The Whiplash Whopper
Taste-testing Burger King's Iron Man 2-themed sandwich.
Burger King launched a promotional campaign for Iron Man 2 in April featuring an array of limited-time-only children's toys, a flash game at ClubBK.com called "Iron Man 2 Zoom Space," and a commercial in which their hideous mascot dons the Iron Man suit and terrorizes a trade show. It also debuted the Whiplash Whopper: a pepper-laden, Iron Man 2-themed sandwich that, theoretically, is as hot as the movie itself.
Burger King has lately made a practice of offering Whopper variations as direct tie-ins with blockbusters. In 2008, the chain introduced the Indy Whopper (bacon, spicy mayo, and pepper jack cheese) alongside Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. That same year, Burger Kings in the United Kingdom sold the Dark Whopper (pepper-jack cheese, black-pepper ketchup, and "a darkly delicious sauce") to commemorate the release of The Dark Knight. And it's not just movies that get the Whopper treatment—last year, Japanese Burger Kings sold the Windows 7 Whopper, a seven-patty monstrosity inspired by Microsoft's latest operating system.
I enjoy both burgers and movies, and am drawn to the idea of eating a burger inspired by a movie, unless that movie is Soylent Green. Having unaccountably missed out on Burger King's previous stunts, I hurried to their closest outlet and tried the Whiplash on two separate occasions, both before and after I saw Iron Man 2. My objectives: to see how the sandwich tasted, how accurately it captured the spirit of the film, and whether it played well with Burger King's target demographic of young, hungry males.
This young, hungry male started off confused by the burger's name. To me, "Whiplash Whopper" connotes a horrible car crash, not a light-hearted superhero movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as a magical robot. Apparently the movie's villain—a laconic Russian who wields a pair of electrified whips—is named Whiplash, although you wouldn't know it from watching the movie, because no one ever calls him that. He's called "Ivan."
The Whiplash Whopper retails for $4.78 with tax at the Burger King across the street from Manhattan's Port Authority Bus Terminal, and it features the Whopper's standard "flame-grilled" patty topped with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pepper jack cheese, spiced mayonnaise, and fried red peppers. My burger was cruddy-looking—the cheese barely melted, the lettuce a feeble green, the peppers resembling nothing so much as onion-ring droppings—but, then again, it was also a cruddy looking Burger King, the customers at least 40 percent more haggard than your typical fast-food patrons.
As is often the case with fast food, however, the burger tasted better than it looked. The pepper-jack cheese was a nice addition, and the fried peppers gave further evidence for my long-held belief that crunchiness invariably makes sandwiches better. Most fast-food burgers live or die on their toppings, since the patty itself always tastes like a bland, spongy meat composite. Here, the toppings combined nicely, offering a robust and relatively balanced cross-section of flavors. While I can't agree with one Twitter user's contention that the Whiplash Whopper would be a fine choice for a condemned man's last meal, I could certainly see myself eating this sandwich at a pre-trial hearing, or while watching Court TV.
Justin Peters is Slate’s crime correspondent.