Live Action, Reviews

MCU Countdown #1: ‘Iron Man’

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It begins. Like this movie was for the now legendary Marvel Cinematic Universe, I am beginning what is a major undertaking: reviewing all the MCU films. I’ll admit that I actually did not see this until a friend invited me to see Iron Man 2. I have been a Marvel fan ever since. Ten years (can you believe it?!) have passed and the film/comic industry is forever changed.

While most people know the story at this point, I’m going to sum it up for the sake of clarity. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a billionaire industrialist with a decently sizable ego. After being captured by terrorists in Afghanistan, he’s rescued and makes the decision to create a mechanized suit to fight crime. However, his second-in-command Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) ultimately betrays him with an agenda and mechanized suit of his own.

The movie begins in the middle of the first act showing Tony’s kidnapping. I find this non-chronological approach an interesting choice that stands out among the rest of the future MCU repertoire. This also works in its favor by beginning with an action scene without throwing off any pacing. It additionally establishes the origin story without taking a long time to get to it.

What I like about this origin story is that the transition from man to superhero feels a lot more natural than the similar backstory in Batman Begins. The movie is also elevated by a more realistic version of our world that wasn’t seen as much in comic book movies, leading the way for the current climate. While something like The Dark Knight might be more realistic in terms of stuff like science and technology, Iron Man truly feels like it takes place in our world with more realistic characters. The dialogue and interactions, which ware heavily ad libbed as a result of rushed production and the Writers’ Strike, are also realistic. A happy accident, to be sure.

The best aspect, however, is Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. He quite literally is Tony Stark and elevates the movie beyond several of its contemporaries. Without him, the movie (as well as the future of the MCU) would not have been nearly as successful. The visual effects have aged quite well and still look very good and, while not absolutely remarkable, Jeff Bridges does an admirable job as villain Obadiah Stane and makes a good foil to Downey Jr.

An aspect I actually really like is the ending where Tony Stark reveals his identity to the world. This is a welcome change and differentiates the film from the secret identity trope associated with most superhero movies at that time. It’s fresh and it cuts a lot of filler from entries that would have likely felt a bit stale in the future.

One issue I take with the film is Terrence Howard as Rhodes. He’s not bad per se, but he seems somewhat miscast as a super badass soldier. I am ultimately glad he was replaced with Don Cheadle in future installments. Personally, I’m also ultimately not too fond of Pepper as a character. However, these flaws are honestly minor compared to what makes the film work so well.

Something I feel is worth discussing is the post credits scene. Tony Stark finds Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in his home and says he wants to discuss the “Avengers Initiative.” It’s so simple and yet it works so well – building up something so big in such a small way.

While this movie led to a lot of new changes in the film industry, I feel it’s somewhat overlooked nowadays. It took a character admittedly not that well-known by the general public to the mainstream (which almost feels like an understatement). This movie is also responsible for the revived career of Robert Downey Jr. after his notorious problems within that past decade. Not only is this a super solid movie, but it deserves the recognition for setting the ground for what is arguably the most lucrative film franchise of all time, leading to a new era in geek culture.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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