Saturday, December 27, 2014

Editorial: Iron Man vs. The Dark Knight

The year was 2008.

Iron Man.

The Dark Knight.

Iron Man won. Hands down.

Shoot, did I give it away too early?
Sure, while The Dark Knight soon became a major part of pop-culture, that was then and this is now. All that remains of the '08 Dark Knight craze is the Christian Bale voice and a song I can't stand by P!nk that shoehorns in a "Why so serious?"

Iron Man was released the same year. Everyone expected it to be clobbered. But this plucky little film rose to the top and is still hailed by many as the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even now.

Both these movies are about billionaire geniuses in supersuits. Both these movies re-examine and dissect the super hero genre with a critical eye. But only Iron Man puts the pieces back together.

In a Genre Deconstruction, the tropes an cliches of a genre are picked apart and dissected. In deconstructions, the dashing secret agent is an emotionally distant wreck. (Casino Royale) The American Dream is a hollow illusion. (The Great Gatsby) The young hero gets old. (Wrath of Khan)

The Dark Knight is a deconstruction, largely of the physical and mental demands to being a lone superhero. (Though I will admit, it reconstructs the impact a superhero can have as a force of good.)

In a Genre Reconstruction, the pieces are still picked apart and examined, but are ultimately put back and strengthened. In reconstructions, we see that even if a prophecy's a lie, anyone can still be a hero. (The LEGO Movie) You can be a princess without needing a man to complete you (Brave)

Iron Man is ultimately a reconstruction.

In fact, let's compare how each of these films deals with the superhero cliches.

The Dark Knight
It goes out of its way to justify every single little piece of it with some kind of function. The bat ears are radio antennae, the glove fins are spring-loaded ninja blades, and the cape is a glider.

Iron Man
It's an armored suit that gets painted like a hot rod because it looks cool.

Code Names
The Dark Knight
A hero must become a symbol. Symbols are incorruptible.

Iron Man
"Iron Man" is evocative. The imagery, and all.

Love Interests
The Dark Knight
You might not always get the girl.

Iron Man
You might not always get the girl, but you can still be friends.

The Dark Knight
The worst enemy is the darkness within us all.

Iron Man
Bald guys in giant robot suits need to be stopped.

When you add up all these elements into their respective films, you come up with two very different viewpoints.

The Dark Knight
Being a superhero would be Hell.

Iron Man
Being a superhero would be difficult... but awesome.

And though one of these can be said to be more "realistic," I think Iron Man endures so much because there's a part of us that loves the awesomeness of superheroes fighting supervillains. And when you can add in emotional depth and good storytelling to that inherent fun and wonder that superheroes have, then you get something that can have its cake and eat it too.

Though I do adore The Dark Knight, I'd say that Iron Man is the clear winner. Though "realism" might be a refreshing break from cliche at times, idealism is still necessary to give us hope. (Yes, I'm paraphrasing Professor X and Magneto.) But there's room for both to exist. It's okay. We're all allowed to enjoy what we enjoy.

Iron Man still wins, though.

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