The model student. Every genre needs one, its purest, most fully realized example, the film you think of when you think of the genre. What "Red River" is to the western and "Singing in the Rain" is to the musical, this is to the superhero film, a well-crafted, heartfelt distillation of the charms, conventions and cliches of an entire genre, with a soft sprinkling of the seeds of its own satire. It is the archetype (despite coming relatively late in the cycle). It's also worth nothing that Iron Man, before this, was a minor character -- had director Jon Favreau been saddled with expectations, or decades of iconography, pretense might have seized it. Instead, Favreau accepts the genre on its own pulpy terms -- just seriously enough. As with any great genre film, it becomes an argument for the sanctity of widescreen moviegoing itself.
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