I’m a little behind on this-but I had hoped to make this into my first ever YouTube video in the first few days of January and I have been sick ever since. This will have to do!
This is my first entry in a series about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one movie a week until ‘Infinity War’ drops and my face literally melts under the weight and potency of my happy tears.
And so we start off our Marvel movie marathon on the Road to Infinity War on a high!
Lets talk….IRON MAN!
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. 2008’s Iron Man is one of the greatest superhero origin films, one of the best superhero films, one of the best action films, hell- one of the best films of all time. It is constantly changing position from my favorite film of all time to my second favorite.
Lets start with some background about the people behind the making of ‘Iron Man’
The film is directed by Jon Favreau- who has also directed films like The Jungle Book, Chef and Elf. He also serves as Tony Starks loyal sidekick and forehead of security, Happy Hogan. Fun fact: Jon Favreau has been a superhero sidekick once before-when he played Foggy in the 2003 Daredevil adaptation. But, you don’t need to watch that movie. I’ve almost wiped it from my memory. Almost.
The script for Iron Man was written by the team of Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. Fergus and Marcus have worked together as co-writers on Children of Men and the Expanse, while Marcum and Holloway wrote for Transformers: The Last Knight, Punisher: War Zone, and are signed on for a Highlander movie, a Men in Black spinoff film and two more upcoming Transformers films.
The score is composed by Ramin Djawadi, who has a plethora of credits under his belt, including Pacific Rim, Clash of the Titans, Warcraft, Westworld, The Strain, Prison Break AND Game of Thrones. He reportedly composed the score on heavy guitar under the suggestion of Jon Favreau, later arranging it for an orchestra to get that rock star sound. Apparently, quick cameo Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine contributed to the soundtracks sound as well. And obviously all of my dads favorite bands contributed heavily to the soundtrack.
About the Hero:
Robert Downey Jr was making a name for himself in the industry on shows like Ally McBeal and in films like Chaplin-when his life went sideways and he began to lose work and his reputation to legal and drug problems. Lucky for everyone, by 2001 he got by with a little help from his friends, like Mel Gibson. He started his Hollywood resurgence by starring in an excellent Elton John music video called ‘I Want Love’, then he starred in some really solid films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac and one of my personal favorites-Tropic Thunder. Iron Man was actually released the same year that Tropic Thunder was- which feels really bizarre to me. We’re all getting old, people!
So when he got the gig to play a superhero with only five months to gain 20 pounds of muscle, RDJ put more than his sharp wit and emotional range into the film. He sweat for it. This career rebirth-and his spot on rendition and creation of Tony Stark- made him a household name, and before we knew it- he was…well…basically real life Tony Stark. It goes down as one of the entertainment industrys greatest comebacks. Good job, Robert Downey Jr!
Marvel Studios first ever self financed film was the sapling that eventually became the epic Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a gateway drug consisting of a perfect blend of supreme acting, solid storyline and cinematic wonder. It was Jon Favreaus push to get Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark that is quite possibly the catalyst that propelled the MCU to the glory that it is today. Whats more, the commercial success (about $585,174,222 worldwide!) and the high quality of Iron Man was the perfect groundwork for an expansive and rich mosaic of comic book goodness- and its a good thing, because there was a lot at stake for Marvel Studios when they made this film. It was released the same year as The Dark Knight, one year after the Spiderman trilogy completed and only three years after the conclusion of the XMen trilogy. That put it up against some really stiff competition, and with a lot of characters that a large percentage of their potential fan base had never really heard of. It was also one of the first to integrate comedy into the mix!
So lets get into the nitty gritty details of what I believe makes this movie so great
Within 5 minutes, we learn exactly who Tony Stark is-a genius,billionaire, playboy…not yet philanthropist. We know that he is a spoiled brat of sorts-a rich, entitled, elitist genius with daddy issues who was basically a celebrity right from the beginning of his life. We see that Howard Hughes influence in his wit and his candor- we see that his mind works very quickly, like an improv comic, but he rarely breaks that act unless he is in the most extreme of situations.
Well, let me tell ya-
Crawling around in a warzone under attack by your own weapons, being kidnapped by terrorists who work for a bad guy called ‘The Mandarin’, locked in a cave under threat of death to build a nuclear weapon, building a relationship that you’ll never forget with a man that you forgot, all while strapped to a car battery that is connected to the worlds largest dermal piercing in the middle of your chest..well..I guess thats pretty extreme? Shit gets real- really, really quickly.
PS: how did they patch up that gaping hole in his chest? I’m sure they have some crazy skin grafting tech already at that point but thats a really big hole and the skin is probably growing around it. Yuck.
Tony Stark quickly earns his reputation during his involuntary time at terrorist camp, as his brain immediately goes to work figuring out how to survive and how to outwit their captors. He does not even entertain the idea that this is his fate. His coolness under pressure and his focus, his drive, his intelligence all comes to a head building a badass mini arch reactor and a goddamn Iron monster suit IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!
This movie, I think, more than any other, was incredibly successful in utilizing the OG look of the character being depicted. The plot that they put together was an absolutely perfect way to work in what Iron Man looked like in the comics since the beginning without it looking silly or nonsensical. It made complete sense with the plot of the film. The first time that you see that tank of a suit shooting fire and shaking the ground-its a beautiful thing.
This first film about Tony Stark also gives us a great insight into where his priorities lie in terms of his work, his company and his personal life. He sleeps with journalists, he dodges hard questions with fairly reasonable-but very detached-answers, and he shows very little regard for a single human being other than himself. Hes a bit of a megalomaniac. Okay, hes an asshole.
The original villain for this movie was reportedly going to be The Mandarin-which makes my mind drift away thinking of a world where we saw a real Mandarin villain in the MCU, but I can’t say that I’m disappointed. Obadiah Stane-played by the fantastic Jeff Bridges-was a great choice of villain for the purpose of this film- in that he is a threat to Tony himself, not necessarily a threat to Iron Man-because Iron Man doesn’t really exist until the end of the film. From the beginning we see Stane as an annoyed colleague, tasked with cleaning up behind Tony in the media, his shareholders and business contacts, but it is not until about midway through Iron Man that we see how truly menacing he is. You start to realize how intimidating that he is- from the way that he is able to live this double life and gain the trust of Tony and his colleagues, to his sheer physical presence. Here is this broad, bald man with a deep voice, a sweet beard and expensive suits- and you just found out that he is your enemy.
Worst yet-he wants to steal the ground breaking, super heroic technology that you created and turn it into a big, bulky, scary weapon. Oh, and he also tried to have you killed. Dick.
- THE STAR
The reason why Tony Stark becomes ‘The Iron Man’ is obvious, but the reason that Tony Stark becomes THE Tony Stark that we know and love is because he is a complex character-and because he played so perfectly by Robert Downey Jr. Tony is not necessarily a good guy when we first meet him. In fact, many people see him as a villain. Then, he becomes a victim. Suddenly, despite what a scoundrel he may be, there are much greater and far more evil forces at work, and he has been ignorantly involved in this evil for quite some time. The impressive thing about Tony is that he finds a way to overcome and defeat that evil using nothing but his brain.
And his money, I guess.
Unlike many characters that we have seen in the past, Tonys journey is mainly an emotional one-or one of personality. He becomes far more involved and more aware of the world and the people around him that he should show more attention to. He transfers all of his energy and his intelligence towards a goal or a mission instead of being a part of a soulless machine.
He is motivated by his horrific experience, but he is also motivated by the threat to everything that he holds dear- his legacy, his company, his persona, his wealth, his only friends in the world, and most importantly-his work. Those are a lot of spinning plates from a guy who pretends not to care about anything but himself. Stane is a great threat to all of these, being so close to Stark Industries and the man himself. Tony just wants to fix things the best way that he knows how- by building something.
- THE STAKES
One very unique feature of Tony Starks situation is that all of this is happening to someone who is a very prominent figure in the world-not to an everyman, down on his luck type. His transformation affects a grand circle of people and a grand circle of operations around the world. He can’t just slip away and assume a new identity. Mind you, he did have the opportunity to lay low and a mixture of his conscience and his ego would not allow it. (ie the last 5 seconds of the movie)
Because of his fame and his notoriety, this film is both a very intimate fight and a very global threat at the same time-and that is what makes it so compelling. The concept of using terrorism was also very topical and relevant at the time that this film was released-and it still is. In fact, it was the perfect time to tell a story like this one. Here is a man who has made his fortune on war, and now he wants nothing more than to prevent it because he did not fully understand his role in it. Now that he does understand, he cannot lay down and die for his own sake, but he goes the extra mile to ensure that he can fix as much as possible for the sake of humanity-and the sake of his fathers legacy.
- THE SEEDS
So the story of Iron Man becomes a classic tale of good vs evil that happens to take place in a pre-superhero world-or so we think. The introduction of everyones favorite SHIELD agent is one of my personal favorite additions to this story. Seeing Coulson pop up every once in awhile, and knowing what it means that he is involved in this situation builds a level of excitement that is hard to ignore even after multiple viewings. Why did he want to know about Tonys suit? Why is he so motivated to get that meeting with Pepper? What is SHIELD up to right now? What else does he know? He knows something!
Lets be honest, he has a terrible poker face. I love it, but he always looks like he knows something that you don’t. Because he probably does.
Pepper Potts also makes her debut in this film, and her character is introduced with an unwavering sense of confidence and power in a prominent position where she is constantly babysitting a grown man and his massive ego. Her first scene with Leslie Bibb is a prime example of just how savage Pepper is. She is sharp, witty, she has conviction, she is professional, but she is a loyal and trusting member of Tonys circle on a personal level. Her role in his story is incredibly important- continuing throughout the MCU- and she serves as much more than just Tonys assistant. Pepper is badass. Although her impact is less prolific than someone like Coulson, she is still a very important piece of the grand puzzle.
I don’t know if the same can be said for Tonys friend and future co-pilot, not-Don Cheadle, but we do get a bit of a War Machine setup near the end of the movie, so, I guess thats something.
So in summary, the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is-in my humble opinion-a triumph for superhero movies and one that truly stands the test of time. It launched an empire, it launched a CINEMATIC UNIVERSE the likes of which we have never seen before, and it lit the hearts of millions of comic books nerds on fire.
POST CREDITS SCENE: Remember when you saw this post credits scene for the first time? I do. I still cry a little when I see it.
This is one of the most blatant scenes to come, but at that time there was nothing BUT this. It had to be direct and it had to be effective. 10 years ago, we heard words that we would not soon forget from a man that we would come to love: “You think that you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark you have become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”
What could be more tantalizing than this?
Oh, maybe when Sam Jackson emerges from the shadows wearing an eye patch and all black, states that he is Nick Fury from SHIELD and that he wants to talk to him about the Avengers initiative? Yeah, probably that.
UP NEXT…..THE INCREDIBLE HULK!