For a film that began the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man was a peculiarly small film. In fact, Iron Man could be any one of the superhero movies releasing in those days – small, self-contained, and generally limited to a trilogy- but for one little scene after credits, when Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury visits Tony Stark to discuss the ‘Avengers Initiative’. This changed everything. This told viewers that they were going to see something that was unprecedented in live-action.
Fans learned there was going to be a huge universe, full of multiple Marvel characters with movies, TV shows, etc set in the same universe. There won’t be just a trilogy. There would be dozens of films that would lead up to one large event, eventually. The ‘eventually’ part was important as Marvel was not going to rush. As far as superhero films go, Iron Man was strictly a decent movie. Iron Man was a relatively unknown character (as was almost the entire Marvel apart from Spider-man and X-Men), and the movie was buried under the phenomenon of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight that released just two months after it.
But the experiment was successful. Marvel had started the buzz. People were talking about this superhero universe. Robert Downey Jr and Iron Man were boons for each other. Iron Man revived Downey Jr’s career, and Downey Jr, in turn, made Iron Man cool again (the character had been popular in the 1960s and the 70s before falling out of favour).
Five best things about Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr
Has there ever been an actor better suited to play a superhero than Robert Downey Jr? He played the character with the characteristic arrogance and wit that many associated with himself. As the saying goes, he played himself on the big screen. To be honest, we liked Iron Man because he was a bit of an A-hole. But we like him even more now that he has matured. Downey Jr’s performance has been simply immaculate.
Even though Iron Man had its share of death and destruction, most of the movie had a light tone that came to define MCU films. This made it worth watching even when things were slow in the beginning. Iron Man was a superhero that did not take himself too seriously. Thor: Ragnarok and both volumes of Guardians of the Galaxy took this formula to blend humour seamlessly into superhero cinema further.
As I already said before, Iron Man did not make a desperate attempt to build a film universe. It was the story of a single superhero and it stayed that way throughout the theatrical run. This is praise-worthy since Jon Favreau’s Iron Man turned out to be the womb that gave birth to MCU.
No secret identity
Bruce Wayne wears a cowl to protect those close to him and to protect his identity. Iron Man, the cocky superhero he is, strayed away from this trope. But this was not just true to Tony Stark’s character, it was also a way Marvel reinvented the genre and paved the way for a superhero team that protects the world.
Iron Man is a superhero in the sense that he did not mutate into one, or he did not fall from the sky, or he did not get a special serum, and so on. He is an entirely self-made superhero, and enjoys the same status that Batman enjoys in the Justice League. And just like Batman, it is his mind and his gadgets because of which he can face beings like the Hulk.
A not-so-great thing about Iron Man
There was little to dislike about this film to be fair. Only thing I can think of is that I do not remember much anything about its villain. Although Jeff Bridges is a phenomenal actor, Iron Man was too focused on its hero to give ample space to its villain. Obadiah Stane got too little screen time to be anything more than a requisite, standard bad guy that hero has to face in the end.