I was sitting in the small Italian, brick-oven restaurant down the block, with the dirty floors and the amazing food, when I saw my soul reflected back at me. A little boy, no more than five, although he had the haircut of a sixty year-old, stood engrossed in front of a plain white wall. He was making battle noises and throwing punches at the plaster with all of his might, and each throw of his diminutive fist was accompanied by a “Ka-blah!”—“Pssh! Pssh!”—“Kah-Pow!” Roommate and I exchanged amused glances and then I announced, with the utmost sincerity, “That is exactly how I feel when I’m watching Iron Man.”
I’ve never spoken truer words about film, despite weekly ramblings. There’s only one Iron Man for me (which isn’t to discount the sequel and all future sequels– I love all Iron Man films like my children) and despite my breathless praises of sex, lies and videotape or Videodrome, the only film that brings me pure, unaltered, child-like joy and wonder is still Iron Man.
Sweet arc-reactor-making Jesus, if Iron Man was a drug, I’d inject it directly into my neck. If Iron Man was a food-source, I would end up on My Strange Addiction, with TLC trying to wean me off of it. I’m a college-educated, twenty-four year old woman, with an urban apartment and a semi-professional job, and I STILL end up (happily) in the kids aisle of Party City, weighing the relative merits of two different plastic Iron Man lunchboxes.
The maddening, endless question is why? Why does this one particular superhero film, with absolutely no relevance to my life, give me a direct endorphin injection to the spine?
Seeing it in action in others gives me some small insight into my own ardor. Seeing a person watching their favorite movie is akin to watching two soul mates in love: they become fidgety, energized, short of breath, enraptured. My friend Wes recently gave me the Star Wars indoctrination, and he epitomized the best of this syndrome, refusing to start the film until I sat in the best seat in the house, my cell-phone muted and across the room. He was so deeply invested in the film and the film experience that it became an essential part of his soul—it was deeply important to Wes that I see in Star Wars what he saw.
You know those friends you might think are annoying, who make it difficult to just watch their favorite movie because they insist on you watching it the ‘correct’ way? That’s me. That’s totally me– Wes, too. Thing is, we try really, really hard not to become those people. Honest. But then we realize that you may not notice the Captain America shield in the background or the Storm Trooper that hits his head on the doorway and we just can’t help it. I realize that you don’t know Iron Man originated in the Vietnam war and I just have to say it, for your own health and well-being.
I love being on the receiving end of this. I’m honored everytime I get to watch someone’s favorite movie with them. That Star Wars experience I spoke of above was a celebration of cinema, great fun primarily because of Wes’ enthusiasm—watching him watch me watch Star Wars made it all the clearer what an important, joyful and valuable film it truly is. His enthusiasm was palpable; his bliss was ignorant of any pain. This was film-viewing at its best– a shot of morphine that makes your flesh warm with delight. Wes’ love was contagious, and seeing the movie through his eyes made it an entirely different film.
There’s no reasoning with this kind of love. You can’t talk me out of loving Iron Man any more than you can talk someone out of divorcing their husband. It ain’t gonna happen. There are a hundred “better” films, but none greater. We’ve written a lot the past few days about subjectivity and its place in our consumption of and opinions of film. Well, this is subjectivity at its absolute highest—an irrational, all-consuming love for a movie that transcends reason and, sometimes, sanity.
I distinctly remember The Summer of Iron Man. Summer of 2008, just before I left my hometown for college in the big city. I saw the movie thirteen times at the downtown cheap theater for $4 a pop (best $52 I ever spent, in case you were doing the math) and it was like going out to meet a good friend for drinks. Sometimes the theater was empty, during the 2pm showing usually, and I would cat-call back to the screen like it was Rocky Horror. Going to see Iron Man was like an elixir for all of life’s problems. All of the ills of the world could be solved with ingenuity, whiskey, and a box of scraps. Incase you think this was just about the time of my life, I have to disclaimer that I saw Iron Man 2 (damn the haters to hell, it was a brilliant movie) ten times at $10 a pop. Hey, twice as long, twice as much. Best $100 I ever spent.
So there might be “better” movies, but until one of them makes me feel exactly like a five year old boy blissfully punching the wall of a pizzeria, my heart belongs to Tony Stark.
Britta R. Moline 3/7/12
“THEY say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree.”