With “Avengers: Infinity War” coming out later this May, I find it to be the perfect time to review all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies leading up to it. That’s right, I will be giving my thoughts on every single MCU movie to prepare for the release of the supposedly game-changing installment this Summer. This shared universe began in 2008 with “Iron Man”, so let’s take a look at the genesis of one of the most successful film franchises in modern history.
“Iron Man” is directed by Jon Favreau and it stars Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire, playboy, and genius engineer Tony Stark, the man who goes on to build his own technological suit that he dons in order to become Iron Man in an attempt to keep the world safe from the weapons that were developed by his own company, Stark Industries. This movie also stars Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters back in 2008 and what I saw it as was a really cool and action-packed superhero movie and nothing more than that. I didn’t pay much attention to all of the buzz behind Robert Downey Jr. making a career comeback in this role, nor did I listen to all of the people who thought that this movie was destined to fail in every way. Apparently people were skeptical of an Iron Man film seeing as how he wasn’t in the limelight as a major superhero, such as the case with others like Batman and Spider-Man. But this movie ended up being a financial and critical success, and also a success in kicking off a shared universe.
The one thing that really elevates this movie is Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Stark himself is an alcoholic narcissistic, yet he’s still undeniably talented in what he does. He’s the type of guy where you can slightly excuse his behavior by merely looking at what he does from a technological standpoint. Mix that personality with Downey and his own inner demons of the past and you have the perfect Tony Stark. He’s witty and arrogant when he needs to be, but you also really start to sympathize with him when he himself is in a sticky situation and he realizes that lives are at stake. It’s a cliche to say that he was born for this role, but it bears repeating this he was indeed born to play Tony Stark.
This movie is carried by the arc that Tony Stark has as a character. We immediately see him as this carefree billionaire who pays no attention to what his weapons manufacturing does. All he sees is dollar signs until he himself gets an up close and personal look at what his weapons are doing. The entire sequence with him captured by terrorists really kicks off the beginning of his character arc, showcasing that Stark is indeed capable of not only shutting up and really applying his smarts to save his life, but also reflecting and thinking about how much damage his company has done in his name. This leads to him becoming Iron Man and what we get is a genuinely engaging story of a man trying to do right and fix everything that he caused in the first place. When it all comes down to things, Stark genuinely does care about people and it’s a quality of his that carries on throughout the entire MCU.
From an action standpoint, this movie does have some really great moments. Stark’s escape from the terrorist group is a gratifying sequence that kickstarts his campaign as Iron Man, the F-22 Raptor aerial sequence is an exhilarating spectacle, and his fight against the terrorists as he saves a small village of Afghani civilians is a scene that perfectly encapsulates what this movie is about: Tony Stark saving the people that he put in harm’s way.
I also surprisingly like the supporting characters of Pepper Potts and Obadiah Stane. Stane is the villain of the film and while future MCU movies will certainly suffer from weak antagonists, Stane isn’t one of them. I personally find him to be a good contrast to Stark, him being a friend and mentor to Stark, despite him having complete opposite motivations in terms of wanting to develop weapons as well as an advanced Iron Man suit.
With Pepper, I find her to be very likable as someone who knows how to put up with Tony, but she’s also a good character in that she does genuinely have his best interests at heart and you can see that she also has a level of contrast to Tony. She’s much more grounded in how she sees things and it really goes to show that as a love interest for Tony, opposites attract and it creates one of the more believable romances in the MCU.
This movie also deserves props for kicking off a shared universe without beating you over the head with how it sets up future films. I’m sure that Marvel had all sorts of things planned with setting up Captain American, Thor, and a whole bunch of other things pertaining to the future Marvel movies, but it took restraint from Jon Favreau and company to not turn this movie into one giant commercial for the MCU. It stayed as a self-contained story about Tony Stark becoming Iron Man and the most setup we got was in the post-credits scene.
The post-credits scene in this movie is THE post-credits scene that really changes everything for Marvel. It’s just Stark being approached by a shadowy figure who is revealed to be Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who comes to Stark to discuss the Avenger initiative. That right there is all the setup you need for this movie. Just keep it at the end of the film and make it a simple case of confirming to the audience that the Avengers is happening and this is indeed a shared cinematic universe that will contain most, if not all of the Marvel heroes that we love. As a kid seeing this moment, I had no idea what it meant since I was never too deep into Marvel comics outside of Spider-Man, but looking at it now, I really appreciate how big it was for this movie and this universe.
Overall, “Iron Man” is a great movie on its own and it also stands as an excellent way to kickoff the MCU. This movie puts all of its focus on making it an entertaining, action-packed character piece for Tony Stark first, and a setup for the MCU second. This movie made Iron Man the iconic pop culture character that he is now and it also breathed life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For that, it deserves all the credit in the world.
Rating: Better Than Sex!!