Coulson Calling

JARVIS interrupts his banter with Pepper, explaining, “Sir, the telephone. I’m afraid my protocols are being overridden.” We can hear Coulson’s voice saying, “Mr. Stark, we need to talk.” Perturbed, Tony grabs his custom phone from where it sits on a nearby table. It is made up of a glass plane within a rounded-rectangle black band. On its little screen we can see a white label reading, “Connected.” Remarkably, this label is presented in mixed case. Nearly all sci-fi interface typography is rendered in all caps, so I have some curiosity how this ended up in majuscule and miniscule. But it feels right. Perhaps that’s because it’s kind-of a consumer device?

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Anyway, beneath the label is a static photo of the caller, Agent Coulson, and below that a large circle with a central bump, and some other tiny controls.

Tony positions the phone before him, looks into the glass, and says, “You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark. Please leave a message.” Coulson doesn’t fall for it, saying, “This is urgent.” Tony tries to admonish him, “Then leave it urgently,” but it’s too late. Coulson himself walks out of the elevator in the room, his phone to his ear.

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Aside from the trope screens are cameras, and the bad-but-understandable translucent screen, I have another question about the interaction: What is Tony doing looking at the phone for the duration of the short conversation? Since Coulson isn’t looking at his phone, it’s just an audio connection between them. The phone should convey that status to Tony, and in fact the static image of Coulson seems to imply just that. So, why does he bother looking at it?

So try as I may, I can’t apologetics-my-way to get around this odd behavior in the scene. Perhaps Downey believed that the interface would be rendered with a video image of Coulson on the other end, and that turned out not to jive with Gregg’s holding it to his ear. I hate to leave it at “misinformed actor” but I can’t think of a diegetic explanation. Anyone have a plausible one?

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9 thoughts on “Coulson Calling

  1. The “live model decoy” dialog line adds credence to the idea that at some earlier point, this was planned to be a video device (not showing a video of Coulson, but filming Tony himself). Otherwise he’d have just said it was his voicemail.

  2. Habit, maybe? It is possible, hell probable that Tony’s phone accepts video calls so now he acts like they are video calls?

  3. Speakerphone? I stare at my phone when it’s on speaker for shirt calls.
    But really it’s just a misinformed actor likely.

  4. Agree with Cragi. I think this is what Don Norman calls a “capture slip” on Tony Stark’s part. He does a lot of videoconferencing, and presumably video phone calls as well. So when the phone rings, even though it isn’t a video call he behaves as if it is. If the conversation had lasted longer, he’d have recognised that it was audio only and adjusted.

  5. He’s not interacting with Coulson, but with his phone. You look at who you’re speaking to. But because of the “live model decoy” line, I agree with Patrick that this scene probably ended up differently than originally planned.

  6. Alternative: Tony Stark, Iron Man, Reactor in the chest guy, risking life and limb casually, is worried about brain cancer from his phone, like that guy at work no one takes lunch with.

    It does seem possible that Tony is simply accustomed to using his phone for video calls.

    Maybe Coulson was originally video calling but defaulted back to the “traditional” hold when he realised the call wasn’t video/ got fed up with Stark’s antics.

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