Written by Allison Martin
Fans of the movie Die Hard have long bemoaned the exclusion of this film among the Christmas Films. After all, how could a movie set during Christmas not be considered to be one of the greats? Many families still stubbornly surround the TV each holiday season to see John McClane kick ass, but this year this author offers a nice slice of Marvel alternative: Iron Man 3. Not only does this not-as-appreciated part of the MCU occur during Christmas, but it also holds many similar themes to that of our favorite classics.
While I won’t be the one to make the ultimate argument for Die Hard, I will put my foot down and declare Iron Man 3 to be your new quintessential Christmas movie.
The obvious first argument will be borrowed from those who die for Die Hard: it’s set during Christmas! Throughout the entire movie, you are constantly reminded of this fact. Trees fill the hallways and offices of Stark Enterprises, the sleepy little Tennessee town is glittering with those big retro Christmas lights, not to mention the wonderful montage of Tony Stark testing out his new homing technology to the tune of Jingle Bells.
This movie makes Christmas its own character (I mean, an ornament bomb hand crafted by Stark?), woven into the story creatively and often hilariously. “It’s a giant bunny, relax about it!” This is due in part to the directorial debut of none other than Shane Black. Black is known for making Christmas a character in his films; from Lethal Weapon, to of course Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also starring Robert Downey Jr.), and in his 2016 “The Nice Guys.” The director discussed why he enjoyed using Christmas in his scripts with Entertainment Weekly: “Christmas represents a little stutter in the march of days, a hush in which we have a chance to assess and retrospect our lives. I tend to think also that it just informs as a backdrop.” He uses Christmas to speak to those real truths, and to navigate transitional periods like we see with Tony Stark.
Speaking of Stark, his journey in this movie is reminiscent of themes we see in different movies, like It’s a Wonderful Life and any Scrooge adaptation. Stark is not only stripped of his suit and technology at one point, but throughout the movie he is without his metaphorical armor. He is raw from his brief trip to space, and the reality that he could potentially die even with his precautions. Likewise, Scrooge and Bailey are stripped and forced to face their own realities. No, they did not have the Iron Legion and were left only with their moral realizations, but Tony destroying the Iron Legion was his own moral realization. As we know, he’ll never stop being Iron Man, but at least he was able to separate from that anxiety-driven labor.
He also was shown to be more thankful, something we definitely can learn from our Christmas favorites like Charlie Brown or the Grinch. We shouldn’t penalize those who deal with anxiety or PTSD, but, even still, they are responsible for their own actions. An argument could be made that he took Pepper and her support for granted. He was also served a small slice of humble pie when Happy found himself on the wrong end of an explosion. Only when Happy lay gravely injured did Tony outwardly show his respect. The one scene that negates this comparison is when he had his arc reactor removed; his heart actually shrank 3 sizes that day.
There were several other tropes, like our spunky little Harley who seemed to be a new millennium Ralphie. There was also a one-man invasion orchestrated in a way that would make Kevin McCallister jealous (again, ornament bomb), and many other cheeky Christmas references.
With all of the Christmasy hilarities and themes, it is a wonder this action-packed holiday flick isn’t included in the fierce Die Hard debate.
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