Superheroes at Christmastime: Christmas in July Blogathon 2019

Hello, friends!

Winding down day two of the sixth annual Christmas in July Blogathon is the MCU and Star Wars mega fan known as Ashley from Box Office Buzz, If you are unfamiliar with her site, I highly recommend you go over and give it a look. She reviews all kinds of movies and writes a variety of other posts. As I said, she is a big MCU fan, and superhero film fan in general, and she brings that passion to this blogathon as she looks at two superhero Christmas films.


Superheroes at Christmastime: Taking a closer look at two of my favorite (unofficial) holiday films

Did you know that both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe have technically included Christmas films in their respective franchises?

When people put together lists of favorite Christmas movies, “Iron Man 3” and “Shazam” probably aren’t the films that first come to mind. Strictly speaking, these movies are merely set during Christmastime, instead of actually being about Christmas, but it’s an interesting creative choice nonetheless.

Since these movies came out in theaters during the spring and summer, why use a holiday setting? Well, I think it actually makes sense thematically, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper. Here’s more on why I love these two superhero movies, and why I think their Christmas setting was a cool choice:

Reflection and renewal in ‘Iron Man 3’

Iron Man 3 movie posterChristmas is a popular time to give and receive gifts; unfortunately, not all MCU fans thought of “Iron Man 3” as a gift (or at least a gift they wanted to receive). It remains one of the MCU’s most polarizing films, but personally, I love it.

Pop culture films that become polarizing often do so because they take bold narrative risks. Not everybody agreed with this film’s portrayal of classic Iron Man villain the Mandarin, but to me that’s not the most important part of this film.

“Iron Man 3” is, at its core, about Tony’s continuing journey to make peace with who he is, both inside and outside of the Iron Man suit. He experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the events of “The Avengers,” and he struggles with his ongoing fear that he won’t be able to protect the people he cares about.

Maybe it’s just coincidence that “Iron Man 3” takes place at Christmas, but to me it fits because Christmas is meant to be a season of peace and renewal. One year is ending, and another is about to begin. It’s a time of reflection, reconnection, and celebration.

Tony realizes that while the Iron Man suit is a valuable tool, he doesn’t need it to be a hero. And while he continues to make mistakes after “Iron Man 3,” this film is a key turning point for his character, and he experiences growth in terms of maturity and self-acceptance.

***Spoiler alert for “Endgame”*** As we now know, Tony’s character arc has a bittersweet ending in “Avengers: Endgame” — he sacrifices himself to save literally the entire universe, the greatest gift he could have possibly given to his friends and his daughter. He dies at peace, as the hero I always knew he could be.

Found families in ‘Shazam’

Shazam! movie posterI was really surprised that “Shazam” wasn’t a bigger hit at the box office earlier this year, because it’s a really fun (and funny) little superhero film. While there are some entertaining superhero fight scenes (particularly the one at the very end), the movie has a lot to say about family, and — in particular — the concept of “found families.”

The film’s lead character, Billy Batson, has been shuffled from foster home to foster home before finally being placed with the Vazquez family. At first, he doesn’t want to be there, and he keeps himself closed off emotionally.

But after a strange series of events that start with being summoned by an ancient wizard and end with him acquiring superpowers whenever he shouts the word “Shazam!” (it’s a long story), he comes to appreciate his new siblings and find belonging with the Vazquez family.

I love the concept of “found families” in fiction (the Guardians of the Galaxy films in the MCU are another great example). Even though Billy isn’t related to the Vazquez family by blood, they are bound together by their love and compassion for each other.

For many, Christmas is a time to focus on family, but that can be a painful experience for those who don’t have good memories from growing up. The holidays aren’t always a happy time in every household, and it’s important to acknowledge that.

Everyone deserves to have a group of people where they feel like they truly belong, and it doesn’t matter whether those people are officially related or not. Christmas — and “Shazam” — are all about celebrating the feeling of being “home,” wherever that may be.

My holiday party

Finally, one of my favorite parts of Drew’s “Christmas in July” blogathon is seeing which celebrities everybody would pick to attend their fictional holiday party.

I’m going to cheat and pick two, because I can’t decide! First, I’d like to pick John Boyega, who plays Finn in the new Star Wars movies. He just seems like such a charming, fun guy.

I’d also like to pick Robert Downey Jr., because Iron Man is my favorite superhero, and I think he’d make my holiday party super entertaining with all his quips.


Two guests?! How scandalous, Ashley. Bending the rules a little bit but I’ll allow it because they are two pretty solid invites. 😛 Thanks for joining in!

That’s if for day two of the Christmas in July 2019 blogathon. Tomorrow, we begin the day by moving from the big screen to the small screen.

Until next time, cheers!

Iron Man 3 Review

This was actually the first review I had done when I started writing reviews earlier this summer.  I forgot about it until a few weeks ago, so I held off posting it until the the home release of the film.  If I had written it more recently, I would have included something about how the ending offers a potential origin for Ultron in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, but I’m posting as-is.  I hope you check out this film because it’s truly amazing.  But enough of my blabbing, onto the review!

Iron Man 3 movie posterSynopsis
After the events of Marvel’s The Avengers, Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.) world is flipped upside-down. Realizing there is much that he does not understand, he buries himself in his workshop. Meanwhile, The Mandarin (Ben Kingley), leader of the Ten Rings, increases his reign of terror across the US. When his Malibu home is destroyed, Tony is forced to confront his demons and learn if he makes Iron Man or Iron Man makes him?

Review
Wow. Just wow. Iron Man 3 is an ingenious film crafted by Marvel and a good cap to the journey we have seen Tony make through Phase One. In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, we get to see Tony transform into Iron Man and what he can do while in the suit, but he is still a playboy throughout most of those movies with some of that changing towards the end of 2. But in The Avengers we see him make the full transformation into a hero, including self-sacrifice. All of these events have made an affect on Tony that is a central focal point for Iron Man 3. In my opinion, The Avengers was essentially Iron Man 2.5, building on Tony Stark’s character more than the other heroes.

One of my favorite aspects of Iron Man 3 is we get to see how Tony is able to operate while outside of the Iron Man armor. Sure, I would have liked to see more of the Mark 42, it was an awesome suit, but we have seen Tony in armor for three movies already. It’s a nice change of pace to see what he can do outside the armor, using just his brains and ingenuity.

There is a TON of humor laced throughout Iron Man 3 and it works. Whenever things get too serious, a joke is made to lighten the mood back up. There were a few times it felt a little forced, but for the most part it was well executed and enjoyable.

Despite not being in the suit too much, there are quite a bit of action sequences. And they are all awesome! It is obvious that a lot of time went into the special effects and it pays off. The effects are beautiful and almost worth the admission price alone. Plus, not only does Tony get a few punches in outside the suit, Rhodey and Pepper get in on the action as well. Pepper even dons the suit for a while!

It will be a sad day when RDJ hangs up the Iron Man suit for good.  He has become synonymous with Tony Stark and it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.  On the other hand, I have started to accept Don Cheadle as Rhodey, but there is a part of me (most of me, actually) that wishes Terrence Howard would not have been replaced.  It is still awkward to see RDJ tower of Cheadle then have them see eye-to-eye when they are in the suits.  And I think Howard had better chemistry with RDJ than Cheadle does, but Cheadle has definitely grown into the role.

I only really have two big gripes with Iron Man 3. My first is the portrayal of the Mandarin. I’ll admit that I was one of those comic book guys who were salivating when I saw him in the trailer. I was really excited to see Iron Man’s greatest enemy (Mandarin is to Iron Man as Green Goblin is to Spider-Man) finally hit the big screen. I won’t spoil anything, but his depiction wasn’t what I was expecting. But you know what, in the context of this film, I’ve excepted it and realized it actually made the plot that much more exciting and interesting. Had the Mandarin been exactly like his comic book counterpart, it would have changed the entire film, and it is hard to say if the product would have been better.

My other grievance is the use of extremis, although this is due more to the comic fan boy in me than the movie itself. Since extremis essentially rewrites DNA, this allows for endless possibilities for super powers. However, all we see is the ability to melt things with their bodies. The final fight at the end would have been a perfect place to showcase how versatile extremis can really be. But like I said, that is just the comic nerd inside me.

Iron Man 3 is an excellent film that blends characterization with action, while never detracting from either and forms an excellent kick-of to Marvel’s Phase Two slate of movies.

Rating
4.5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.