Review - 'Iron Man'
Iron Man deserves all of the credit, it truly did start it all for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what a gamble it was when you really step back and think about it. For one, as hard as it is to believe now, Iron Man was a C-list hero at best and few people really knew about him, so using him as a kick-off to a cinematic universe no matter who it was starring, was a risky move. Secondly, Jon Favreau was hired on as the director, a man who is skilled in front of and behind the camera, but had never dabbled in bombastic, large-budget superhero action movies. And finally, perhaps the biggest risk of all, was hiring Robert Downey Jr. as the lead. At the time he had a bit of a checkered history and was by no means a large box office draw.
Somehow all of these ingredients came together to form the perfect cocktail, and on top of that it was a massive hit, especially considering it was a completely original property in a landscape where superhero films were believed to be on a downward trend. Everyone was so very wrong.
Iron Man tells the story of Tony Stark, a “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who while in the Middle East showing the power of the new “Jericho Missile” is taken hostage by a terrorist group. Seeing no other option, he is forced to be resourceful and build a suit and fight his way out. Upon his escape, he has a new-found perspective on his company, Stark Industries, realizing he is putting deadly weaponry in the hands of evil people for profit. Tony decides to build a new Iron Man suit and take matters into his own hands.
Iron Man is a near-perfect origin film that turned Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. into modern-day Marvel mascots. Eleven years ago you never would have seen Iron Man alongside Spider-man, the X-Men or the Hulk, and now he’s pretty much leading the charge. Director Jon Favreau crafted a flawed, but insanely charismatic character in the form of Tony Stark, a playboy that doesn’t fit the mold and who has a moment of enlightenment that changes his perspective. Watching the progression of Tony Stark bing literally and figuratively torn down and then forced to build a new, changed person from the rubble is such a gratifying experience, and it’s what makes up about 80% percent of the film.
The casting, which I touched on a bit earlier, is spot-on. There is no person that draws breath on this planet that could fill the shoes of Tony Stark/Iron Man like Robert Downey Jr. does. He oozes charisma, heart and absolutely commands every scene that hes’ in. He also knows how to be obviously flawed, but still contagiously likable. We also get Jeff Bridges starring as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, and to this date he is still one of the best villains in the MCU, even if things get a little campy with him in the final act. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is the perfect foil to Tony Stark’s man-child impulses and the way she manages to keep him grounded is convincing. In terms of love interests in the MCU, she is also easily one of the best and most three-dimensional. Terrence Howard as Rhodie is also good, but I didn’t feel like he had many opportunities to make a big impression.
The action is also still exhilarating to this day. Maybe it was because of budget constraints, but I appreciated how quick and to-the-point the action was. There are no protracted CGI fests that seem to go on forever that also look like smudges of cotton-candy colors being smashed together. The CGI here is also used to great effect. Sure, there are moments that are starting to show their age, but for the most part, this film still looks excellent. Finally, the score by Ramin Djawadi is so fitting for the character and the licensed tracks are perfect, I mean, who doesn’t think of Iron Man when they here “Back in Black” by AC/DC?
Overall, Iron Man did so much for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it still holds up as one of the best films in the series. This was the turning point, without Iron Man, I doubt any of what we’ve come to know in the superhero genre would have been feasible.