It’s hard to imagine that 10 years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t exist. Now we are 14 films in, with multiple TV shows and many more instalments to come. The series has had a huge impact on me and I am always filled with excitement when the next chapter is first released. With some of the most interesting films released this year (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spiderman Homecoming and Thor Ragnarok), I want to do quick reviews of every film up to now in preparation for the continuation of Phase 3. As said, there’s a lot to get through so these reviews are going to be less in depth than my normal reviews. So, let’s start with the one that started it all in 2008, Iron Man.
Just to start off, I love this film. Director Jon Favreau should be commended for kicking off the most successful film franchise (box office wise) in history with an amazingly told story, incredible action and standout performances. The film tells the story of billionaire playboy weapons designer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) who is captured by terrorists in Afghanistan in an attack. Awaking in a cave, he has been critically injured and is being kept alive by an arc reactor that is keeping him alive. In order to survive, Stark is forced to create a deadly weapon for the terrorists to unleash upon their enemies. However, the genius that he is, Stark creates a suit of armour in order to escape, the very first Iron Man suit. Once home, the film explores Stark’s relationships with old friends and acquaintances, whilst following the development of weaponizing his creation to become sleeker and powerful to fight evil.
The first major positive of the film which has no doubt stuck throughout the entire cinematic universe is Robert Downey Jr’s performance as Tony Stark. After witnessing the development of Downey’s performance through the various films, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else play the role. Yet even in his first appearance, Downey perfectly captures the essence of Stark as the eccentric, arrogant yet likeable character from the comics. Downey perfectly balances the light comedic moments of Stark when he is in the spotlight of the press and interacting with characters such as Pepper Potts, yet also the dark side in the first act of the film when Stark is in captivity. Flashbacks to glimpses of Stark’s playboy lifestyle in the casinos and sleeping with attractive women paints Stark as an idol to many, showing the effectiveness of Stark’s performance. Therefore, Downey creates a layered three dimensional character that is introduced in an engrossing manner in this film, which is later explored at a various number of angles in the future films.
As well as this, the supporting cast provide a rich introduction to the world of Marvel for audiences. Gwyneth Paltrow excellently portrays Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant, as she is able to bring out the human side to Stark, exposing his personal and more emotional traits. She is not an obvious cliché love interest found in most blockbusters, yet she and Stark share some intimate moments, proving how successful Downey’s and Paltrow’s on screen chemistry is. Terrence Howard’s performance as Stark’s best friend James Rhodes is warm and we really believe that these two characters do care about each other. It is a shame that Howard only made one appearance in the cinematic universe, yet his portrayal in this film is memorable. Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, a former mentor and friend, and without spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen the film provides an exciting and enthralling relationship with Stark. We are also introduced to J.A.R.V.I.S who provides witty comments and lines as Stark’s A.I assistant. Paul Bettany is brilliant as the voice and is a welcome comedic addition alongside Downey.
What really impressed me when rewatching this film is how dark and gritty some of the sequences in this film are. The scenes in Afghanistan highlight real world issues and seem ‘realistic’ compared to the situation found in the more cosmic based Marvel films. This is one of the more personal films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the exploration of the socially relevant issues of the conflict in the world today is appreciated. What is also interesting when rewatching is how much the film is about Tony Stark out of the suit and not Iron Man. Before Stark joins The Avengers in future films fighting off armies of aliens, he has to deal with the media and the human threats to the world. By making these the antagonists of the film, Stark is tested on a human down to earth level, whilst also having to deal with the arc reactor placed in his chest that is keeping him alive.
It’s odd that in a film called Iron Man, my focus isn’t on the suit of armour. However, what we do get of the suit is incredible. The special effects are realistic and amazing, creating one of the most iconic weapons in recent blockbuster history. The developments from the jolted to sleek movements of the suit throughout the film build our excitement and intrigue to see it in action. The action is awesome and still holds up after 9 years. When Iron Man takes on a group of terrorists with ease, we feel satisfied and towards the end of the film, Iron Man takes on a similar mechanical weapon and it is truly spectacular. The cinematography following Iron Man’s flight is stunning, and with incredible sound effects, the suit feels so real and tangible.
On reflection, Iron Man is an excellent start to one of my favourite franchises of all time, The Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a complex, rich and exciting blockbuster with important character exploration. With the introduction to an amazing character in the form of Tony Stark, beautiful action sequences and some cool secrets to find that link to future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only is this a great film as a standalone (to be honest one of the only films that truly could be seen and fully appreciated as a standalone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) but has some implicit hints as to what’s to come. This is explicitly represented in one of the best end credit scenes of all time. So all in all this is a great film and if you haven’t seen it yet I would highly recommend it.
I give Iron Man 9 out of 10