Iron Man v. Dark Knight: Let the Battle Begin!

Iron Man: Ultimate 2-Disc Edition
Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Shaun Toub
Directed by Jon Favreau (who has a cameo)
Rated PG-13 – for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content
125 minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2008

READING DISCLAIMER: This review is long. You have been warned.

Iron Man. Before The Dark Knight was released and eclipsed everything else the summer had to offer, this superhero movie was tops at the box office. As it stands, Iron Man made over $571 million worldwide, while The Dark Knight, still in theatres, has made $971 million worldwide. So, I got to thinking…why? I’m going to have a little fun and write a classic comparison-contrast essay for the two films. Join me, won’t you?

Superheroes are big business. If you look at the box office over the past few years, Spiderman, the X-Men, Batman, Superman, and Iron Man have been tops at the box office more than once. With this resurgence of the comic book adaptation, stakes are higher than ever to create a film that not only has great action and special effects, but also deliver a good storyline.

True, not all superhero movies work: Daredevil, Catwoman, Elektra, and Batman & Robin are only a few of the many that have come and gone with a whimper and a more than a couple Razzie Awards. So what makes Iron Man and The Dark Knight stand out among the rest?

The Main Man

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) have a lot in common. Both a super-rich. Both use their millions to fight crime. Both have tragedy in their past that leads them to superhero status. However, Tony Stark knows how to have a good time. He’s funny, charismatic, and brings a level of energy to the table that makes him fun to watch. Contrast that with Bruce Wayne, moody, pining after Rachael Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) , seemingly having fun but really not enjoying himself. Yes, Bruce Wayne watched as his parents were killed (see Batman Begins), while Tony Stark was a prisoner of Afghani rebels for three months. It could be argued that Bruce has more reason to be depressed and moody than Tony. But does that make him a character that’s enjoyable to watch?

The Hero Comes

Bruce Wayne becomes Batman; Tony Stark becomes Iron Man. Both want to fight evil in the world. Both have the same agenda; they are heroes after all. The Dark Knight gives Batman a weird digitized voice that, at times, can be hard to understand. Batman also seems to take a back seat throughout the film. Now, Iron Man is an origin story like Batman Begins, but at least we see Iron Man far more than we see Batman in The Dark Knight. Why? It’s not called The Joker Played By The Late Heath Ledger. It’s The Dark Knight. Show me Batman!

Iron Man also has more fun than The Dark Knight, which leads to my next section…

It’s All in the Tone

Iron Man is fun. You have a great feeling when you leave the theatre. You want to see it again. It’s funny, exciting, edgy, and entertaining. All things a summer popcorn flick should be. The Dark Knight’s title fits its tone to a tee. It’s dark. It’s creepy, it’s depressing, it’s not a whole lot of fun. “But wait, jackass!” you may be saying out loud in response to the previous sentence. “Batman’s supposed to be dark. What do you want, another Batman & Robin?” No, I don’t. But I would like to leave the movie feeling like Batman has saved the day and all is right with the world. I didn’t get that feeling. I was exhausted and let down by The Dark Knight. Maybe it’s because they killed off Two-Face, but kept the Joker alive (ironic, isn’t it?). Which brings me to my next point:

Victory in Villainy

Heath Ledger as the Joker was by far one of the best performances of the year. If he gets nominated for an Oscar, he’s gonna win. No question. Amazing, disturbing, haunting, dark, and menacing all describe his portrayal of the Joker. He was awesome. And therein lies a problem; The Dark Knight was the Joker’s movie. Not Batman’s. Think back on the movie and ask yourself what you remember most…it’s the Joker. Batman and Bruce Wayne weren’t that interesting this time around. Heck, they were downright boring.

Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) was a lame-duck villain. He wasn’t truly a “bad guy” until the end of the movie. Sure, he was dating Rachael Dawes, which made Bruce jealous (still don’t understand that, but we’ll discuss that issue later), but so what? And then, when Batman is finally face-to-Two-Face (ha ha) with him, Two-Face dies. What a waste!

Iron Man’s villain is America’s military-industrial complex embodied in Stark’s former partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). He’s out to destroy Tony, and later Iron Man. We see the evolution of his intentions; we can see what his point-of-view is for doing what he’s doing. He may not wear fancy make-up like the Joker, or be dull as dirt like Harvey Dent, but he’s a complex character nonetheless.

Bottom line: The Joker was the best villain of the three. Give Ledger the Oscar. ‘Nuff said.

My Fair Lady

Gwyneth Paltrow is hot. As Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s loyal assistant, she brings out the humanity in her billionaire-playboy-turned superhero boss. Her character is there for one main reason and that is to bring a female into the film that isn’t a dancing stewardess (oh, check out the deleted scenes for a stewardess pole dance and more!). But here’s one more thing that makes Pepper stand out: She’s not Rachael Dawes!

I kept asking myself during The Dark Knight why Bruce Wayne is attracted to Rachael Dawes. She’s not attractive, she’s whiny, she’s not interested in him, and she’s really not that interesting. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a cute chick (see Stranger Than Fiction or The Secretary), but here she’s not. Maybe it was her makeup, but she looked like a buck-toothed chipmunk every time she was on-screen. And then, when something bad happens to her near the end of the film, no one cares. It’s not a real emotional thing. Why? Because she wasn’t interesting enough to care about from the start.

Hype Me, Man!

Both films were hyped like crazy before they were released. In my opinion, the only reason The Dark Knight did as well as it did was because of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Oh, and his death may have had something to do with it too. Perhaps since it was Ledger final full performance (he is in the upcoming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but only briefly) people went to see his work. They were right in doing so. As I said before, he was the reason to see the movie.

The Final Verdict

Iron Man is a lot of fun. It’s entertaining, engaging, and a well-crafted film. The Dark Knight has it’s points too (and when the DVD comes out I will dig deeper into them) but I just feel that if Heath Ledger’s Joker was taken out of the movie there’s not much left to see.

But I digress.

Iron Man is a 2-Disc DVD set with tons of special features, that include: deleted and extended scenes, a 7-part making of documentary, a 6-part look at the history of the Iron Man character, Robert Downey Jr.’s screen test for the role, and many, many more!

Iron Man gets a high-flying A+!! Hey, Black Sabbath did a song about him. “Iron Man,” anyone?

Oh, and if you hated Iron Man and loved Dark Knight, leave a comment and let me know why. Keep it nice and clean. These are movies after all, I’m not insulting your mother or other family members.

3 thoughts on “Iron Man v. Dark Knight: Let the Battle Begin!”

  1. You nailed it! The Joker made the Dark Knight movie. It’s really just that simple.

    The lead in the Dark Knight has Zero personality while the lead in Iron Man ooozes with it…..

    Only explantion for Dark Knight making more money is “JOKER”

  2. While I agree with some of the points of your review, I think a better comparison would be to compare Iron Man with Batman Begins. Both are about the origins of the super heroes.

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