In a few months, we will be presented with Avengers: Infinity War — the beginning of the end of a massive experiment in Hollywood cinema. This experiment is what we call the MCU and it started 10 years ago with Iron Man.
When it was released in 2008, there was no idea what was being planned unless you stuck around to watch the scene at the end of the credits (which was another not so common practice then).
When it was released, Robert Downy Jr was not the person he is today and it was a major risk to cast him as Tony Stark. That risk ended up paying off and he nailed the character.
This risk with RDJ was countered with a strong but safe casting of Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark’s friend and ally in Stark Enterprises.
Gwyneth Paltrow was also a strong casting choice as Pepper Potts, Tony’s assistant and love interest that neither wants to admit.
And finally, Terrence Howard played James Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and military contact.
The arc that Tony Stark travels in this film is a drastic one. He starts off as a playboy alcoholic that doesn’t really care about anyone or anything but himself. This is all shown in the first act with a flashback of a presentation that also gives us a peek at Tony’s backstory. His change really started when he watched a man who saved his life tell him not to waste his. This line and situation start Tony down a path that leads some people in the film to think he might be suffering from PTSD.
There is one quote early in the film that foreshadowed everything that happens. While on a flight early in the film, Rhody drunkenly tells Stark, “You are more than what you are.” This sets up Tony’s transformation which, without Pepper, wouldn’t have had that person he needs to keep him grounded.
Speaking of the side characters, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Obadiah Stane. This character is essentially the worst parts of Tony Stark. Together they control Stark Enterprises and both end up in mech-suits. But the biggest thing that separates them is their methods and motivations.
Obadiah is more of a power-player, making others do his dirty work and willing to do anything to get what he wants. After Tony’s transformation, he is more hands-on and wanting to make things better for others.
Besides the cast, who all put in stellar performances, Iron Man pulls you in by giving you a grounded world that you can connect with. Even with the futuristic technology, there are things that you clearly correlate with our world. Be it a joke about MySpace, Burger King, Vanity Fair, or the designer shoes that Pepper wears in every scene.
There is also a line that Tony gives during a weapons presentation that made me ask questions about history. This line:
“They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Essentially, he is talking about the Atomic Bomb. And the United States dropped two of those.
The way the director, Jon Favreau, found beautiful ways to shoot this film, show us how grounded it is. This includes a shot of an Iron Man mask being pulled out of a sand dune that is visually stunning.
We also can’t forget the sound design. Every movement the Iron Man suit makes sounds distinct and realistic, never once pulling me out of the film. It can best be seen later in the film when Iron Man has an aerial dogfight with some planes. It turned out to be a fun and exciting sequence that made you ask questions about how Tony was going about things.
That’s not to say this world doesn’t make me ask questions. There is one in particular that sticks out in my mind. There is a scene where Tony tells Pepper not to pull a wire out of his body and after she does he starts to go into cardiac arrest. Tony essentially threw it aside and put in a new reactor to keep him alive.
I was under the impression that the magnet she pulled out was what was keeping him alive so I’m not sure how that was to work.
My Final Thoughts
This is the film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. If it was not for this film being as good as it is, we would not be talking about the upcoming movie Infinity War.
That does not mean this film doesn’t have faults, as it does, but it is a movie that everyone who loves comic book movies or the Avengers should see.