When billionaire playboy industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is kidnapped and mortally wounded during a terrorist ambush in Afghanistan, he must use every ounce of his ingenuity to survive and escape. Returning home a changed man, Stark decides to start righting the wrongs of his past and takes his first step into a larger universe.
From the opening strains of AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, Director Jon Favreau sets the tone for this new Marvel era, and what a Tone he is. Tony Stark; arrogant, insufferable and yet oh-so-instantly-likeable thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s perfectly judged performance. He’s matched by a pitch-perfect tone for the world the film is creating. Contemporary and grounded without needing to be dark and gritty, there’s a calculated cautiousness as it keeps one foot firmly in real-world plausibility for the moment. It’s a recognition that with Christopher Nolan in the midst of changing the superhero zeitgeist with “Batman Begins”, flights of fancy might not play well with an audience looking for something else. Fortunately, star power, a wry sense of humour and just a fantastic production overall – has the superhero ‘costume moment’ ever been handled better? – give this superhero outing a distinctive flavour, one audiences would quickly develop a taste for.
For those who dismiss the MCU as fluffy and afraid of fatalities could do worse than go back and watch this first keystone entry. Not only are the first genuine Iron Man missions joyously, punch-the-air awesome, they’re also surprisingly brutal. Iron Man isn’t hesitant in killing his terrorist targets and, in one particularly dark scene, leaves a terrorist leader to the rough justice of the villagers he has been terrorising.
Obadiah Stane is a great villain and it’s a bit of a shame that he didn’t stick around until the sequel to be revealed as the villain, but such is the MCU. If we’re going to be spoilt with such well-rounded and realised heroes, the villains are going to have to take a bit of a back seat, at least at first, satisfied to play the ‘dark mirror’ versions of our heroes.
All-in-all, “Iron Man” is a great film – even without taking its legacy into account – and endlessly rewatchable. With this under their belt, the sky was the limit but it would take a couple more movies before Marvel really went all-in.
Not even a whisper of the infinity stones at this stage. Marvel’s endgame was firmly under lock and key!
Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S.
Stan “The Man” Lee cameos very briefly in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him case of mistaken identity as Hugh Hefner.
Surprise! It’s Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) – if you waited until the end of the credits, that is. 😉
Paul Bettany recorded his entire role in two hours.
- Iron Man