Ever gone to a flick expecting only action, suspense and maybe a little light romance, but found yourself unexpectedly fighting back the tears?
Well, as a thoroughly 21st Century kind of guy, I like to have a good blubber now and then. However, I even surprised myself when my bottom lip quivered watching the ‘harmless’ movies on this list.
Here are a few movies, which despite having no pretense to being The Road or Bridges of Madison County, nevertheless, had some choking on their popcorn.
7. Iron Man: Death of Yinsen
How many times have we seen an action movie where the set up for heroism in the third act is born out of a hollow tragedy in the first? A tragedy which normally involves the death of a character we barely knew and with which we failed to establish any kind of empathy with?
Iron Man could very well have fallen into this same bear pit, except several factors prevented it from doing so.
In the first instance we have the inch perfect set up of the Tony Stark character prior to his capture, by Robert Downey Jnr and John Favreau. He is every bit the lovable ass, dealing in death and playing up to the rich playboy persona. A man with a quip for every occasion.
However, no sooner has he flashed the goods to his military paymasters in a demonstration of mind blowing destruction, than we see his story of redemption begin via his first meeting with his antithesis; the meek but brave and generous Yinsen.
Yinsen is a man who in a short period of screen time not only manages to save Stark’s life and share his desperate situation, but in an intimate moment over a game of backgammon he divulges heartfelt personal information about his home town and the family he says he hopes to see again.
You can physically see the effect it is having on Tony Stark as he begins to contemplate how he has arrived at a point in his life where he has everything, but has nothing.
This empathy is created to a large degree by the great performances of the actors, especially Shaun Toub, who I must admit I had not seen before this movie but now have huge respect for. Robert Downey Jnr also does a mean job of showing how Yinsen’s bravery and selfless regard for himself rubs off on Stark. John Favreau also needs praise for allowing the moments between these two to pass unrushed in a series of scenes which feel organic and authentic.
Of course, we all knew that only one guy was going to get out of the cave alive, but dude, I was moved when the inevitable happened. The final revelation about the fate of Yinsen’s family and a heartfelt plea not to waste his life led me to choke on a bit of popcorn and I felt a truly great superhero movie franchise had been born.
Now, I don’t know if Marvel ever sent a thank you letter to Shaun Toub when the final few dollars were counted from The Avengers record breaking box office, but there should have been at least a text saying ‘thanx’. Because, without the rock solid emotional hook to the Tony Stark origin story, Iron Man could just have been a Tin Man and the Marvel film universe could have got off to a much more rocky start than it did.
This article was first posted on August 4, 2012