Marvel Studios waded into a loaded holiday debate this week, tweeting that Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie. They backed it up with an essay on Marvel.com about the question, and fans in the comments on Twitter were quick to point out that Disney+ also has Iron Man 3 listed in their seasonal Christmas movies section. That wasn't necessarily always Disney's position on the matter; the movie was released in May, after all. Still, they're having a little fun with the annual convention of arguing whether Batman Returns or Die Hard or whatever the movie happens to be at the moment is or is not a "Christmas movie."
The argument is most common with Die Hard, but for some people, that little bit of entertainment has expanded out to numerous other titles. The idea of setting a non-Christmas-specific movie at Christmas is an old one; it gives interesting visuals (snow, people who can see their breath, Christmas lights, etc.) as well as lending a sense of stakes to things like families in jeopardy and urgency to people trying to get from one place to another. It creates an understandable shorthand for the viewer and it gives the film a reliable reason to go back into rotation on cable once or twice a year. But more than that, Iron Man 3 director Shane Black has most of his movies take place at Christmastime, from Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys (for a minute, right at the end).
"It tends to be a touchstone for me," Black told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "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. The first time I noticed it was Three Days of the Condor, the Sydney Pollack film, where Christmas in the background adds this really odd, chilling counterpoint to the espionage plot. I also think that Christmas is just a thing of beauty, especially as it applies to places like Los Angeles, where it's not so obvious, and you have to dig for it, like little nuggets. One night, on Christmas Eve, I walked past a Mexican lunch wagon serving tacos, and I saw this little string, and on it was a little broken plastic figurine, with a light bulb inside it, of the Virgin Mary. And I thought, that’s just a little hidden piece of magic. You know, all around the city are little slices, little icons of Christmas, that are as effective and beautiful in and of themselves as any 40-foot Christmas tree on the lawn of the White House."
While they acknowledge that the events of the film could happen at any time of the year and Christmas is not key to the story in any significant way, Marvel.com argues that "we believe Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie because the essence of the story revolves around Tony going through hardships and coming out the other side to see the wrong in his ways. That's the spirit of Christmas."
For those interested, last year I got into the conversation about what is and is not a Christmas movie on the Emerald City Video Podcast.
The next (untitled) Spider-Man movie from Marvel and Sony is expected to hit theaters on July 16, 2021. First, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow will finally get her own solo movie, due out May 1, 2020. Other upcoming Marvel Studios projects include The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in Fall of 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in Spring 2021, Loki in Spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If…? In Summer 2021, Hawkeye in Fall 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.