The idea for the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar (there’s probably a much simpler title out there) is simple; a film each day in the build up to Christmas that isn’t your standard Christmas film. Not like The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf or Die Hard (that’s an argument for another day, or year), but one that might be set at Christmas but the holiday isn’t a major factor in the story of the film, or it’s simply mentioned a couple of times and made reference to throughout.
As Christmas Eve arrives, along with the final day of this years alternative Christmas film advent calendar (never did find a better, more concise title), looking back on the films behind each doors there’s been a variety of features suggested so far. From the more mainstream and classic films to the lesser known and forgotten classics. And so, it only seems fitting that when we open today’s door the film waiting behind it is a modern superhero blockbuster. Specifically Iron Man 3.
Writer-director Shane Black has become known for inserting slight elements of Christmas into his films over the years. Having written the screenplay for festive classics such as Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang people began to wonder how the holiday would be used in 2013’s Iron Man 3 – the first Marvel film after 2012’s highly successful and bar-raising Avengers Assemble. And while Black does manage to get Christmas into the background of the film in many ways Iron Man 3 is far more of a Christmas film than it might initially seem. Many of its core themes and ideas hint towards a festive feature, even amongst all the standard blockbuster action and mystery around who the character of The Mandarin is. Plus, Marvel themselves have stated in recent days that the film is in fact a Christmas film.
The extent to which Iron Man 3 acts as a Christmas film can be seen through the fact that in a number of ways it’s very much a modern telling of A Christmas Carol. At the start of the film Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is still struggling from the fallout from Avengers Assemble – which isn’t compulsory viewing to fully understand this film, nor hugely the previous two Iron Man films either, although they are all rather good (well, maybe Iron Man 2 isn’t as good as the other two films, but still). Experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks from his visions back to the battle in New York just the year before. His behaviour is still very much centred around himself, despite seemingly trying to think more about others and being encouraged by his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). However, his attachment to his collection of now over 40 Iron Man suits, of which he is constantly improving is slowly becoming unhealthy. Beginning to rely on it for basic tasks.
Over the course of the film, as Tony’s relationships with those around him grows, as he needs to rely on them to defeat the terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley – having great fun in the role, which for those who have seen the film will know of the great twist that lies within). One relationship in particular being that with a young boy (Ty Simpkins) that he meets and needs the help of after crashing in the middle of nowhere in a damaged condition, his trusted suit and computer assistant JARVIS (Paul Bettany) in a critical state. Tony’s character development, not to give too many spoilers for how things begin to go and the situations he finds himself in, is one rather similar to that of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Helping to give the plot of the film undertones of festivity.
However, while the more subtle Christmassy plot is highly present within the film there’s a lot more relating to the holiday. One key scene showing the modifications that Stark has been making to the Iron Man suit is set to Jingle Bells, instead of his standard AC/DC tracks. A number of rooms feature light use of Christmas decorations, and every now and then, in the hope of getting out of trouble; or rather to distract from something, Tony is seen to be gifting something excessive to Pepper. In fact the whole finale could very much be seen as some form of gift, especially with a number of decisions that the characters make and certain lines of dialogue that are said (evidently I’m trying to keep this as vague as possible, probably not doing a very good job of it, for those that haven’t seen the film yet).
The Christmas elements are all there and this may very well be Shane Black’s most Christmassy. Not just for the usual background references but for the plot as a whole. The Scrooge style sub-plot/ under-layer, the light humour often found in some Christmas films, the references to the season and people coming together during it, despite initial tensions. And, of course, making sure that good prevails and the period isn’t damaged by evil and spoiled for all. All through the guise of another enjoyable big-budget Marvel blockbuster. And, in my opinion at least, the best out of the three Iron Man films. It truly is the perfect film for Christmas Eve
Iron Man 3 can be watched in the following places:
Or the film is available on DVD, Blu-ray and can likely be streamed, bought or rented on various other platforms and sites that you might have a membership on, or something like that – for example, for anyone outside of the UK and anywhere that doesn’t have it yet, Disney+.