By Keen Zhang
During the 3-day May Day holiday across the nation, Chinese moviegoers packed the cinemas but basically sought out only two blockbuster films. The first, unsurprisingly, was The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. In competition with it was the Hollywood summer flick Iron Man.
Of course, The Forbidden Kingdom won out, thanks to its familiar Chinese legends and actors. The film grossed 60 million yuan in Chinese box offices over a period of three days. Iron Man held hopes of to replicating Spider-Man 3's 74-million yuan box office success last year but it only grossed 30 million. Even so, many cinema managers still believe that Iron Man will pass 100 million yuan mark in upcoming weeks.
One simple reason is the fact that the Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man appears far more awe-inspiring than the two Kung Fu kings. When the superhero comic adaptation soared in the US box office, sweeping more than US$100 million over the weekend, even the boldest movie chart observers conceded that they had underestimated its commercial potential.
In fact, the Marvel comics fictional character (a.k.a. Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark), created by Stan Lee and his colleagues in 1963 and based on the character of Howard Hughes, never stood in the same rank as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the DC Comics heroes Batman and Superman, but he definitely does have his own unique appeal.
Iron Man, unlike other superheroes, is a civilian antihero who equips himself with technology and intelligence instead of born-to-have or accidentally acquired superpowers. And this armored guy is nothing like the righteous hero Superman; he's not mysterious like Batman. He's just a genius, a billionaire industrialist and a playboy.
Iron Man was one of the first ventures solely funded by Marvel Studios with Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures distributing them. It needed significant success in order to pave the way for up and coming projects such as Captain America, The Avengers, Black Panther and Dr. Strange.
Golden Globe-winning Robert Downey Jr. and Oscar-winning Gwyneth Paltrow, both missing from movie charts for years since Chaplin and Shakespeare in Love, were invited to join in the project. Indeed the entire film would have lost most of its charm without the presence of Robert Downey Jr. He proved to be the perfect man to portray the rascapscallion Tony Stark and his alternative avatar Iron Man. Because of the actor's personality and personal experiences, Robert breathed life into the wilted man on the silver screen, and in addition to his masterful acting he also incorporated hilarious and biting humor.
Iron Man has turned out to be a hugely entertaining Hollywood roller coaster film of 2008. Even in faraway China, where American superheroes are rarely known, the film is seen as a purely enjoyable action movie. It has all the elements to amuse that an audience expects: a well organized storyline, tight plots, and an outstanding cast.