Iron Man (2008) - MCU Retro Review

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel's Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it's untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

DIRECTED BY: Jon Favreau
WRITTEN BY: Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Terrence Howard (Rhodey), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Jon Favreau (Hogan), Faran Tahir (Raza), Shaun Toub (Yinzen), Paul Bettany (Jarvis)
STORY: After being held captive in an Afghan cave, billionaire engineer Tony Stark creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight evil.

Ten years ago, when I covered IRON MAN for JoBlo.com, I was a radically different reviewer. I mean, check out all the exclamation points in the review, or my use of dashes. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is my enthusiasm for a good popcorn flick, and watching IRON MAN at the pre-screening on the Wednesday night before it opened, I knew that what I was seeing would strike a chord with audiences in a big way. However, I had not even an inkling of what was to come, and to be honest, around the time IRON MAN 2 hit theaters, I was sure superhero fatigue would set in sooner-or-later, but it never really did for the average filmgoer (even if I feel it a bit myself now and then).

Re-examining IRON MAN is in interesting thing, as it kicked-off the MCU and the formula isn't quite there yet. It's like watching DR.NO when you put on a Bond movie. There are no infinity stones, no Avengers, and Tony Stark, as Iron Man, fights foes that are a lot more down-to-earth than they would be in future films, with him taking on real world terrorists (to whom he responds with lethal methods that would be unlikely in today’s political climate) and, in the climax, a megalomaniacal villain in Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who seems almost quaint now.

Seeing it in 2008 vs seeing it now, in the wake of the way Marvel’s utterly transformed the blockbuster, is a totally different thing, but I think it holds up well. It’s anchored by a lean and hungry Robert Downey Jr., in a role that you could tell he knew would make him a star. It’s easy to forget that when he made this he was an infamous tabloid fixture, far worse than even a guy like Shia LaBoeuf these days, who’d done real prison time. Post-IRON MAN, he was a movie God, and he’s held onto the position with a lot of dignity in the years since, outlasting contemporaries like Johnny Depp. As the baddie, Jeff Bridges classes things up, but there’s little he can do with a part that seems like it was added as an after-though, although Gwyneth Paltrow, in a role that was surprising for her eleven years ago, does nicely as Pepper Potts. Jon Favreau directs it all with style, although certain things seem awkward now, such as the presense of Terrence Howard as James Rhodes, or having Stark be such a playboy, which would probably be toned-down in these too P.C days.

Another issue, and this is one I have with all the Marvel movies - none of them have great main themes. Sure, Alan Silvestri did one for The Avengers, but to me I don't hear any piece of Marvel music and associate it with a super hero. IRON MAN started that trend with a generic, if acceptable, score by Ramin Djawadi years before "Game of Thrones." I wanted this to have an epic score - and I wish Marvel made more of an effort to hire interesting musicians to craft their scores.

Still, these are minor caveats, and while it's easy to look back at IRON MAN and see it as just a dry run for the MCU, the fact is it stands-up a lot better than many of the other films, and RDJ's performance as Stark is downright iconic.


For me, IRON MAN is at its best in the first act, where Stark in introduced rolling along in a Humvee, making MySpace jokes (which was out of date even in 2008!) and listening to AC/DC. The whole section where he’s working with Shaun Toub’s Yinsen, and eventually builds the Mach One suit to escape could be considered a classic now, as is the sequence where Iron Man, in his Mach Three suit, saves villagers in Afghanistan, where he memorably fires a missle into a tank, walking away as it blows up.

Stark: "The truth is...I am Iron Man!"

Stark: "Iron Man. That's kind of catchy. It's got a nice ring to it. I mean it's not technically accurate. The suit's a gold titanium alloy, but it's kind of provocative, the imagery anyway."

Stark: "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."

Everhart (to Stark): "You've been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that? Stark: "Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint."

Stark: [toasting after giving a weapon's demonstration] "To Peace."

Stark: "It's totally cool if you take a picture with me. Don't put this on MySpace. Please, no gang signs. Just kidding, you can put it up."

Yinsen: "Don't waste it...don't waste your life, Stark."

Nick Fury: "I'm here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative."

Pepper Potts (to Everhart): "I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including occasionally taking out the trash. Will that be all?"

Obadiah Stane: "How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever! And now, I'm going to kill you with it! "

Rhodey (looking at Mach 2 suit): "Next time, baby."

Stark: "Yeah, I can fly."


- The old “Iron Man” cartoon theme song pops up as Rhodey's ringtone when Tony calls him.

- The organization that captures Stark is called "The Ten Rings" which is a reference to The Mandarin (who would kind of show up in IRON MAN 3)

- Rhodey sees the silver Mach 2 suit at the end and says "Next time" which alludes to him taking on the mantle of War Machine.

- A Roxxon corporation logo is seen in the background on a warehouse at the end of the film. Roxxon is a staple in the entire MCU to include the TV shows on multiple networks, appearing in each subsequent IRON MAN film as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil and most recently on Cloak and Dagger.

- A poster of Fin Fang Foom is seen when Tony is flying through L.A. Fin Fang Foom is a classic Iron Man villain from the comics.

- Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes his first MCU appearance

- Nick Fury as played by Samuel L. Jackson makes his first appearance in the post-credits stinger, setting the standard for all Marvel films to follow.

- Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb) shows up as a reporter that Tony sleeps with. She would return in IRON MAN 2 and would later return in the Marvel WHiH Newsfront web series where she interviewed Scott Lang/ANT-MAN.

- Stan Lee shows up (of course), and is mistaken for Hugh Hefner by Tony.

Raza: The leader of the Ten Rings terrorist organization, and the first MCU villain in the canon. Played by Faran Tahir, he’s shown to be working for the main baddie, Stane, and doesn’t even get a proper death scene.

Obadiah Stane: While Jeff Bridges is up there among the best actors to ever appear in an MCU film, this is a pretty thin part, with him shown to be jockeying for control of Stark Industries, so he can continue selling arms to terrorists worldwide. His motivation is greed more than anything else, although he does get to don the Iron Monger armor, although the final showdown with Iron Man is archaic compared to what would follow and maybe a touch anti-climactic.


Source: JoBlo.com



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