published Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Spoiler Alert: Iron Man faults Chattanooga's supposed high-speed fiber

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in a scene from "Iron Man 3."
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in a scene from "Iron Man 3."
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Are you going to see "Iron Man 3"

Tony Stark is not impressed, Gig City.

In the latest installment of the superhero franchise, Iron Man swings by Chattanooga. His task? Sneak into a TV news van and use the Internet to gather intel on the bad guys. It does not go well.

Iron Man -- who is Tony Stark in real life, who is Robert Downey Jr. in real-real life -- reads a message that pops up on the computer monitor. It says the Internet connection is too slow.

Luckily for Stark, the driver of the news van is with him, and he is a fan. The driver recalibrates the computer and boosts the Internet speed, and Stark finds the necessary information. Then, Iron Man leaves Chattanooga to go and do Iron Man things.

This city's role in the film is a brief one. And really, it's not even this city. Chattanooga scenes were filmed in Kenansville, N.C. -- population: 869. But brief and inauthentic at it was, the depiction of Chattanooga in "Iron Man 3" has stirred up a bit of controversy.

Gig City is one of Chattanooga's nicknames because this is the only place in the United States that offers Internet that can download one gigabit each second. That's about 200 times as fast as the Internet in the average American household. Experts say the rest of the country won't be this fast for another decade.

Some viewers have taken issue with other elements of the film's depiction of Chattanooga. It seems smaller and quainter than it is in real life, a town obsessed with its hick beauty pageants.

Perhaps the portrayal can be chalked up to the "Iron Man 3" crew of northeasterners. Its director is from Pennsylvania, its producer is from New Jersey, and its star is from New York.

But more than the Southern, howdy-do depiction, Stark's bout with a lagging computer has struck a nerve.

Making the Internet slow in movie-version Chattanooga is like making Miami cloudy in "Pain & Gain," or making New Jersey sunny in "Garden State," or making Tampa wholesome in "Spring Breakers."

EPB, which is responsible for the fast Internet here, is taking the diss in stride. Spokesman John Pless said Friday afternoon he had not yet seen the film, but many co-workers in the office are Iron Man fans and are planning to watch the series' third installment this weekend.

The reaction of those who did see the movie is mixed.

"Great movie," a Twitter-user named Joda Thongnopnua wrote. "Lame move though."

Karen Lewis, meanwhile, wrote, "Iron Man 3 makes fun of Chattanooga. Life complete."

Unlike Stark's urgent download.

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