Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer of Marvel: Iron Man

By Kit

"I am Iron Man".

Now that we got the most recent Marvel mega-hit out of the way it is time to go back to the beginning. Back to where the whole thing began. Back to 2008, when Marvel Studios released the first live-action movie that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe and launched one of the biggest money-making franchises in movie history, Jon Favreau's 2008 movie Iron Man

So, let's dive in!

The Plot

The movie begins with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Afghanistan riding in a Humvee with a group of soldiers, making small talk, when BOOM! —they are ambushed, he is hit by a shell made by Stark Industries, and wakes back up now a hostage of terrorists.

We promptly flash back 36 hours to an event held honoring Tony Stark. Now, this flashback does a great job introducing the main set. By the time we get back to Afghanistan we have gotten a good sense of who all the main characters are. In the space of about 5 minutes we have Tony Stark standing up said event to go gambling at a casino, fending off questions from a sexy blonde reporter with delicious snark, taking said sexy blonde reporter back to his (very nice) California house for sex, and spending the morning after (away from her) in his basement working on his next invention.

In this time span we also meet Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his assistant who brings the blonde reporter (now covered in just a bed sheet) her clothes. The reporter makes a snarky comment about her still "Mrs. Potts replies that she "does anything and everything Mr. Stark requires, including, occasionally, taking out the trash." Cut to Stark in basement.

A subsequent conversation between Pepper and Tony in the basement pretty much confirms this, along with telling us that Stark is very dependent upon Pepper in order to function as the head of a major company; when he realizes he forgot her birthday he tells her to buy something for herself. She replies that she already has, and it is very nice.

Then a plane trip with Rhodey gives us their relationship. Rhodey is playing the cool-headed friend, refusing a drink from a waitress, saying he can’t drink tonight. We then cut to the waitresses dancing around a stripper pole, Rhodey, now drinking, leaning on Tony and complaining about his boss.

It is scenes like these that keep bringing people back to the the Marvel movie series. While DC persists in being as angst-ridden as possible, the Marvel movie fill their movies with little, fun moments between the cast. Instead of the depressing, dreary stuff that fills the DC universe in the Marvel universe we have moments like these; moments that make us want to spend even more time with the characters.

Anyway, back to the story. He goes to Afghanistan, shows off his new weapon, the Jericho, the a group of officers and generals, rides the convoy, gets captured the terrorist group Ten Rings. He is saved by a man named Yinsen, a doctor held hostage by the terrorists, who has put a device in his chest that keeps the shrapnel from moving into his heart.

They are told by the leader of Ten Rings to build the Jericho missile for them. Instead, Tony and Yinsen build an Iron Man suit, which Tony uses to break free and escape (SPOILER: Yinsen dies), while killing a bunch of terrorists in what is still one of the MCU’s best fight scenes.

He returns and decides to hold a press conference (after getting an American cheeseburger) announcing that Stark Industries is getting out of the weapons business. Pepper, meanwhile, is greeted by a strange but funny man named Agent Coulson who tells her, and later Stark himself, that Mr. Stark needs to be “debriefed” about his escape by the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.” (Spell out the capital letters) Moving on.

Stark, who everyone now thinks is suffering from PTSD, starts working on upgrading the suit from the bulky iron husk to a more sleek, ergonomic design. He even adds red. And, after learning about Stark tech being sold to the Ten Rings, he goes off to a town they have been massacring civilians in to dish out some justice. Awesomely.

So, now, Tony must stop the guns being shipped and save his position at the company.

So, now, Tony must stop the guns being shipped and save his position at the company.

Why It's Awesome

From the moment we saw the trailer where Tony Stark blew apart terrorists to the tune of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” we knew this would be awesome and it is.

There are three big reasons:
1.) Downey
2.) Favreau
3.) Paltrow

Downey is an absolute joy to watch. He owns every scene he is in. Before this movie he was a washed-up actor, after this movie he is one of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. He’s funny, witty, and charismatic. He is the slightly-narcissistic, self-absorbed playboy with a heart of gold we all know and love and we root for him.

The chemistry between Downey and Paltrow is great. It ain’t Bogey and Bacall but it’s good and its fun. They are probably the MCU’s best couple, maybe second best (I’ll mention their competitors later). Pepper knows that Stark needs her and Stark knows and she knows that Stark knows it. But, deep down, she cares for him. This almost husband-and-wife relationship comes across in nearly every scene they have, making their scenes a highlight of the movie. They're a great couple.

Favreau’s direction is great. Giving the movie a fun, irreverent attitude that would come to define the over-all series; no matter how dark things get for the heroes, they’ll still give you a laugh. He provided the basis by which all future Marvel movies would be judged. At least until 2012's The Avengers.

The only big flaw is the villain, who, SPOILER, is Obadiah Stane. And he's the typical greedy, corporate villain playing both sides. Been there, done that, seen it. Weak villains with vague motivations are a problem for Marvel movies and, unfortunately, this is no exception. There are also some plot holes (how did he just stroll into that Ten Rings camp?) but they are nit-picks.

So, despite a few flaws (Obadiah's movie provided a fun, thrilling launch for the MCU. I recommend it.

Next Week on Summer of Marvel: The Incredible Hulk.

Blonde: "Hey, Tony. Remember me?"
Tony: "Sure don't."


Jim said...

I was never an Iron Man comic book reader, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film with little knowledge of the character. That makes this movie a success in my book. I agree, though, that the corporate villain plot is wince-some. Is this supposed to be the same Rhodey that is in the following movies, or is it his brother?

AndrewPrice said...

I really enjoyed Downey's performance. He was funny and interesting and whenever he was on screen you were interested. I barely even remember the villain.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of Iron Man the comic, only Iron Man the Black Sabbath song. But after seeing the trailer I wanted to see the movie so bad, after seeing the movie I was a huge Iron Man fan.

RDJ owns this movie from his very first scene to his last, sure it was a great script and great directing but this movie is all about charisma.


Anthony said...

Wonderful romcom, sucktactic action movie.

Koshcat said...

It does seem that Marvel movies tend to focus more on the super hero while DC tends to focus on the villain. This may also contribute to the darkness of DC.

Tony Stark makes The Avengers watchable; without him it would be dull. My wife only likes to watch these movies for Chris Hemsworth. Wait until she finds out he's from Australia. When she is watching his movies I feel that I should leave the room or something.

voz said...

Iron Man wins on the re-watchability scale as's fun every time it's on...I think one reason RDJ knows how to play Tony Stark is that his real life paralleled Tony's in certain ways and he just played right off experience. As to's the same character just re-cast with Don Cheadle...apparently Terrence Howard tried to hold out for more money on the sequel and Marvel said "no thanks" I personally think Cheadle is better in the role.

Rustbelt said...

"It does seem that Marvel movies tend to focus more on the super hero while DC tends to focus on the villain. This may also contribute to the darkness of DC."

Koshcat, I couldn't agree more. On the upside, it provides more interesting villains with differing motives. (Lex Luthor wants power and to destroy Superman; Carwoman is an amoral, self-serving thief; Joker just creates chaos.) On the downside, humorous scenes such as the ones Kit described are out-of-character and impossible in a world where demonic villains (i.e. Ledger's Joker) call the shots.
I definitely agree that the MCU heroes are more relatable, interesting, and fun. (even if I do get tired of Whedon's comic book dialogue every now and then). And RDJ has set a new standard for superheroism not seen since Christopher Reeve put on the cape in 1978. (However, as someone who's still more of a DC guy, RDJ's first scene in the suit is still second to the first time Reeve appears onscreen as Superman to rescue Lois in the '78 film. Just pure, cinematic gold to me.)

And Kit, I know the-you-know-who aren't part of the MCU. But, given the ad campaign AMC just ran over the last year, I just had to post this LINK I just found.

AndrewPrice said...

It is interesting now that I think about it, but I never did realize before that Marvel and DC do focus on different characters -- good guys v. bad guys. Fascinating. That really does seem to define the difference between them to a large extent!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good review, Kit!
There is a place for dark and gritty, but so much angst and so little fun ain't nearly as rewatchable or, well, fun.
This is one reason why DC's Flash is so popular compared to their other shows. Because they reach a good balance, like Iron Man does, and there is more character development, as well as likable characters.

Daredevil on Netflix is very dark and gritty but they still manage to have those fun moments, as well as likable characters you can relate to.

At any rate, I much prefer fun to angst, and characters I like or who are at least interesting, instead of characters I would like to see killed before they complete their second angst-ridden line.

shawn said...

Good review.

Concerning weak villians. I think it depends on which Marvel property you are talking about. Iron Man doesn't really have any good villians, maybe the Mandarin, but they changed him for the movies. The X-Men, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four- they hall have great villains. Of course, Marvel doesn't have movie rights to those characters, except for Spider-Man, which they will share with Sony. Ultron would probably be the best known for the Avengers.

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