Iron Man (2008)
Obadiah Stane: [shouting] Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a bunch of scraps!
It seems to me that comic book movies should be easy to make. Aside from the latex costumes, the people are already drawn for you, all the designs are laid out in pictures, there is usually 30 years of stories to choose from, and if you watch Sin City you know that cell-by-cell adaptations can work really well. So why do most comic book movies fall short of the fans expectations? The Fox X-Men and Fantastic Four movies felt flat to me, the DC comic movies yo-yo all over the place and always fail to show the heroes at their best. In 2004, Marvel Comics announced that they would be producing their own movies from there own production studio. Part of me was excited, Marvel doing the movies there way, not someone else's. Gotta be good right? But what if we just get more of the same? I've already accepted I will never get the Avengers movie I wanted (boy was I wrong), so why should I even bother watching anymore?
Marvel announced that it would start the ball rolling with Iron Man. I was worried even more because I really did not care for Tony Stark, especially coming off of the Civil War story arc in the comics (he was an absolute dick in my opinion, even though he was right). In the Avengers comics I absolutely love him and how he plays of other characters, but I find 80 percent of his solo stories are kind of boring. Demon in a Bottle was amazing, the Armor Wars was awesome, but would they go into those? Most of the story was kept under wraps while the movie was being made, making the waiting worse. Set Pics showed the armor would be spectacular, and the fans didn't get much in the way of story until it was announced that Jeff Bridges was playing Obadiah Stane. Stane is a long time villain and competitor of Tony's, so it was obvious where that character was going. Then again, was this movie going to be a onetime thing or would the first movie be gold and the rest crap (Spider-Man 3 anyone?)? Marvel had already announced Thor and Captain America movies in the works at this point so a lot was riding on this one.
In the words Journey and Stan Lee, never stop believing true believers!
The movie starts with a convoy of Humvee's rolling through a desert. AC/DC Back in Black is playing on the radio. Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) is riding in one, few jokes later it is blown up. He crawls out, just to be caught in the explosion of one of his bombs. He is dragged of by terrorists/freedom fighters/guys with guns. Title Card. We cut to before, where he is receiving an award that is being giving to him by James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard) at some gala in Ceasers Palace. Here is where we are given background of Tony being a super-genius and leader of the weapons manufacturer Stark Industries. We are also introduced to Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) who is the V.P. of Stark Industries. Tony is off being his usual playboy self and blowing off his responsibilities, so Stane accepts the award for for him. Rhodey confronts Tony and is promptly blown of again. Leaving Ceasers, Tony is jumped by a reporter Christine Everhart, who asks about his weapons manufacturing, gets a couple good lines from him before ending up in his bed.
Morning time in Tony's mansion, which is awesome, we meet Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tony's secretary, assistant, babysitter as she throws Christine out. We also meet Jarvis, the house super-computer. Through these scenes we get a good look at Tony's snarky, carefree, reckless attitude. It really show cases the character well. Tony makes it to the flight he is late for, pisses off Rhodey and shows off the Jericho missiles. Cut to the present.
He is thrown in a cave cell with another scientist Yinsen. Yensin nurses Tony back to health but cannot remove some shrapnel next to his heart. He builds a big magnet in Tony's chest to keep the shrapnel. The guerrilla fighters want Tony to build them Jericho missiles, even though they clearly have Stark Tech from somewhere. They turn out to be the Ten Rings (nice Mandarin reference) and they have been raising hell in the middle east for awhile now. Eventually, after much torture, he agrees. But first him and Yensin have to fix the giant magnet problem. So Tony super-sciences a generator call an arc reactor in his chest. They then proceed to build the Iron Man armor Mark 1. There is some touching moments during this, some comedy, and Tony escapes after Yensin sacrifices himself for almost no reason.
The time imprisoned changed Tony, mostly due to Yensin (I said almost). He returns to America and immediately says Stark Industries will no longer make weapons until he can guarantee they will only be used by the military. Everyone gets pissed. A government organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to debrief him, but Pepper keeps blowing of Agent Coulsan. Stane is upset under pretenses (it's obvious he is lying) of the board of directors being mad, Rhodey is upset because he is the military liaison to Stark and has no job now, and Pepper is worried. Tony then starts the Iron Man Mark 2 armor. It is a spread out bit of him building the armor. Stane starts taking the company from him as stocks fall (weapons company that doesn't make weapons). Tony becomes a recluse because the media is all over him about everything that's happened. He builds a new arc reactor for his heart and starts a new armor All he cares about is building new armors and stopping the terrorists from having Stark Weapons. He tries to get Rhodey involved, but Rhodey blows him off with good reason.
So, to the nuts and bolts (kinda giggling right now) of this thing. First, the basic questions. How did he build that armor in a cave? Super-genius. He can build anything out of anything. MacGuyver could take a lesson from Tony. Why did the reporter sleep with Tony if she hated him? Well, she clearly wanted him to begin with (does Vanity Fair really care about in-depth world affairs?), and she delivers important information latter out of spite. On to important stuff.
Iron Man took the superhero/comic book movie bar and threw it to a whole new level. The story was great. They nailed Stark's story arc while making it relevant to today. Changing from the cold war to the new war on terrorism may sound easy, but they could have screwed it up and made it campy. Yensin was great at starting Tony down his path to redemption and new found humanity. While I am at it, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. Granted, he was a rock star drug addict and Tony is a rock star drunk, but he really makes Tony accessible to the audience and made me care about him. He clearly goes through a change in this movie, and you see it every step of the way. Some movies, especially action movies, have a hard time showing the characters growth or change. Iron Man did it well.
The supporting cast was pretty good. Gwyneth Paltrow is good as Pepper Potts. Originally it was suppose to be Racheal MacAdams, who I feel would have been a good choice as well. I do think a younger Pepper would have been nice, but Paltrow hasn't disappointed through 4 movies so far. Terrance Howard did somewhat disappoint me. When I think of Rhodey, I think muscle bound black man, much as the comic shows. Michael Jai White, in my opinion, would have been perfect for James Rhodes. Terrance Howard was too soft spoken and kind of a push over for my taste. He wasn't terrible, just not on the same level as the rest of the cast. I was not suprised when he was replaced for Iron Man 2. I was disappointed they made Tony's butler Jarvis a computer. Apparently the big wigs thought that there was too many Batman comparisons and Jarvis would be pushing it. Paul Bettany does a wonderful job, and makes me feel that Jarvis the person is in a room someplace controlling things. Jeff Bridges is a great villain. I personally love him in just about any of his movies, and he did not disappoint in this one. He is an intimidating presence through out the movie. I feel I don't really need to say more about him, it is Jeff Bridges. Although, I do need to mention Agent Coulson. He is an original character not from the comics, and ends up being crucial in The Avengers. Clark Gregg does an awesome job. He doesn't really do much in this movie, but he makes an impression that delivers throughout the rest of the Marvel movies.
The armors are bad-ass In this movie we see the classic armors, whether on Tony's computer screen or in person they are their. They are all round uni-beamed vs. the newer upside-down triangle versions, but we do need something for the sequel. Most of the cool gadgets make an appearance in this movie, wrist rockets, lasers, uni-beams, and repulsors. The final suit of the movie looks great, as in straight from the comics great. The helmet display is also straight from the newer comics. The really beautiful thing about this movie, the fights are just like the comic books. The moves are there, the same problems pop up (usually power issues) and I feel like they opened the books and pulled the scenes out.
There is a little more comedy in the movies then the comics. In the comics, Tony eventually becomes the smart-ass he is, where in the movie he starts out that way. I don't mind this. Again, updating his origin was the first thing they had to do. I really like this Tony Stark. Again, I actually care for this version. I am wondering when or if they are going to cripple him, or when we will get the demon in the bottle story as it seems the are building for it. All around, this was a good armor wars start. It actually felt real to a point, and again, Tony went through the change right in front of us. What more can we ask of a superhero origin story? Couple this with the other Phase One movies (Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2, Avengers) I finally felt like I was in the Marvel universe, which I ave not felt from any of the other comic book movies. For instance, Tony makes an appearance in Hulk, and it felt natural. I still fan boyed out over it (I believe I actually muttered "holy shit"), but it felt like he belonged there. This movie raised the standard on comic book movies and Marvel continues to due so. So go, watch this now. Then tell D.C. to take a hint.