Pepper Potts Tony Stark Relationship Analysis 1
This post was written about a year ago on my blog but I’m going to repost it here.
Character Relationship Analysis- Tony Stark and Pepper Potts – Part 1 of 3
My next analysis will be two popular characters from the movie IRON MAN. I will only be handling the 2008 movie adapt ion of the Marvel comic. If I went into the comics too I’d be here writing for three days.
The first IRON MAN movie introduces the dynamic of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts early. Pepper is Tony’s assistant and keeps track of his life so he can concentrate on being the genius inventor. Opening scene with her shows her getting rid of Tony’s latest romantic fling.
Tony is working on the car that was the last project he started with his father. She tries to hurry him out of the house since his plane was supposed to have left an hour and a half earlier. The way she speaks to him has the same qualities of a mother trying to get a reluctant child out the door to school. They are very attuned to each other and when he twigs onto the fact that she’s trying to get rid of him they begin a verbal sparring match- He wants to know why she’s rushing him, she’s evading and trying to get her work done.
I need you to sign this before you get on the plane.
What are you trying to get rid of me for? What, you got plans?
As a matter of fact, I do.
I don’t like it when you have plans.
I’m allowed to have plans on my birthday.
It’s your birthday?
I knew that. Already?
Yeah. Isn’t that strange? It’s the same day as last year.
Get yourself something nice from me.
I already did.
It was very nice. Very tasteful. Thank you, Mr. Stark.
You’re welcome, Miss Potts.
In the dialog above there is a lot shown about the relationship between Pepper and Tony without having to spell it out. They each have their own agenda during the conversation and they play the same game of deflecting direct questions, twisting things around to get the dialog back to where they want it. The end result of this scene is the viewers are shown their professional relationship, which has overtones of something more.
Pepper clearly has a thing for Tony that isn’t being acted on. He, on the other hand, has been shown to be quite the womanizer, but he keeps his relationship with Pepper professional.
This seems odd at first glance, you would think he wouldn’t think twice at making a move on his secretary. BUT. She’s not just his secretary, she’s his right hand and the only person Tony trusts. He may be a prick, but he values that trust and her enough not to jeopardize it.
Once Tony is captured by the Ten Rings gang and creates the mini-arc reactor to escape as Iron Man, he changes. Being a prisoner and getting to know/admire Yinsen started a domino effect in Tony Stark, he realizes that he has nobody. In Yinsen’s words he ‘is a man who has everything- and nothing.’
Escaping from the Ten Rings men, he is found by his old friend Col. James Rhodes and brought home to California. Pepper and Happy Hogan meet him at the airfield and you see she is beside herself, but trying to maintain a professional air. They share some banter to cover the emotions, but it’s clear. She’s relieved/happy to have him back, he’s realizing that he does have a family who cares, even if it’s not blood.
I could scene by scene pick apart the entire movie, but I’ll spare you all that and keep it short (for me). Tony is on a mission when he returns and shuts down the weapons manufacturing plant until they can control who gets their hands on Start Industry weapons.
There is a close up of Pepper Potts at this point and you can see she is stunned and impressed with Tony’s decision. She approves and this is probably the first thing he’s done in years that wasn’t selfishly motivated.
On to my favorite scene in the movie involving the two of them, the swapping out of the reactors. It’s perfect for showing Tony’s trust in Pepper and his warming towards her. The way she reaches into the arc socket gives the scene an almost sexual feel without it actually being about sex. His admission ‘I don’t have anyone but you’ is something big for him, he confessed he needed her and she was the only one he could count on. Weakness isn’t something Tony Stark admits to willingly.
The Mark I reactor she encases in Lucite and gives to Tony as a gift. When he opens the package you can see he’s touched by the gift and the message ‘Proof That Tony Stark Has a Heart’. Most telling about this scene is that he puts it on his desk. A desk that is devoid of everything but a picture of Howard Stark and Tony and a few personal items. From his own mouth, he’s not sentimental, but her gift gets a spot next to the picture of him with his father.
The ballroom scene. It could have been mushy-gushy and instead we got a good feel for their changing relationship. Tony goes to the event to show everyone he isn’t locked up in the crazy bin. He spots Pepper in a gown and if he were a dog his ears would be sticking straight up. In typical Tony fashion he drags her onto the dance floor and ignores her protests.
On the floor she is clearly awkward and uncomfortable, but you can see she kind of likes it. Tony’s crossed the invisible boundary they’ve always kept between them and she’s thrown for a loop.
Out on the roof Pepper has a mini-freak out about them dancing together while Tony tries to (unsuccessfully) tell her it was nothing. She tries to kiss him and while he does tilt his head forward, he isn’t the aggressor. They pull back at the last minute, aborting the kiss and she requests a martini.
Tony leaves her hanging when he finds out about the attack on Gulmira. After he hears about that he’s 100% focused on getting his weapons out of enemy hands. Pepper quits when she realizes he intends to put himself into danger on a constant basis. She can’t handle watching him kill himself. When she hears how passionate he is about doing the right thing, she tells him he’s all she has too and takes the key to hack the Stark mainframe.
It’s the second to last scene of the movie that sums it up perfectly. Tony makes it clear, he wants a relationship with Pepper. I felt like cheering when she refused. He’d done nothing to deserve a relationship with her, he left her waiting for him on the roof after they almost kissed.
Their last words in IRON MAN 1 were “Will that be all, Mr. Stark.” “That will be all Ms. Potts.”
Back to their usual roles. The scene is set for Iron Man 2