#359. Vigilantes

While the police should be the primary form of law enforcement, sometimes they are limited with what they can do. These limitations can be brought about via budgetary or personnel constraints, but the most significant restriction seems to be the law itself. Criminals are only criminal if they’re caught doing something against the law. Even if they are caught, with good enough lawyers, these individuals can sometimes go free. When the law seems to fail the individuals affected by these criminals, there is often a desire to take justice into their own hands. The urge to be a vigilante is usually tempered by the law-breaking that would occur as a part of the act of vengeance. Vigilantes thrived in societies with little to no law enforcement, like the old west, but many modern situations are just as applicable. This week’s two films highlight some vigilantes.

Magnum ForceMagnum Force
Year: 1973
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

One of the reasons that vigilantes start to emerge in a system is because of corruption. If justice is being hampered by bureaucracy, that’s one thing, but when a biased leadership that wants certain criminals to go free exists, it can be difficult to overcome these limitations without stepping outside the law. Most police officers want to see justice happen, but even the blindly ignorant can usually see where something is wrong with the system. In these cases, either the citizens rise up and become vigilantes, or the cops who want the criminals to be punished will make sure that the criminals’ consequences are doled out. The only difference between these kinds of vigilantes and the ones portrayed in comic-book movies (which seems to be all of them) is that the competence of the police force is not in question in these cases.

Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) has a lot on his plate and usually finds himself in situations where he needs to act in order to prevent a situation from becoming worse. Of course, the way he performs his job isn’t exactly “by the book.” One of Callahan’s traits is that he often uses his gun to get things done. At the firing range, he runs across a group of four rookie police officers who prove that they’re better with their guns than he is. While mobsters are being murdered around town, Callahan starts to suspect that these cops are taking justice into their own hands, killing the mobsters who have been acquitted through the legal system. When the leader of this “death squad” turns out to be one of the rookies, Callahan is offered a position in their group. Callahan declines the offer and has to use his gun to survive while also bringing these rogue cops to justice.

The Boondock SaintsThe Boondock Saints
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

“‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” While this passage from Romans gives many of the downtrodden hope in their unjust situations, sometimes people turn into vigilantes when they see that God is taking his time. Often, criminal organizations will manage to stay underneath the radar of the police, but will still affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Because there is no evidence that these organizations have done anything wrong, they are allowed to continue unabated. Much of the time, these organizations end up taking advantage of the disadvantaged, mostly because they know these individuals won’t fight back. But, what if some individuals see what’s happening and decide to stand up for these ordinary citizens? They don’t have the legal right to confront the organization, but these vigilantes will do what it takes to solve the problem.

During a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Irish-American brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus stand up to some Russian mobsters who want to acquire the pub by force. After being rebuffed by the MacManus brothers, the Russians return the next day to settle the score and are killed in self-defense. While the media lauds these men as heroes, the FBI still start investigating the situation. Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) sympathizes with the men and lets them go after a night in a holding cell. Of course, Connor and Murphy have now made the decision to rid Boston of these Russian mobsters. As they start to go about killing these mobsters, Agent Smecker is conflicted as to whether or not to arrest or assist them. When the leader of the Russian mafia goes to trial, the brothers are aided by Smecker and their long-lost father to enact their own brand of justice.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 vehement vigilantes

Advertisements

#358. Police

Whatever your opinion is of law enforcement, they’re generally a necessity to maintain order in society. That’s not to say that police officers aren’t human as well (Robocop (1987) excluded, of course). They make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes they act in their own self-interests. Despite controversy and other shortcomings, there are plenty of police who are full of integrity and do their job to the best of their ability. Over the years, there have been numerous stereotypes formed around the cops. From the donut-eating overweight incompetent to the hard-nosed, by-the-book officer who is continuously stymied by corruption in his department, a lot of police representation in movies can be boiled down to tropes. Consequently, the “police movie” is practically its own genre. This week’s two films highlight some different representations of police.

The Naked GunThe Naked Gun
Year: 1988
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours

There are plenty of movies that portray the police as some kind of joke. Granted, these films also have the police in the role of an antagonist, thus making them incompetent to allow the protagonist to succeed, often to comedic effect. However, there are still many films that have police as the protagonists and remain in the “comedy” genre. Sometimes the situations the police find themselves in are the comedic factor but other times the police themselves are the source of the comedy. The former is best represented by films like Kindergarten Cop (1990), whereas the latter are generally represented by movies like Super Troopers (2001), and Hot Fuzz (2007). The Naked Gun franchise combines both of these types of comedy in a wry and often goofy screwball comedy that features the comedic talents of Leslie Nielsen.

With the visit of Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles) to Los Angeles coming up soon, it’s up to Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) to clean up a city with a heroin problem before she arrives. All the information Detective Nordberg (O. J. Simpson) has accumulated on the heroin ring point to Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán). To distract Drebin, Ludwig sends his assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to help Drebin with the investigation. After some sleuthing, Drebin and Jane discover that Ludwig will attempt an assassination of the Queen at a baseball game using hypnotic suggestion to awaken a sleeper assassin. As time runs out to stop the killing, Drebin’s dumb luck and clumsy bumbling end up saving the day. Of course, at this point, Jane is turned into a sleeper agent and attempts to kill Drebin. His only defense against her is to call upon the strength of their relationship.

Magnum ForceMagnum Force
Year: 1973
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

Police work is very serious business, as well it should be. The everyday stories of police can even be used in a documentary format, as was done with The Thin Blue Line (1988). Even fictionalized accounts do have some elements of truth to them, as the dramatic nature of a police officer’s job lends itself to gripping storytelling. Movies like Training Day (2001) show audiences just what needs to be done to affect change as a police officer. Even animated films like Zootopia (2016) highlight the struggles of police who are trying to do the right thing, despite the bureaucracy and other factors that end up being stacked against them. In the end, most police films are about investigations. As the crime is unraveled, the police find themselves deep in the dregs of society as they try to bring justice to their jurisdiction.

Soon after a mysterious shooting death of acquitted Mobster Carmine Ricca (Richard Devon), Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) runs across a few rookie police officers who have skills with their guns that surpasses his own. As more undesirable members of society are knocked off, Harry starts to suspect that a gang of motorcycle cops has created a “kill squad” to take out the mobsters and pimps that haven’t received the justice they deserve. Through a shooting competition, Harry manages to retrieve a fired bullet from a rookie officer’s gun. When ballistics analyzes the round, it matches the mob shootings. Cornering Harry with threats and a mailbox bomb, these police officers give him an ultimatum to join their group. With his outright refusal, the officers turn their wrath on Harry, who manages to outsmart them and give them their own justice as well.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 police portrayals

#357. Leslie Nielsen

Most actors will know early in their career which genres work best for them. Whether it’s John Wayne and westerns or Boris Karloff and horror, these actors will usually excel in their respective genres for their entire career. Other actors may find that they can act in a particular genre, but can’t seem to achieve success doing so. In these instances, some actors will switch genres to determine a fit that works for them. In terms of changing genres, many comedic actors can sometimes find success in drama, but the opposite is rarely true. Comedy requires a different understanding of acting, including facial expressions, deadpan deliveries, and . . . timing. And yet, while the transition from drama to comedy is rare, actors like Leslie Nielsen have found success in doing so. This week’s two films highlight two of Leslie Nielsen’s best comedies.

Airplane!Airplane!
Year: 1980
Rating: PG
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

If I told you that Leslie Nielsen didn’t act in a comedy until 24 years into his career, you’d likely respond with, “Surely, you can’t be serious!” And yet, this is the honest truth (and don’t call me Shirley). From films like Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Nielsen managed to develop a career as the “serious” archetype. So, when a movie like Airplane! (1980) came along, many thought the film was going to be a serious “disaster” film along the lines of The Towering Inferno (1974) or the aforementioned The Poseidon Adventure. Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan acting of comedic lines merely accentuated the silliness that is contained in this disaster parody. One would almost wonder if Nielsen could have entered comedy earlier without developing the more serious personas to play against for maximum contrast and maximum comedy.

Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) is on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago when many of the passengers start to show symptoms of food poisoning. Rumack is able to make the diagnosis because, between the options of steak or fish, he had the lasagna. Unfortunately, the flight crew all had fish, so now it’s up to flight attendant Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) to find someone who can fly the plane. As it just so happens, her former boyfriend, Ted Striker (Robert Hays), is on the plane and has the skills as a former fighter pilot to land safely. Of course, his PTSD has affected his nerves, leading to his “drinking” problem. Dr. Rumack pulls Striker aside to let him know what’s at stake here. Through a bit of coaxing and encouragement, Rumack convinces Striker to fly the plane just as they come within range of landing at Chicago.

The Naked GunThe Naked Gun
Year: 1988
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours

After the success of Airplane!, the directors gave Leslie Nielsen a starring role in a television parody of detective shows known as Police Squad! This show eventually spun off into The Naked Gun film series, which included From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), and 331/3: The Final Insult (1994). By the time these films were concluded, Leslie Nielsen’s association with comedy was undeniable. He would go on to act in a number of other parodies, including Mel BrooksDracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), the James Bond parody, Spy Hard (1996), as well as a number of pop culture collage parodies like Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006). Nielsen’s ability to never take himself that seriously was even exemplified after his death in 2010, with the epitaph on his gravestone being a simple fart joke: “Let ‘er rip.”

Upon returning from his vacation to Beirut, where he inadvertently foiled the plans of all of America’s enemies, Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) must exonerate the Police Squad from drug charges before Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles) arrives in Los Angeles. As the Queen’s security for the visit, any negative press on the Police Squad could be detrimental to the whole department. Meanwhile, drug lord Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán) had developed a plan to create a sleeper assassin to take out the Queen. In a plan reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Ludwig hopes to use a beeper to trigger his assassin. To keep the Police Squad from foiling his plans, Ludwig assigns his assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to distract Lieutenant Drebin. Through Drebin’s bumbling, he manages to save the day, while also preventing his own death at Jane’s hands by proposing to her.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 laugh-filled Leslie Nielsen roles

Bacon #: 2 (Nuts / Eli Wallach -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#356. Parodies

There’s a very fine line between a film that’s “self-aware” and a parody. Often, a self-aware film is one that ascribes to the tropes of a particular genre but does so with a tongue-in-cheek knowing wink. Parodies are usually films that play off the success of another film (or series/franchise of films) to make fun of the little foibles that make the referenced film so successful. In terms of straight comedy, these movies rely on previous knowledge of source material endemic to the popular culture surrounding it. Consequently, while parodies are seen as “lower” comedy, and are rarely taken seriously (for obvious reasons), by piggybacking on a pop culture phenomenon, some of these parodies are almost as well-known as the movies they’re parodying. This week’s two films examine some successes from the golden age of parody: the 1980’s.

SpaceballsSpaceballs
Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours

Despite acts like Abbot and Costello and The Marx Brothers being some of the trailblazers of parodies, the sub-genre of comedy didn’t really take off until the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Part of this stemmed from the box office successes of big-budget action films, which themselves were ripe for parody. No genre, film, or franchise is safe from parody. Documentaries were parodied in This is Spinal Tap (1984), Frankenstein (1931) was parodied in Young Frankenstein (1974), and the James Bond franchise was parodied by the Austin Powers franchise. Of course, one of the kings of film parodies is none other than Mel Brooks. He parodied Broadway musicals in The Producers (1968), westerns in Blazing Saddles (1974), and the epitome of the space opera, Star Wars (1977), in Spaceballs (1987).

Planet Spaceball is in trouble! They’ve run out of fresh air, and now President Skroob (Mel Brooks) is trying to figure out how to steal the clean air from nearby planet Druidia. By holding Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) hostage, Skroob believes he can get the access codes for Druidia’s atmosphere shield. Before Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) can arrive to kidnap the princess, she runs away from home, causing her father to hire the mercenary Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) after her. While Lone Starr gets to Vespa first, his spacecraft runs out of fuel, causing them to crash land on a desert planet. While Lone Starr comes across a sage known as Yogurt (Mel Brooks) and learns about “The Schwartz,” Vespa is finally captured by Dark Helmet. It’s then up to Lone Starr to chase after Dark Helmet and use his newly acquired Schwarz powers to save the day.

Airplane!Airplane!
Year: 1980
Rating: PG
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

Sometimes parodies don’t necessarily poke fun at a single popular film. Sometimes these parodies cover many films within a genre. Sure, with as many Dracula films as there are, you’d expect to see a Mel Brooks film like Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). But for each of these films, you’d have parodies for high box office grossing films like Top Gun (1986) that was parodied in Hot Shots! (1991). However, with no Top Gun sequel, the Hot Shots! sequel (Part Deux (1993)) had to resort to parodying war films in general. Likewise, the Naked Gun series was a spinoff of the Police Squad parodies of the “cop drama” genre. Even animated films are not immune, as shown by the parody that is Shrek (2001). And yet, in the 1970’s, the “disaster” genre really took off, thus providing plenty of fuel for the cult classic that is Airplane! (1980).

On a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, an in-flight meal causes the flight crew and many of the passengers to become ill due to food poisoning. With nobody to fly the plane, flight attendant Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) contacts the control tower in Chicago, where she learns that the inflatable autopilot should get them to Chicago, but is unable to land the plane. Fortunately, Elaine’s former boyfriend, Ted Striker (Robert Hays), is a former fighter pilot and is also one of the passengers on the plane. Unfortunately, he has PTSD from his military service and has developed a “drinking problem,” as well as an aversion to flying, as a result. It’s now up to Ted’s former commanding officer, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack), to help him land the plane safely at Chicago. While the introduction of his former commanding officer causes some PTSD for Ted, the weather also creates a wrinkle in the landing. Will Ted safely land?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect parodies

#355. Rick Moranis

When it comes to Hollywood, we often see an actor’s work/life balance skewed heavily toward the “work” side of the continuum. How many divorces have resulted from these actors and actresses spending so much time in their career that they don’t have time for their significant other? Furthermore, if children are part of the relationship, where do actors find the time for those nurturing moments of parenthood amidst the crazy filming schedules of the movie industry? At the end of the day, these individuals need to determine their priorities in life, as we all must do when choosing between our work and our home life. Over the years, there have been few actors who have decided to focus on their family instead of their acting career. Rick Moranis is just such an actor. This week’s two films highlight some Rick Moranis’ most successful roles before he took a hiatus to raise his family.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

At the age of 62, Cary Grant retired from acting to raise his newborn daughter. While Grant had a wildly successful film career, he realized his role in his daughter’s life was much more important. Similarly, when Rick Moranis was widowed in 1991, he essentially became a single parent who had to raise two kids. Even though he continued to act for the next few years, he eventually realized he needed a hiatus to focus on the already complicated task of being a single father to his children. Two years before his wife’s death, Moranis starred in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). This film eventually received two sequels, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992) and the direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997). This third installment was Moranis’ last live-action film before his hiatus. He did some voice acting in a few more films like Brother Bear (2003), but since 2006, he has yet to return to acting.

Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has a lot on his plate. From trying to fix his new shrinking ray for a conference he’s attending in the next few days to raising a family of two kids in the suburbs, Wayne is trying to do it all, even at the detriment of his marriage. While he must leave for his conference, he tasks his kids to clean up the house before his wife gets home from spending the night at her mother’s house. Laughed off the stage for providing no proof that his shrink ray works, he comes home to find his house empty and an attic window broken. When his wife returns home, they make up, only to realize that their children are missing. A realization about the broken window causes Wayne to discover that his shrink ray does actually work and that it has shrunk their children. Carefully searching the area, Wayne eventually finds the kids in his morning cereal and is able to return them to normal size.

SpaceballsSpaceballs
Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours

If there was a genre Rick Moranis excelled in, it was comedy. A Canadian-born actor, Moranis broke into the comedy scene through the Canadian television show, SCTV. Because of his work on this sketch comedy show, he made the transition to the big screen with Strange Brew (1983), reprising his role of Bob McKenzie from the show. The following year, he would be a part of Ghostbusters (1984) as the demon-possessed Louis Tully. He would also reprise this role in the sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989), albeit as the Ghostbusters’ lawyer instead of their enemy. Aside from his leading role in the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986), perhaps his most well-known role was that of Lord Dark Helmet from the Star Wars (1977) parody, Spaceballs (1987). While Moranis has yet to find an acting role to break his hiatus, with the renewed cultural interest in Star Wars, a Spaceballs sequel just might do it.

As part of a plan to steal the air from nearby planet Druidia, President Skroob (Mel Brooks) of Planet Spaceball sends Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap the princess of Druidia on her wedding day. Unfortunately, before Dark Helmet can get there, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) abandons her own wedding and is picked up by Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his mog companion, Barf (John Candy). Dark Helmet pursues Lone Starr but overshoots when he commands the spaceship, Spaceball One, into “ludicrous speed.” Fortunately, using a VHS of the movie, Dark Helmet is able to learn that Lone Starr and Vespa crash-landed on the desert moon of Vega. After successfully kidnapping the princess, Dark Helmet manages to hold her ransom for the access codes to Druidia’s atmosphere shield. Can he successfully steal the planet’s air for President Skroob, or will Lone Star save the day?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Moranis milestones

Bacon #: 2 (Spaceballs / John Candy -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#354. Gigantic!

How often do we catch ourselves staring upward at an object, in awe of its immense size? When tourists first experience the towering heights of the skyscrapers of New York, they come to grips with the scale of such structures. Sometimes, even the most mundane things in life can be awe-inspiring (or at least attention-grabbing) when reimagined as larger versions of their smaller counterparts. While some of this fascination with gigantic items stems from the art world, there have been many films that have delved into the idea that size matters. In the past, this required building sets to make the actors on the screen seem much larger than they were. Today, CGI can accomplish this task. Even so, some amount of visual trickery is needed to make the actors appear larger than life. This week’s two films examine what it means to be gigantic!

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Giant robots are usually a sub-genre of science fiction often promulgated through Japanese manga and anime. While they cornered the market on giant monsters and the giant robots built to fight them (a la Godzilla (1954) and Power Rangers (2017), respectively) America is finally starting to catch up with such films as Pacific Rim (2013) and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018). Granted, most of the American giant monsters and robots before this point were in the form of enormous apes or alien invaders, like the eponymous King Kong (1933) or Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). All these giant robots and monsters were created in a variety of methods to make the audience think they are enormous, but there’s been at least one true giant to grace the big screen. In his best-known film role, Andre the Giant played the part of Fezzik in The Princess Bride (1987).

Upon the cusp of the start of the cold war, tensions are high between the United States and the Soviet Union. When a giant alien robot falls out of the sky and lands near a small town in Maine, the United States government is obviously suspicious of Communist involvement. However, what young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) learns upon finding this Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) is that the robot is a calm and docile being with no understanding of the world he now inhabits. The robot does not want to be seen as an enemy, but his automatic defense mechanisms are activated to protect him from the assault of the United States military. Despite Hogarth showing everyone that the robot is harmless, a trigger-happy government agent launches a nuclear missile against the robot that would likely wipe out the small town. It’s up to the Iron Giant to save the day and show he’s a hero, not a villain.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Size is all about perspective. While humans think anything larger than they are is gigantic, an ant would find humans to be tremendously enormous. Plenty of films explore this shift in perspective. From the superhero comedy of Ant-Man (2015) to the social commentary of Downsizing (2017), being shrunk down makes the entire world seem bigger in comparison. Some family-friendly films explore this idea as well, including Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Epic (2013). Despite knowing how to interact with our human-sized world, like The Borrowers (1997) or The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), sometimes the humans shrunk down to these sizes have difficulty adapting. When toy cars are large enough to be real ones, and building blocks can be used as a shelter, it takes some problem solving to fashion the tools needed to survive.

Eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is having trouble with his shrink ray. Every time he tries to shrink something, it explodes, thus making the ray gun too dangerous to use on humans. His children, Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) are tasked with cleaning up the house before their mother comes home. Meanwhile, the Szalinski’s neighbors, the Thompsons, are preparing for a fishing trip. Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton) accidentally hits a baseball through the Szalinski’s attic window and is caught by his brother, Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown), and forced to apologize to the Szalinskis. However, when the kids go up to find the baseball, the laser shrinks them down. After Wayne accidentally takes the kids out with the trash, they have to find their way back home in the wilderness that is their backyard. If they can gain Wayne’s attention, they just might be returned to normal size.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 enormously entertaining movies

#353. Iron Men

Any metallurgist will tell you that steel is stronger than iron. And yet, the concept of iron being a strong material still remains in our popular culture. Perhaps it’s the weight of iron, and its use for strength training. Perhaps it’s due to the “purity” of iron, itself being one of the elements on the periodic table. In any case, it seems many movies use iron as an advantage. From the campy Ironmaster (1983) to the martial-arts mashup of The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), the characters who can manipulate iron are usually shown as having an advantage. Not only can the benefit be through defense, with iron armors and shields, but through offense as well, with swords and spears. Either way, iron is often associated with war, which itself has intrinsically been a man’s game. This week’s two films highlight some men who use iron to their advantage.

Iron ManIron Man
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

While not technically made of iron, but instead of a gold-titanium alloy, the suit worn by the eponymous Iron Man certainly gives Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) an advantage. From the obvious defensive capabilities of the suit to the advanced weaponry installed and integrated with it, whenever Stark dons this armor, he is able to take on super-powered individuals of many varieties. Ironically enough, even though iron is considered “heavy,” the Iron Man suit allows its wearer to fly, mainly due to the immense power contained within the suit. Of course, the very first version of the Iron Man suit was likely made of iron (or steel, if it was available), but that was due to the limitations of the materials Tony Stark had at the time. A fusion of medieval armor and modern technology, the Iron Man suit is what makes Tony Stark Iron Man.

After being captured by terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, Tony Stark is forced to build weapons for them as their hostage. Not wanting his company’s technology to get into the hands of terrorists, Stark instead creates a suit of armor that he can use to escape. Unfortunately, his mobility is limited due to a piece of shrapnel trapped in his chest. The only thing keeping him alive is a magnet in his chest, holding the metal in place. After escaping the terrorists, Stark arrives back in the United States and starts improving on his design. In the press, rumors of an “Iron Man” start circulating as Tony tests out his equipment in public. Once a working design is finished, he sets out to punish the arms traffickers who have misused his company’s weapons. In doing so, he gains the attention of the Air Force, as well as his mentor, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who has built an “Iron Man” suit of his own to stop Tony.

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Iron is not only the most abundant metal found on this planet, but the fourth most plentiful element found here. Not only is iron the main ingredient of the molten core of Earth, but its crust as well. Of course, Earth is not necessarily unique in this attribute, as iron is plentiful on many other planets and stars. What do you think gives Mars its red hue? Oxidized iron, of course. It is then no wonder that an alien robot from outer space would also be made of iron. Much like Iron Man, this Iron Giant has the defensive capabilities provided it by this heavy metal, but also the offensive weaponry provided by alien technology. Of course, even iron has its limits. Given a situation with forces stressing enough, the metal will bend, melt, or break. Iron is certainly a strong element, but it is not indestructible.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite: Sputnik. Shortly afterward, a mysterious object falls from the sky and lands near Rockwell, Maine. Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) observes this re-entry and heads into the woods to investigate. When he finds a giant, metal robot (Vin Diesel), he learns that it is not there to hurt anyone. In fact, the robot has no knowledge of Earth or its customs, so the 9-year-old boy takes it upon himself to teach the enormous automaton. Unfortunately, the U.S. military also knows something landed in Maine and sets out to find it. While the military assumes the robot is dangerous, Hogarth shows them that, if they do not threaten him, he will not threaten them. With cold war tensions high, fear causes one of the leaders to launch a nuclear strike against the robot, potentially killing everyone who would be nearby.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 metallic men