I am Iron Man or maybe you are

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.

0 Replies to “I am Iron Man or maybe you are”

  1. I think ‘Iron Man’ did a much better job with the power-and-responsibility theme than ‘Spider-Man’ did, without having to spell it out. The only scene I truly disliked was the one where the news report was playing in the background as Tony got decked out in his suit for the first real mission. That was string-pulling and obvious in the way the rest of the movie wasn’t. But overall, there really is a universal appeal here because who — left wing or right wing, male or female, old or young — is going to argue that we SHOULDN’T be responsible about how we make war? (Not that everybody acts this way but nobody’s going to come out and admit that)

    Though in fairness to Peter Parker, in the comics he’s at least a clever, funny, nerd-emo-boy. I thought the movie did the plot elements pretty well (at least in the first two) but didn’t pay attention to what was appealing about the character. I say this as somebody who’s not a huge Spider-Man fan — there’s at least a little more too him than emo-boy self-identification (though sometimes not much).

  2. I so agree with this review. Tony Stark is SO the asshole we wish we had the money and privilege to be. Also, thanks for bringing up the Bechdel test. It’s not a lot to ask for, and yet so few movies actually pass it.

    One thing, though — I keep trying to figure out how to reconcile my general dislike of Jon Favreau with my love for this movie.

  3. I have to almost completely disagree with this. I agree that Iron Man was a great movie. For me it’s the assholes that make me want to smack them (this is why I can’t watch House). I also loved Spider-Man (the first movie but not the second or third). I don’t want to be an asshole.

    BTW, Catwoman was probably the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

  4. Deuce — They did do a great job with having a universal appeal and theme. Yeah, I was probably a little harsh on Spider-Man, but that could be training from hearing just how wonderful he was for a long time and not thinking he was that great. Though I do enjoy when Bendis makes him snark.

    Chicken — The Bechdel test is always important and you’re right that it’s not much to ask for, yet is rarely delivered. I can’t really claim to have seen anymore of Jon Favreau’s movies, including his acting career, so I have no opinion there.

    Julie — That’s because you’re just too nice. 😉

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