I was one of the many people who saw Iron Man in theater during its opening weekend. And I loved it. I’ll admit that it has problems: it doesn’t fully pass the Alison Bechdel Test and has questionable portrayals of Afghanis. It’s also pretty formulaic. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it.
Iron Man is the movie other superhero films want to be. It’s the cool kid of a sometimes not so great superhero genre. It’s what Spider-Man wanted to be and what Superman never could be. It delivered a simple story about an asshole arms dealer turned superhero with an appeal to both comic and non-comic audiences. You don’t feel like you need to know any back story unlike with the X-Men movies and your viewing is subtly enhanced if you know the back story unlike X3 or Serenity.
Tony Stark might be rich like Bruce Wayne and incredibly smart like Reed Richards, but Tony Stark’s also an asshole. An asshole like you and me. This is perhaps a powerful universal appeal that so far superhero films haven’t embodied.
Peter Parker (Spider-Man) usually gets toted as the character with universal appeal for his sad story and acceptance of heroism. “With great power comes great responsibility” blah blah blah. I know people who love Spider-Man, who dragged me to the theater to see the second one on opening weekend. All that said, I don’t think the nerd-emo-boy turned superhero is a true universal appeal. It doesn’t appeal to me. I want to smack Peter Parker. I want to smack a lot of nerd-emo-boys too. (Yes, I was at a convention last weekend, why do you ask?) I can’t ever see myself as Peter Parker.
Iron Man was different. Finally, a superhero movie was produced where the main character didn’t cry over his/her hard decisions or someone didn’t give a pretentious piece of exposition about the weight of the world. Tony went from hardboiled arms dealer to humanist superhero without so much as a lecture about serving the world. It was refreshing.
Tony Stark is either the asshole we are or the asshole we wish we had the money and privilege to be. An asshole with really cool flying armor and gear.
I’m so there.