Batman Begins is not only a great comic book movie, nor is it merely a great movie overall… it’s also a very important film. It took the comic book genre film into a darker more serious tone (while still being quite fun) that previously hadn’t really been done with mainstream comic movie fare. It opened the doors for further diversity in the genre that had previously been only dreamed about by comic geeks, but thought unrealistic by much of Hollywood.
However, I think there is also a tendency in some people (me included) to confuse “darker” with “deeper”. Following my viewing of Iron Man (which I really enjoyed) I got involved in some discussions with people where comparisons were made between Iron and Bat. And in most of those conversations at least one person would usually mention “Yes, but Batman Begins was a deeper film”. And at first, I just agreed with that without thinking about it… but upon further reflection, I don’t agree with that statement at all. Yes Batman Begins was a darker more serious movie… but I disagree that it was intrinsically a deeper movie. When you really look at all the elements, I think an argument could be made that the story in the Iron Man movie was every bit as deep as Batman Begins… it just clearly wasn’t as dark.
That got me thinking about both of these movies that I enjoyed so much. There was a starting assumption (by me as well) that the Iron Man movie, no matter how good, wouldn’t be as good as Batman Begins. I think there is a worth while debate to be had on that creative and subjective issue… but for now I would just like to propose 5 ways that Iron Man was actually better than Batman Begins (yes, there are ways Batman was better, but that’s for another conversation).
1) MINIMAL LOVE INTEREST STORY LINE
If you inquired all Batman Begins fans around the world about what one thing they DIDN’T like about the movie, almost universally (with exceptions) the answer coming back with be “The damn love story with the wooden walking Tom Cruise baby incubator”. It felt like every time Rachel Dawes was on screen the pace and motion of the movie ground to a complete halt… and the love interest was never sold. It felt forced and unnatural. Iron Man on the other hand had a very minimalist approach to the love interest story line… the two never even kiss. Not to mention, Gwyneth Paltrow fit in with the movie much better and never got in the way. She, and her relationship with Tony Stark actually HELPED the story as opposed to hinder it.
2) YOU CAN SEE THE DAMN ACTION
My one critique of Christopher Nolan’s direction when it came to Batman Begins was how he choose to shoot the action sequences. Whenever Batman was going to do something really cool (like beat the hell out of the henchmen at the docks), Nolan either choose to have the camera cut away to something else so you only HEAR Batman doing his thing, or committed the heinous sin of shaking the bloody camera around like an German midget having an epileptic seizure to create a fake and artificial sense of “action” or “intensity”. This drove me nuts. Iron Man on the other had generally always had him in frame, in the shot allowing us to see what he was doing. Thank you Mr. Favreau!
3) IRON MAN HAPPENS IN THE REAL WORLD
There’s something about brining the fantastic into the mundane that makes the fantastic all the more awe inspiring. Prior to Jurassic Park, I had seen lots of movies with Dinosaurs, but they were usually back in time (where you would expect to see Dinosaurs). But when Jurassic Park brought those creatures into the the world and time we live in, there was something far more magical and awe inspiring about it. Batman Begins doesn’t really exist in our world totally. The styles, technology (better and worse) and atmosphere of “Gotham City” (which is also fictional) are all slightly off from the real world. And so, when the environment is a fictional world, the fictional characters dwelling in it seem a TOUCH less fantastic because they’re not in the world we inhabit. Iron Man on the other hand takes place in the context of our world… which for me personally, made it engage my imagination all the more. Some people won’t agree with this point, and that’s fair since it is subjective.
4) TONY STARK IS A MORE ENTERTAINING CHARACTER THAN BRUCE WAYNE
Please note I’m not saying Tony Stark is a BETTER character than Bruce Wayne. I don’t think he is… but there’s no denying that when sitting in a movie theater, the moments that Tony Stark is on screen are more entertaining to watch than Bruce Wayne. In Iron Man, Stark is a funny, quick tonged character who almost always said or did something on screen that made you laugh or love him even more. His quick one liners and general disposition made watching him on screen almost as fun as watching Iron Man on screen. Same can’t really be said for Bruce.
5) IRON MAN HAD BETTER DIALOG
Say what you will, but man… that little speech Rachel Dawes gives Bruce as they’re driving in the car in front of Falcone’s was nauseating. “Who will stand for justice… yadda yadda yadda”. There were actually several monologues in the film that had a high cheese factor to them… some awesome ones too. Iron Man just seemed to have tighter dialog. Sillier sometimes for certain… but rarely diving into the deep blue cheese. It was usually witty and with the wink of an Iron eye at times… but for what it was it was pretty tight.
Once again, I’m not here saying Iron Man was a BETTER movie that Batman Begins (although I might later). Both are fantastic movies, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. These are just some of the areas where I though Iron Man was superior. Are there other ways in which you thought Iron Man had the upper hand?