Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.): inventor, playboy, a bit of a dick, is living the high-life in his Miami mansion with his articulate supercomputer (Paul Bettany) and dedicated personal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Badly injured during a weapon demonstration in Afghanistan, Stark is taken prisoner by a terrorist cell with access to a Stark Industries arsenal. When he narrowly escapes by building himself an armoured suit modified with electromagnets to keep a wayward piece of shrapnel from entering his heart, the inventor perfects the suit back at his laboratory, creating the Mark II. When his original schematic winds up in the hands of a rival (Jeff Bridges), however, Stark must put this new Iron Man to the test.

It’s difficult to appreciate just how much was riding on John Favreau’s Iron Man, but without it there would be no Marvel Studio’s, and, by extension, no The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger or, indeed, The Avengers. Before Iron Man, Marvel had leased the rights to its properties out to other companies, leaving the likes of the comparatively better known Spider-man and X-Men in the hands of Sony and 20th Century Fox respectively. For a shared universe to be possible and future cross-overs to take place, however, Marvel needed all of its heroes under one roof. Good thing, then, that it was such a hit.

Paramount to Iron Man‘s success was Marvel’s trust in Favreau. With more established superhero movies slated for release that same year – 2008 also saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Dark Knight arrive in cinemas – Iron Man had to set itself apart from the competition if it was to find an audience of its own. Favreau, who also appears in the movie as bodyguard Happy Hogan, embraced the comic’s humorous side, creating a Tony Stark that was as funny as he was inventive. However integral the director might have been to the film’s success, it was to be the actor cast in the film’s lead role that was to be its biggest asset: Robert Downey Jr.

Returning to the big screen after a period of recovery, Downey Jr. was yet another wild card that any other studio would have most likely vetoed long before filming started. As Stark, however, Downey Jr. is charismatic, charming and utterly compelling, his progression from shallow, self-centred womaniser to a shallow, self-centred womaniser who saves the world proving consistently engaging.  In fact, the actor is so effective in the role that it’s almost a shame he has to don a giant metal suit for most of the film’s biggest set pieces. That said, Iron Man himself is a wonder to behold in his own right, the flight sequences in particular impressing entirely – even today.

This is no one man show, however, and behind every superhero is an ensemble vying for screen time. It is during Stark’s exchanges with Paltrow’s Pepper Potts that the film really comes to life, their effortless rapport and crackling chemistry outshining any number of effects shots and individual character moments. In addition, what was once just an Easter egg for fans is with hindsight the first move of a much larger game, with Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) lingering in the background, tasked with putting together a team. When Samuel L. Jackson finally appears during the post-credit scene, the “Avenger Initiative” is put irreversibly in motion.

A highpoint of the current spate of superheroics, Iron Man was an enormous achievement for Marvel and just a taster of things to come for fans. Funnier than The Dark Knight and more commercial than Hellboy II, this remains one of the greatest comic-book movies ever made.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Iron Man (2008)

  1. Pingback: March 2012 – Fire all things that go bang! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The Incredible Hulk (2008) « popcornaddict

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