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Security goes to the movies: Iron Man

Film geek and security nerd square off in a cinematic smackdown

By , Angela Gunn
May 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Time once again for "Security Goes to the Movies," a leisurely look at the inevitable bleeding from the eyes that security folk experience when Hollywood takes liberties with technology, the laws of physics and other aspects of reality. Our shiny and metallic subject today is Iron Man. Our movie reviewer is associate editor Ken Gagne, writing in black; our privacy/surveillance nerd is security channel editor Angela Gunn, commenting in red.

Angela here. If you don't like spoilers, this would be a good time to click over to Shark Tank or something. (Come on, no whining; you've had two whole weekends to get to the theater. And it's not like you were so busy going to Speed Racer, either.) Thanks for dropping by. Everyone else? Onward.

Some heroes are born great (Superman). Others have radioactive greatness thrust upon them (Spider-Man, Hulk). Still others are forged, with strength coming not from their genes but from their drive and ambition to do what's right, and so they rise to the occasion. That's Batman's MO, but it also describes the genesis of Iron Man.

The film starts with a brief, gory flash-forward before backtracking 36 hours to explain how Tony Stark, a boy genius turned arms manufacturer/international playboy, got himself injured and captured by an al-Qaeda-type terrorist group in an Afghanistan-like locale. Charged with building a new weapon for his captors, Stark instead forges a rocket-powered suit out of older munitions and stuff one finds laying around the average Afghan cave -- MacGyver, phone your agent, and the rest of us can contemplate metallurgy and machining tolerances -- with which to conduct his own escape.

I was suspending my disbelief with some pretty sturdy cables at this point, and not over the in-cave fabrication facilities. I know it's a fantasy flick, but who the heck tells the boss how to fabricate stuff like this and then lets him go to the battlefront for a song-and-dance routine? I'm pretty sure the Make magazine geeks in the row ahead of me actually peed themselves during this sequence, but I'm equally sure that risk management nerds would have been having a coronary. Trade secrets and C-level execs are both sensitive company assets, and you don't let them just bounce around in a war zone for teh lulz. Also, and this is tiny in comparison -- a geek who actually gambles in Vegas? Our boy Stark went to MIT; don't tell me he doesn't understand math (even if, as a colleague points out, he's playing the game most suited to superior intelligence). Any Vegas cabbie will tell you that most nerds don't spend in the casinos. This is why they hate us in Vegas.

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