shrapnel from the blast becomes lodged in his heart and has to be stabilized by a device embedded in his chest that emits an electromagnetic field.
That’s largely what Tony’s change over the course of the film is about: consequences. He changes as a person by recognizing his actions have consequences, and those consequences reach far.
The people who have kidnapped Tony are some Al Qaida-knockoff adapted from an MCU group called The Ten Rings. They don’t really matter themselves and their goals are ambiguous; they’re essentially armed criminals who prey on low-income towns, kind of like a cartel but less organized. They’ve gotten their hands on some of the weapons Tony’s company builds, and they’re holding him to force him to build his latest superweapon, the Jericho missile.
His only company in the cave where he’s being held hostage is Yinsen, another tech-savvy captive who hails from a town that Tony’s weapons helped destroy. Yinsen is the one who stabilized his heart, and he acts as an interpreter throughout the weeks that Tony is down there. Realizing that he has no choice but to build this Jericho missile, and that once he does so, he’ll be killed anyway, Tony conspires with Yinsen to craft something else instead. He upgrades the electromagnet in his chest into a futuristic “arc reactor” that can power a mechanical suit, and sets to work crafting this suit piecemeal so he can clear a path for he and Yinsen to escape.
The suit works, the plan doesn’t; Yinsen ends up sacrificing himself to buy time while Tony is booting up the suit. Tony destroys the place, including the Stark weapons the Ten Rings have in their armory, and escapes into the desert, accidentally tearing the suit apart in the process.
His experience has changed him. The physical and emotional trauma of the event, as well as the guilt at having to see people die directly because of him, has left Tony on-edge, anxious to do something about it. Thing is, he has no idea how to do that. His entire life has revolved around making complex technology and wowing crowds with it. That’s what he knows how to do, and that’s exactly where his mind goes first when trying to figure out how to stop the military-industrial complex.
Well, technically, his first move as soon as he’s rescued and arrives back in the U.S. is to call a press conference where he declares that Stark Industries will no longer make weapons. That seems like a good positive step. It’s big. Bold. I like it. But yeah, it goes down about as well as Boing pivoting to sell only Instagram poetry might go. The stock tanks, eventually leading the board of directors to strip Tony of his role in the company, replaced by Stane, who continues to sell weapons.
So Tony’s next move is to build a better version of his robot suit. This one flies and has cool red and gold paint on it.
To be fair, it is very cool, and the animation on it holds up beautifully. A good chunk of the middle of the film is spent with Tony forging both the suit and a deeper relationship with his assistant, Pepper. Pepper eventually finds out about the suit, as does his friend Rhodey, and he slowly starts to clue them in to his thinking process. Tony aims to use the suit so that he can personally go into deadly scenarios and stop groups like the Ten Rings from harming people. He essentially just wants to expand on what he did in the cave, destroying the weapons he built so they can’t get into the wrong hands, and stepping in as an unstoppable superhero to hold villains accountable.
This, as with his first plan, is, shall we say, flawed.
Again, I’ll get into more of the nitty gritty in Part Three, but the important thing plot-wise is that even though Tony gets the suit to work as intended, it relies on him being the only person to have it. He hints that he might be open to others, like the U.S. military, using similar suits eventually, but initially he decides that he is the only person in the world who is responsible enough for this technology. He, the White American playboy who can’t even show up to his own awards ceremony on time. He is the only man on earth who has ever recognized that war profiteering is bad. He is going to single-handedly stop colonialism. With guns.
Yeah, so almost immediately, his business partner finds the scraps of his old suit and starts building one of his own. Oops. Turns out, Obadiah Stane was evil the whole time. Never would have guessed that the bald business man who sells military weapons and whom Tony stole the spotlight from as a teenager would have a grudge against him. It’s very clever.
I kid, I do genuinely think that Stane’s interactions with Tony are well-played in the first half of the film. He does things like bring Tony pizza, and his awards, which is genuinely quite funny. Stane’s transition from character to villain is rather awkward, and plenty of people cite him as one of Marvel’s many weak and boring villains. I won’t defend his dialogue, but I do like the effect Stane has after he’s revealed to have ulterior motives but before he enters the suit he’s had his team building. Jeff Bridges comes across as suitably threatening and simultaneously oily, much like you imagine people in this line of work would be. His primary motive seems to be profit, as he’s the one selling weapons to the Ten Rings and views Tony as baggage weighing the company down. There’s a scene where Tony has Pepper sneak into Stark Industries to steal some files from Stane’s computer, and while you’ve seen this sort of interplay plenty of times before, I quite like the tension in the acting and the editing of it.
Of course the big finale has Tony in his suit fighting Stane in his [bigger, scarier] suit, and that’s probably the least interesting part of the film. It’s not all bad, it’s just very flat in its visuals and all takes place at night within the confines of a few city blocks, so it doesn’t have a lot of interesting choreography. However, I will defend some of the nice little features of the end battle. For one, Tony catching a car with his hands. That’s cool. I can respect something cool when I see it. For another, I like that there’s some setup and payoff. In an earlier scene where Tony is testing out his suit, he tries to see how high it can go and the suits ends up failing because it develops ice on its surface. Tony solves the problem by changing the composition of the suit and, realizing Stane probably hasn’t even recognized the problem, lures him into a trap. It doesn’t fully work, but I like that kind of thing coming back in the finale of an action film.
Tony’s initial assumption that it’s worked also creates some tension when he starts to take his suit off and Stane ambushes him. This puts Tony in danger and requires him to work with Pepper to figure out a new solution. Of course the villain is defeated and Tony makes it out okay, but there’s a nice little parallel to the start of the film with him collapsing and nearly dying from the same shrapnel that hit him at the start of the film. This is one of those films that really deserves a bit more credit than I think we’re often inclined to give it.
Part Three: Flak
So Tony Stark is a fuck-up. Let’s not mince words, that’s what he is. That’s part of what makes him entertaining as a character, but it’s also why this sort of character is best left to the realm of fiction. I mean, at least with disempowered fuck-ups, there’s only so much harm they can do on a global level.
Obviously, we don’t live in 2008 any more. A lot has happened since then, and while we’re still facing many of the same problems as we were thirteen years ago, it’s hard not to notice the more questionable assumptions this film makes. While it’s convenient to view the film in a bubble for the sake of simplicity, I wouldn’t feel comfortable just leaving it at, “It’s a good clever film. Nothing more to say.”
The first thing that comes to mind when viewing this film in a wider context is how it idolizes its protagonist. Tony gets away with a lot, and while we’re supposed to see him as a bit of a wastrel, the film isn’t always consistent with what parts of his character it means to criticize and what parts it thinks are charming. This is a common problem in films that play to the power fantasies of superheroes. Whenever I see displays of innovative technologies like micro robotics or lifelike AIs, or, heck, real-world “Iron Man” suits, I’m initially impressed, but my mind quickly jumps to, “Okay, how is this going to be used for war?”
Because that’s where a lot of new materials and tech advances end up at the end of the day. UAV Drones are a very cool technology that could be used to deliver vital supplies to remote villages or create high-speed internet coverage across deserts. They’re not used for that. There’s a lot more money in assassinations than altruism, at least in the short-term, and that’s how our economy works.
While Iron Man sometimes displays surprising clarity about the military-industrial complex and how easily incentives of people within it are corrupted, the film still has to sell Iron Man toys at the end of the day, so it exchanges depersonalized missiles for a cool robot suit that also has lethal capacity. In fact, there’s one particular scene that illustrates this dissonance quite well, when Tony is testing out the suit properly by taking it to Yinsen’s former village to intervene in a local occupation by the Ten Rings. He goes in and blasts through the Ten Rings’ tanks and guns like they’re nothing, and smashes through houses to find insurgents who are holding people hostage. He has an auto-target program that distinguishes between unarmed civilians and the people holding them hostage, and fires at the hostage-takers, but there are still plenty of moments within this sequence where Tony’s suit is portrayed as alien and intimidating, and threatening to the townsfolk who are already under attack. Tony actively kills people — only Ten Rings members as far as we see, but still people — while entering a foreign nation as a U.S. citizen, in a region the U.S. military is forbidden from going to. There aren’t really any ramifications for this, and the film doesn’t portray this as an abuse of power — if anything, the positive outcome (the civilians taking back their town) is portrayed as a justification for Tony’s actions, and he’s painted as a savior of a sort.
I suppose now’s as good a time as any to bring up the racism in the film. Again, Iron Man impresses me in some ways because it does seem somewhat aware that it’s venturing into murky territory by setting its initial villains as “Middle Eastern” terrorists. It makes a point to have Yinsen be a skilled, intelligent man from this region (I believe his village, Gulmira, is supposed to be in Afghanistan as well, but the film is iffy about specific locations), and the Ten Rings are posed primarily as a threat to ordinary people in Afghanistan, rather than White Americans. Rhodey, later played by a different actor, is given a position of authority and is one of the only four Black named characters the MCU had prior to releasing Black Panther. And, despite his haircut, the main villain of the film is a White businessman. The film was aware that it needed to be more sensitive that the baseline for Middle Eastern-set American films with White main characters were prior to 2008, and it did a damn sight better at being inclusive than many later entries to the MCU.
That still doesn’t mean you can ignore its stereotypical caricatures or White savior complex. As always, this is something I can’t speak to on a personal level, but the fact that Yinsen dies to serve Tony’s motivation, the framing of the Gulmira residents as refugees in need of a superhero to save them, Tony’s dismissive attitude toward Rhodey, all of that adds up to make me reserved about praising the film wholesale. Even little things like Stane’s first name being Obadiah, a Hebrew name uncommon in Europe — a lot of this feels coded.
I’m not overly familiar with the Iron Man comics, but I know that the earlier ones can be pretty overt in their racism. The character’s origin story had him captured by the Viet Cong, and if I recall correctly (I read it ages ago), Yinsen was there mainly to be impressed by Tony’s cleverness. The main villain was a loud-mouthed violent warlord/martial artist who liked wrestling people, and his dialogue was all pretty cringe. So, I guess the film could have gone worse, but I don’t know that that’s much consolation.
Tony Stark’s role as a billionaire is probably what’s stuck around more than the racial elements of the first film, though, and that’s probably worth talking about right now because I think it’s a big part of the legacy of the character.
We’re in a lot of crises right now, and that alters the way we view and present fictional characters. Often, dramatic stories that are focused around individual people like to focus on those with power because they have more agency than people whose lives are restricted by subsistence living. It’s hard to go on adventures when you work 12 hours a day and your biggest concerns are everyday problems like figuring out how to pay rent or spread a $40 per week grocery budget between four people. I’m not saying those aren’t serious or significant events, but most people don’t need to go to the movie theatre to witness someone struggle with them. We like a bit of escapism in our fiction.
Frivolity is a common sort of escapism, especially in films aimed at a younger audience, like Iron Man. A lot of people love to fantasize about winning the lottery and getting a mansion, even if that’s not actually what they want in life. I can’t speak for everyone, but a fair few people don’t actually care about being rich or famous or owning a lot of things — it’s stability, both physically and mentally, that most people crave, and especially in the U.S., our society is structured around the assumption that in order to have either, you need to be well-off.
It’s gets to be a bit complicated when you generalize so broadly, but I think it’s safe to say that a lot of American culture is based around the idea that being super wealthy should be a person’s life goal. Wealth is considered a mark of accomplishment and success, tied simultaneously in the way we talk about it as an inherent thing that requires “the right kind of person,” but also something that supposedly anyone can attain. I don’t have enough time or brainpower right now to dissect where Capitalism and the American Dream overlap and how they’ve combined with other ideologies floating around here, but suffice to say, on a general level, we tend to assume that the super wealthy have either earned or deserve their wealth. We treat it like a sport: if you get the gold medal, sit on the top pedestal, surely that’s because you belong there, yeah?
Yeah, billionaires are actively bad for the economy. Trickle-down economics is a pseudoscience, and when most people lack basic necessities, economies crash and burn. The whole point of an economy is to have flow of money, not accumulation. Accumulation gums up the works and lessens the amount of currency that can actively flow, either forcing all of the systems that depend on it to run on less, or requiring the creation of additional currency, which leads to inflation if you don’t do anything about the accumulated value that’s stuck there doing nothing. I won’t pretend to know a lot about economics, but you can ask economists and they’ll tell you the same thing: money goes further in the hands of people who use it, and people who only recycle it into their own artificial schemes are neither considerably benefiting from nor helping the society they live in.
And that’s just the lack of benefit wealthy people bring. Let’s not forget that cults of personality do not mix well with societal values that push people to hang on their every word. People listen to billionaires, and billionaires do not usually have particularly bright things to say. They’re not your friend, they have no interest in sharing their wealth with you, and you should be on-guard when they show altruism that doesn’t actively decrease their value because chances are, they’re doing it for a tax cut and not out of the kindness of their hearts. But it doesn’t matter if you tell someone that; billionaires and other super-wealthy people hold power, and power is something people listen to. Give an unfettered megalomaniac a microphone and you will not be able to control what comes out the other end. We’ve seen this time and again, and people have died because of it.
So, back to Iron Man, why does all of this matter?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I think it’s easy to point at a monopoly like Disney and say, “that’s not good.” And, on the whole, you’d probably be right. But as far as going beyond pointing that out is concerned, that I’m not so sure about. No one can take on a massive corporate entity alone. You’ve just got too many things stacked against you. If you ask me the best way to enact change, I would say work from the ground up and start local with stabilizing your own neighborhood, and empower other people to do the same with theirs. Your individual impact will be minor, but that’s the thing about mass social change; it’s cumulative. It’s impressive when you get massive numbers of people showing up for strikes, protests, community service, and the like, and that’s where movements gain momentum. Steering and stabilization is hard for cooperative entities like that, and therein lies the inherent drama to social movements. But, the problem is, humans don’t really think on a communal basis like that. We have difficulty keeping track of more than a handful of characters at once, which is why stories like Iron Man have single, charismatic protagonists. It’s easier to have a superhero save the day than a million average joes, because people can easily imagine what it’s like to be a single smart, successful person. It’s a lot harder to imagine how to be a million people at once.
I like Iron Man. I think it’s a well-made film, and I’m willing to overlook its flaws for the sake of an hour and a half of entertainment. But it’s not perfect, and in fact, in combination with the other MCU films featuring Tony Stark, it tends to glorify him as an Elon Musk-esque figure (and if you’ve ever seen my Twitter, you’ll know I’ve met carrots more competent than that dipshit).
The film comes very close to reaching a balance there, though. It tries to show the superhero as cool, but inept, a failure trying to right his wrongs and just making new ones along the way. Tony Stark works in part because he’s a fuck-up. Billionaires don’t like to see themselves as fuck-ups, they like to see themselves as cool and clever. Tony spends a good chunk of the film falling flat on his ass or otherwise being incapacitated, and many of the problems throughout the film are directly or indirectly the result of his negligence or overconfidence. This continues into some of the later films and lingers as a part of his arc in films like Iron Man 3, but audiences generally don’t seem to like seeing Iron Man as a flawed human who makes bad decisions and gives up his superpowers. The later films ignore anything resembling him taking responsibility and seem content with Tony as a funny, charismatic genius with a cool suit. Which would be fine, if that came without fame and wealth and privilege, but they do. And the films are incapable of exploring it.
That’s part of what I appreciate about this first film. I don’t know that you could reasonably change the others to make them more forward-thinking. They made plenty of money, and that was their main goal, so I can’t say they should have done otherwise. After all, money equals success, does it not? But for that first film at least, it could pretend. It could pretend to be something more than just a story about a billionaire turning himself into a superhero. Its themes of anti-war, anti-Capitalism, and the vitality of human connections as a way to make the world better were good, and deserve to live on, even if that’s not what ended up happening for the series. I like to remind myself of that every so often.
Characters and Character Development: 8
Aesthetics and Style: 8
Main Plot: 7