Superhero Film #245: Iron Man

I remember waaaaaaay back in 1989 while riding in a cart through the local grocers seeing what at the time and probably to this day what was the BIGGEST cereal toy I have ever seen: the Batman bank. Shrink-wrapped to a box of Batman cereal, the free toy overshadowed the box! I had to have it, and having obtained the holy grail of kids cereal toys, I now HAD to see this Batman movie. I knew little of Batman at the time, being only five years old at the time. Much of my knowledge was based on the advertising that was coming out at the time. I knew Batman lived in a giant mansion with a butler named Alfred and that Batman loved Diet Coke and hated the Joker. Regarding the Joker, based on an action figure that I owned I knew that he could turn his white skin to pink when left in the freezer for ten minutes and back to white when placed in hot water.

While the Batman marketing machine greatly influenced my life in ’89, it wasn’t until the VHS release of Batman that I witnessed the film itself. I loved Batman! The film had every element that would later become the standard for telling a superhero movie. (A)The hero’s origin is told, (B)the hero and supporting cast do their thing, (C)the villain’s origin is depicted and an evil scheme is set in motion, (D)the hero faces the villain and the villain dies. Then, the final shot features the hero flying/climbing/leaping through the city as a voice-over states what they have learned, what they promise to do and they usually end with “I am (insert hero name here)!”. Roll credits. As time passed Spider-Man, The X-Men,The Punisher, Daredevil, Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Batman Begins and Superman Returns arrived and each of these films followed the Batman format. And as each film came, my excitement and wonder dwindled. Sure these are excellent films, but I’ve seen the format so many times that now I’ve come to expect A,B and C to occur to reach D. Sum everything up in an inner monologue. Roll credits.

Now here we are in 2008, dozens of superhero films later and “Iron Man” has come and I’ve seen it. And while A,B, C and D occur, there are surprisingly a lot of elements that go left when a usual superhero movie goes right. What follows are The Top Five Ways “Iron Man” Stands Out From The Rest

1: Location

While 95% of the superhero movies exist in New York or the East coast, Iron Man is set in Los Angeles, California. A smart move for the film’s creators, this change from the comic books original NYC setting gives the film a different look and feel. Sort of a glossy, stark look. And yes, that was an unintentional Tony Stark pun.

2: Time Period

“Iron Man” successfully places the story in the present day. While the film could very well have been a period piece set during the 1963, thankfully our country is now in a very similar military situation in another part of the world. Replace Vietnam with Western Asia, and voila – Iron Man circa 2008! Thank you terrorism.

3: Visual Effects

Iron Man is at the advantage in visual effects with a metal suit concealing all signs of humanity. The CG double seamlessly blends with the tangible Iron Man suit, something other spandex-clad heroes struggle with when jumping between live action and digital. See the noodly Peter Parker of “Spider-Man” for an example of digital double gone wrong.

4: Villain

Tony Stark fights “The Dude” in a giant robot suit. While not groundbreaking, Jeff Bridges is the goofiest actor to play a bad guy since Willem Dafoe.

5: Final Scene

In the final moment of the film, Tony is asked who REALLY is the man inside Iron Man. Tony admission of “I’m Iron Man.” assures us that the sequel will avoid the secret identity plot which at this point is gasping for originality in the superhero film genre.

When it all comes down to it, is “Iron Man” a truly great superhero film?
No, it’s not great. In a genre of film that has become heavily saturated in the last twenty years, “Iron Man” goes in the good pile but doesn’t impact the genre enough enough to join the ranks of “Superman” (1978), “Batman” (1989) and “Spider-Man” (2002). If you see one superhero film this summer (that isn’t a sequel) see “Iron Man”, if you want a superhero film that could reinvent the genre see “The Dark Knight”.

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One Response to “Superhero Film #245: Iron Man”

  1. meepy Says:

    Great entry!

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