Now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is set to launch its Phase 4, I figured now would be a great time to revisit the first movie that launched the franchise. Yup, 2008’s Iron Man, the surprise hit that resurrected the superhero genre and changed the game for a new generation of fans.
Synopsis: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was the genius engineer/inventor, the CEO of Stark Industries, the biggest weapons developer in the US. He had everything. He was a billionaire playboy who held the Midas Touch to the company’s fortune. After a demonstration of their latest technology, Tony was kidnapped by an organization called the Ten Rings, a terrorist group who wanted to amass power in the Middle East. To survive, Tony re-engineers the arc reactor technology to survive and escape.
When I first watched Iron Man in the cinema in 2008, I thought the movie was fantastic. Iron Man was far from being the most popular superhero in the Marvel franchise. Far from it really, and the early designs for the character really made him look like a clunky suit of armor. But with the winning combination of Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Favreau (who also played Tony’s assistant Happy in the film), Marvel hit the jackpot.
The movie still holds 13 years after its original release. More than that, its still better than half the movies that are being produced in the same genre over a decade after.
It was interesting to see Iron Man’s origins again after some time. The Iron Man suit went through so much evolution that it was a kick to see the Mark 1 and the Mark 2 which took Tony a lot of effort to get into. In the first movie, we still see Tony typing away at digital keyboards when in the final movies, everything is pretty much AI and holograms.
I love the script for the first Iron Man. RDJ’s wisecracks, his quotable quotes and his suave attitude really made Tony Stark come to life. Jeff Bridges was a formidable supporting actor too, and introduced layers to his character Obadiah Stane.
We all know what happened to Terence Howard after this film so it was interesting to compare him with his successor Don Cheadle. While Howard held his own as Rhody, I would say RDJ had better chemistry with Cheadle. Perhaps, because the first Rhody didn’t seem all that close to Tony unlike in the following movies where the character felt comfortable enough to call the billioniare on his bull with no qualms at all.
I liked how loyal Pepper was to Tony and while I’m generally not a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, I kind of liked her character in this first movie. There was a great tension between her and RDJ. It played well for their budding romance.
I liked how the film was directed — how it was built up, how the characters evolved over the course of the movie. It should have been cliche, but it was engaging. Tony was a boor at the beginning but we rooted for him. He was the top dog and he became the underdog and we cheered for his victory against Iron Monger. The action scenes were fantastic, the CGI was solid.
Iron Man was, and still remains one of the best movies in the MCU. Its pretty hard to top this so Phase 4 better shape up to meet the bar.
BTW, I’m really intrigued as to whether the Ten Rings in this movie would connect to Shang Chi whose title also refers to the Ten Rings.