‘Iron Man’ – Review: The Beginning Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe

*Minor spoilers for those seven people who still haven’t seen “Iron Man”

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe became the juggernaut it is today, there was a time where comic book movies weren’t coming out as often as they do now. Starting with 2000’s “X-Men” and the beginning of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy (and among others), truly gave the starting point to something great for the future of comic book movies.

When it was announced that Marvel Studios was coming out with a standalone Iron Man film, people weren’t too thrilled due to the lack of popularity with the character. It was a risky move by both Marvel Studios and Paramount which fortunately turned out to become a financial success. It was also well-perceived by pleasing both critics and fans alike. So it begs the question: does it still hold up nearly 11 years later?

[Credit: Walt Disney Studios]

This film follows Tony Stark (portrayed wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr.) who’s a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, who is also the head of his own company (Stark Industries) who distributes weapons to the US military. After being kidnapped and being held captive by Afghan insurgents, they make Tony build them a weapon of mass destruction. Instead, Tony finds means to escape where he returns to America to refine a new suit to destroy the weapons stolen from him.

[Credit: Walt Disney Studios]

One of the great things to take away from this film is the actors. Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t just portray a character, he becomes Tony Stark. His persona and his charm are shown through his character throughout the film. Although Downey is the driving force behind the film, Gwyneth Paltrow is able to play off of Downey as his secretary, Pepper Potts. Their chemistry feels so natural and is by far one of the greatest on-screen relationships in all comic book films.

Although he is underappreciated, Jeff Bridges also does an incredible job as Obadiah Stane and plays off of Downey as well as Paltrow. For the most part, Bridges’ performance is top-notch up until the third act of the film which we’ll get into later. Terrence Howard as Rhodey fits very well as a military colonel and Tony’s best friend and although he does a great job, everyone knows he was replaced by Don Cheadle in the sequel.

[Credit: Walt Disney Studios]

Even though this film features a great cast, the characterization is phenomenal. Watching Tony go from a non-caring man who thinks he has zero responsibilities essentially turning into a superhero deserves an applaud in itself. The way they’re able to make this happen and feel so natural is a big takeaway from this film while also making it relatable to the audience watching. Director Jon Favreau also allows a sense of “buildup” from the time Tony is going through repeatedly failed trials in his lab creating the Iron Man suit.

If there’s one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for is just the right amount of comedy. The way director Jon Favreau (“Elf,” “Jungle Book”) is able to blend wit and comedy through Robert Downey and the rest of the film is very articulate.

The other takeaway from this film is the action. Even though the film isn’t necessarily jam-packed with action set pieces, the way it sets you up with Tony in a military convoy where they get attacked in the first five minutes truly sets you up for the rest of the film. From that point on until Tony dons the classic red and yellow Iron Man suit to take down the bad guys in Afghanistan is just a joy to watch as it unfolds throughout.

[Credit: Walt Disney Studios]

As great as this film is to a lot of people, it’s certainly not without its flaws. Even though negatives are at a minimum, there is one major flaw in this film that really encompasses what we see throughout the foundation of the MCU: the villains. Unlike its main hitters such as Thanos, Loki, and Killmonger, the MCU has had its struggle with villains dating back all the way to Obadiah Stane, aka Iron Monger.

It was mentioned earlier that Jeff Bridges does a fantastic job as Obadiah Stane, but once he becomes Iron Monger, the plot and his character seem quite convoluted. One of the most enjoyable and entertaining parts of the film was watching Tony Stark use his knowledge and wit to create his suit and to take the time no matter how many times he failed day in and day out, yet Obadiah was able to master his suit within five minutes after climbing in? Doesn’t make much sense, does it? But not only him, but all of Tony’s insurgent captors were not menacing, whatsoever. The film would have probably been better off by having Obadiah just become jealous over Tony’s new direction with his company rather than donning an iron man suit of his own for no apparent reason.

Overall Thoughts

As a standalone film, Jon Favreau delivers a fantastic origin story of a superhero that not a lot of people showed much interest in. The way he was able to balance humor, drama, and action makes this film as entertaining as it possibly can get. The charisma and wit that Robert Downey brings to life as Tony is worth the watch by itself. Not only is it a good standalone film, but it was a perfect way to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe into what we know as it is today.

“Iron Man” = A

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