Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Matthew Libatique
WRITERS: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
MUSIC: Ramin Djawadi
There was an idea… Ten years ago, a young producer named Kevin Feige announced a plan to bring together a set of heroes that would share the same universe, just like in the Marvel Comics. This was a bit of a challenge because the major hitters including “Spider-Man” and the “X-Men” were already spoken for at other film studios. Also, no one had really attempted create a connected film universe on a scale such as this.
Feige announced that the new universe would include Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk. While this may be hard to believe today, none of these superheroes were in demand at the time. Feige was even made fun of for pulling together what was perceived to be the second and third strings of superheroes.
The first film to set up this new Marvel Cinematic Universe would be “Iron Man” and it was released almost ten years ago on May 2, 2008. When I originally reviewed the film in ‘08, the only real problem I had with the film is what would become the only real problem that most MCU films would have. The villains are two-dimensional, including Obadiah Stane played by the always brilliant Jeff Bridges.
The big difference in my perspective this time is the fact that Bridges did the best he could with what he was given. I also guess I’ve just grown accustomed to the fact that villains in the MCU are often just there to be an obstacle for our hero. Downplaying villains does make sense to some degree because before this movie, superhero films tended to focus too much on their villains, such as in the Batman films from the 1980s and ‘90s.
Ten years on, though, this is still the only real problem with “Iron Man”. The truth is that this film is still a heck of a lot of fun. There really is no one better who could play Tony Stark than Robert Downey, Jr. He embodies both the heroic and vulnerable sides of his character in this movie. It is quite the challenge to play a character who was once selling arms to the military only to be reformed when he learns that those weapons are being used against the very people he sought to protect.
Downey, Jr. conquers this challenge and makes it look easy. Whether it is just Downey, Jr.’s remarkable acting chops or the fact that he too had some issues back in the day, he will forever be Iron Man in the eyes of millions and that all started right here. He is also surrounded by a pretty strong supporting cast.
Gwyneth Paltrow has an undeniable chemistry with Downey, Jr. and plays Pepper Potts as a woman with great strength in her own right. At first, she just comes off as your standard secretary, but we quickly learn that she is not just your average damsel-in-distress character. When Tony Stark needs her to act, she steps up to the challenge and during the times where they play their more romantic scenes, you can instantly tell that these two characters love each other without it being overly stated.
Sadly, this would be the only time that Terrance Howard would play James Rhodes. Due to pay disputes and conflicts with both the director and the star, he would not return for any of the sequels. I must be honest and say that I actually enjoy Don Cheadle more in the role but this may be due to the fact that I’ve now seen him more in the role than Howard. Howard does a great job as the sidekick in this movie, but it feels a little weird now that it’s not Cheadle instead.
The story is quite the fun ride as we actually get to learn more about Stark before he even gets in the suit. Also, part of the fun of this movie is watching Stark test out his various suits before becoming the Iron Man that we all know and love. It helps that the movie covers variations on the variety of suits that have appeared in the comic books over years, including the cumbersome grey suit that the character started out with in the first issues.
The second half of the film is an action packed roller coaster. The first scene featuring Iron Man in all his glory is still one of the best action scenes ever filmed. Whether it’s punching through a wall to get to his enemy or walking away slowly after blowing up a tank, Iron Man is undeniably cool.
Ten years after its release, “Iron Man” is still one of the best films in the MCU and one of the best superhero films ever created. The movie contains the first post-credit scene in the franchise, featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s first appearance as Nick Fury. While it was cool that we also got our first glimpse of a bigger universe in this scene, the movie is still quite an accomplishment on its own.