Iron Man 2: It's All About the Rare Earth Metals

For those of you movie buffs out there who enjoyed the first Iron Man, we have to give a resounding two thumbs up to the sequel. However, our analysis of this film differs greatly from our first piece written nearly two years ago that basically included a cost-to-build analysis of Tony Stark’s suit in which we offered options for cost-reduction. The sequel presents a couple of challenges that ironically mirror several geo-political issues involved in today’s metals markets.

Let’s start with “the enemy. In general, I think Hollywood needs to update its country of choice that serves as the “evil villain. I mean, after all, Russia is so 1980s. Personally, I’d suggest the obvious axis of evil Iran and North Korea (obviously Iraq wouldn’t work anymore). I’d also short list personal favorites such as Venezuela (particularly as Venezuela has some new news around nationalizing metals industries from this weekend, which we’ve covered in a separate post) but heck, I’d go one step further and suggest China as a front-runner. We have everything there, from trade policies, corporate espionage (we are aware of two cases involving China hacking into US manufacturing organizations attempting to steal intellectual property) not to mention financial dealings and hoarding of rare earth metals, etc. So, come on Marvel, let’s move into the 21st century here!

The second big difference between the first and second movies involves this device that Tony Stark must wear to stay alive. In our first post, we indicated this as a 1.5-gram palladium device used to avoid shrapnel blockage in Stark’s heart. We learn in this movie that the palladium is actually toxic and is slowly poisoning Stark’s blood. The antidote? Samuel L. Jackson to the rescue with a shot of lithium-dioxide that alleviates the toxicity of the palladium, but only serves as a stopgap measure.  Now, I’m not a chemist, but it appears as though the movie researchers should have spent a bit more time on this one. Lithium-dioxide is not commonly referred to in chemistry circles. We have either lithium-sulfur-dioxide used for car batteries, industrial applications as well as defibrillators (we could buy that last use for this application) or lithium oxide used for thermal barrier coating systems (less plausible). Regardless, rare earth metals played center stage in the sequel.

Of course in this movie, Tony Stark must develop an entirely new replacement for his palladium heart piece. And therein lies the rub. Today, few replacements exist for certain metals, particularly palladium and rhodium. Stark takes a few lessons from his father and manages to create this completely new element, presumably from some nano-technology, though we can’t quite be sure. I don’t know, but it seems to me we have the possibilities for a trilogy with this China/rare earth metal theme.

–Lisa Reisman

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  • ” Personally, I’d suggest the obvious axis of evil †Iran and North Korea (obviously Iraq wouldn’t work anymore).”

    Why wouldn’t Iraq work anymore? The axis of evil did not exist when Bush dreamed it up, but it sure exists now. The current Iraqi government is headed by Iranian sympathizers — or agents, is more like it. Iraq supports Iran’s nuclear program. Iraq maintains ties with Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. In 2008, Iraqi-Iranian trade, financed in part by your tax dollars, reached $8 billion. It was another $8 billion in 2009 and is expected to reach $16 billion in 2010. What will Iran do with all this money? Invest it in their economy to create jobs? Like hell! They will use it for their nuclear weapons research and support for terrorism.

    Wake up, already!

  • Right. Blame it on Bush. Iran and North Korea were our allies…nice friendly countries, my mistake! Sure throw Iraq into the mix. Be my guest! LAR

  • Seems to me the Americans were more the villians of both films.

  • Axis of morons: so-called united states, so-called united kingdom and Canadia?

  • While it’s true that Ivan was of Russian decent, I don’t feel as if he he was depicted as representing Russia itself. Ivan was retaliating against Tony because he felt his father had been wronged by Tony’s father back in the day…it was personal. Anyway, Russia was different back then, so it does make sense given the timeline.


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