Disclaimer: This is the first of 12 MCU film reviews we’ll be releasing for our short, weekly feature series “The Road to Civil War,” which culminates on May 6, the release of “Captain America: Civil War.”
“Iron Man” (2008) began the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) on the highest note. This wasn’t the first big comic book film to hit the Silver Screen, but it was the first Iron Man adaptation.
From what I could remember, this film’s big release surprised me. I had no real clue what to expect and the first time I viewed a small part of the film was on my buddy’s Playstation 3. After watching even 10 minutes of the opening sequence, I was convinced — I needed to rush to the theater and watch the beginning of something special.
“Iron Man” tells the story of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a genius billionaire and owner of Stark Industries. Innovative, slick and impressionable, Stark welcomes us into his playboy lifestyle filled with gadgets and next-generation technology. His smarts and personality bleed onto the screen and immediately swooned the viewer.
The billionaire has women vying for his attention, but he keeps his heart softest for his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Both exhibit great on-screen chemistry and show that Stark doesn’t have an iron heart, after all.
Stark is introduced to his first challenge early in the film, as the Humvee he’s being transported in after a weapons display is ambushed. Stark is captured by a group of terrorists before the story flashes back to Las Vegas, 36 hours earlier, at the Stark Expo.
In the caves where Stark and a doctor (Shaun Toub) are being kept, the duo begins to work on the first very Iron Man suit: the Mark I. Cluncky, equipped with a flamethrower and rocketry, it manages to get Stark out of the grasp of his captors, but not without any loss. The doctor, Ho Yinsen, dies while fighting to free Stark.
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Robert Downey Jr. encapsulates the character and persona of Tony Stark with his witty dialogue and mannerisms. Sure, the writers helped the flow for “Iron Man,” but it took Downey Jr. to bring it to life.
While short-lived, Terrence Howard surrounded Stark as best buddy Rhodey. Howard was decent, although his role as the stout military man didn’t hold as much an impact fans would’ve liked. The supporting cast isn’t bad, but it’s just “good enough.”
The action and cinematography were outstanding. It was fun and played to our childish ambitions. Seeing Iron Man take flight after multiple failed tests warranted a fist pump. J.A.R.V.I.S., the A.I. voice that accompanies Stark and what we all wish Siri could be, speaks in a brilliant British accent that keeps us yearning for more interactions with Stark.
Although, with this first installment of Marvel’s Phase One, it introduced the one negative that continues to stick to Marvel films: the villains.
Stark’s toughest opponent in the film isn’t the terrorist group he encountered in the desert — it was Obadiah Stane. Jeff Bridges did well as Stane, the tough businessman/bully who selfishly wanted an Iron Man suit for himself. Once he obtained a suit, dubbed the Iron Monger, he gave Stark a real threat as Iron Man.
Yet, the villain seemed … empty. The Iron Monger doesn’t carry over to any of the sequels and doesn’t impact much on the surface for the series.
That negative aside, the quirky, witty dialogue and humor, Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark and a successful first chapter for what is developing into the most dominant superhero cinematic universe of this era — yeah, “Iron Man” definitely did its job.