Thursday, December 1, 2011

Warning! Falling glass carries dangers of injury or death!

Iron may be harder and more durable, but splintered glass can be pretty darn fatal.

My wife and I watched Iron Man 2 on Sunday night. It's the kind of movie we probably would have seen when it first came out on video, except we trusted the negative buzz. Turns out, we probably enjoyed it better than we thought we would. But I still give it a marginal thumbs down when all is said and done.

One thing I thought was absurd was how cavalier the movie was about the damage that can be done by glass shrapnel.

The first such instance is when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets drunk at his birthday party. Being kind of a jackass seems to be the trademark of many of these superheroes, Bruce Wayne being one of the more prominent examples. Stark's particular brand of jackassery involves blowing up glass objects with the weapons in his suit. (See, he finds the iron man suit to be more comfortable party attire than a tuxedo.) Sure, the first blast, when he destroys a glass wall, is accidental, and no one is in harm's way. But then he and other people start tossing vases and champagne bottles and other objects into the air, so Stark can skeet shoot them into oblivion.

Instead of running and screaming, blinded or with serious abrasions on their face and throat, the partygoers cheer him on. See, they can't be hurt by the glass objects exploding five feet above their heads, because then that would be really irresponsible of Stark, not just cutely irresponsible. (Oh, and it would appear that neither do any party guests get hurt when the subsequent brawl between Stark and Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle), each wearing their own iron man suit, destroys Tony's whole house.)

At least the second glass danger situation isn't something the hero is directly responsible for.

At the Stark Expo in Flushing, Queens, villain Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) debuts a bunch of drones -- robots that are designed to function more or less like an iron man, but without the pilot. Hammer is told by worse villain Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) that the drones are only far enough along in their development to be able to salute. Turns out, both Hammer and the world get a big surprise when the fully operational drones burst through the glass roof of the Expo building to go off and wreak havoc on the world.

So as they smash through that glass ceiling (so to speak), it would stand to reason that glass is raining down on the hundreds if not thousands of Expo attendees below -- this time from a height of more than a hundred feet, probably more like 200. This time, they do run and scream. But, since it's a movie, no one appears to be getting killed by giant shards of falling glass, or even cut by smaller ones. Of course, people could be shown getting hurt here, because it would be the villain's fault rather than the hero's. But Iron Man 2 pusses out, which is really not so surprising -- to dwell on people getting peppered (so to speak, Ms. Potts) with falling glass is just not that useful in terms of forward narrative momentum.

It's debatable whether a person would be more hurt by glass falling from a greater height, at only the speed of gravity, or from a closer distance, blown outward at explosive speed. But I'm guessing that Stark would have killed/seriously injured more people by blowing up vases just above their heads than would be killed from a glass ceiling falling in. For one thing, those who designed the glass ceiling would probably use the same shatterproof glass that prevents you from impaling yourself on a jagged edge of your car windshield if you're thrown through it. Whereas a glass vase being blown to smithereens has no such safety-conscious engineering.

Realism. If I'm trying to find it in the movies, I'm really looking in the wrong place.

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