Security goes to the movies: Iron Man 2

How Hollywood's new blockbuster reflects today's security industry

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His social awkwardness also fits the negative stereotype of geeks: In a scene where he takes the stage at an expo, dancing awkwardly and using strangled metaphors, we couldn't help but imagine him bounding across the theater shouting, "Developers! Developers! Developers!"

Iron Man 2's villains: Vanko and Hammer
Iron Man 2 's villains: Vanko and Hammer (© Paramount Pictures)

Hammer's overconfidence is symbolic of the security vendor community. To be fair, many vendors do develop technologies that have made a huge difference in the security fight. But many more have been slammed by security practitioners for claiming that their technologies solve all of a company's defensive challenges. It's fun to watch Hammer show off his cigar-sized Ex-Wife Missile, which turns out to be a dud later in the film, and think of antivirus vendors whose signature updates can't keep up with fast-evolving malware.

Cutting-edge IT

Balancing the appearance of two new villains is a partner for Iron Man. The trailers have made no secret of this film's debut of War Machine: U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in a suit comparable to Iron Man's.

Even though Stark insists, "I am the armor," he must have anticipated Rhodes' new role, as the War Machine suit comes equipped with its own power source. (Stark's suit, on the other hand, is powered by the arc reactor that Stark inserts into his own chest to keep his damaged heart working, indirectly making Stark the power source for his own armor.) And when Rhodes first appears as War Machine, he seems at ease with the suit's functions and interface, suggesting that this isn't his virgin flight.

Rounding out the cast is Gwyneth Paltrow as the frazzled Pepper Potts, personal-assistant-turned-CEO of Stark Industries, and Scarlett Johansson as Potts' replacement, the versatile Natalie Rushman. More than just eye candy, Johansson pulls jaw-dropping moves in Iron Man 2 that will come as a surprise to anyone who still thinks of her as the rather mousy Charlotte from 2003's Lost in Translation.

From the get-go, Stark is a man with cutting-edge IT, even when he's not playing superhero. At the Senate Armed Services Committee's Weaponized Suit Defense Program hearings, Stark whips out an impressive see-through smartphone-like device and in a matter of seconds hacks into the room's digital display screen, to which he then wirelessly streams his own video.

The digital interfaces with which Stark's laboratory was equipped in the first film have evolved even more fantastic capabilities. Instead of projecting a 3D interface above a Microsoft Surface-like display, Stark's computers now project into and accept input from the entire room, much like Star Trek's holo-emitters. With gesture-based commands, Stark can expand and collapse images on all three axes or even toss files into the trash as easily as an NBA star makes a hook shot.

Jarvis, the voice-recognition-equipped AI assistant, has been excised from Iron Man's suit and is restricted to the laboratory, where he performs three-dimensional scans of physical objects to produce wireframe digital representations, much as Microsoft's Project Natal promises to do.

Iron Man 2 isn't the first film to portray futuristic technology in today's world, but with the possible exception of the suit itself (and perhaps the particle accelerator Stark builds in his basement), there is little in Stark's repertoire that defies credulity. The movie takes existing concepts and extends them along their logical evolution, while offering some subtle commentary on the IT celebrities who may someday bring this technology to life.

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