Iron Man: 2008 Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges.
The Marvel Extended Cinematic Universe has grown to become arguably the best media franchise ever, but unarguably, the highest grossing film franchise of all time, with an estimate of $17.5 billion, almost double of the ‘almighty’ Star Wars franchise’s gross earnings. There is no debate about it’s general acceptance and how much popularity the movies in this franchise has garnered. An ensemble of award winning actors, writers and directors. 3 phases – 20 movies, 3 trilogies, but one movie started it all.
In 2006, after Marvel reacquired rights to the Iron Man franchise. Jon Favreau was chosen to direct what could be the beginning of an amazing story. Robert Downey basically begged for this role, grew a goatie and beefed up to size to prove he was right for the character. It was later announced he would star as Tony Stark(Iron Man), this infuriated internet comic fans as they believed Robert was not a right cast. When it was all said and done, Robert proved “he was born to play the role”. Particularly receiving praises for his portrayal of the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”.
Downey wore the 90-pound suit of booster-rocket armor with enough amo to tear down a small village well, as he dramatizes the awkward transition of inventor, Tony Stark, from selfish and selfobsessed playboy to humanitarian scientist. More importantly, the 43-year-old actor makes the man inside the heavy-metal amour appealing on his own terms.
“In Iron Man, Tony Stark , an industrialist and master engineer, builds a powered exoskeleton after a life-threatening incident and becomes the technologically advanced superhero Iron Man.”
With his ever trusted assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) a woman who is genuinely concerned that Tony will kill himself one day, also showing potentials to end up as Stark’s lover, and long time partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) with the iconic bald head giving audiences the obvious pointer screaming “Villain!”.
The American Film Institute selected the film as one of the ten best of the year. It was also nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Jon Favreau, who had made a name from Christmas hit Elf, and Swingers, explores Tony’s energetic, creative and improvisational strengths right from the premise. He kicked off this origin story with a pre-trauma depiction of genius inventor Stark, an always drunk, fast talking philander, who has made a fortune selling weapons.
Hours after sex with a reporter (Leslie Bibb) in his Malibu mansion, Stark checks in with his active assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and flies to Afghanistan with Air Force liaison, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard, who dropped the role right after). There, Stark demonstrates his latest creations for U.S. military. Eliciting bombs that could literally “move mountains”.
A bomb attack on the road side changes everything, he lost his glib.
Stark awakes in a cave, as a hostage, with an electro-magneto disc carved into his chest to keep him alive for insurance by preventing “shrapnel” from piercing his heart. In the course of time, and a few water-boarding sequence of course (because what’s an Arabic terrorist scene without water boarding), he escapes warlord Raza (Faran Tahir) after building the first rudimentary Iron Man suit with the help of a fellow scientist and prisoner.
Back in California, the repentant Stark announces that his company has halted the ammunition business, which is bad news for stockholders and Tony’s longtime partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) – cue the villain violins.
Experimenting with robots in his 3-D modeling lab, he ventured to build a bigger, better Iron Man suit. Stark completely submerges himself in “don’t-bother-me-I’m-saving-the-world” mode, which has a few montages that makes for some good laughs when his wild suit puts him through more torture than the terrorists did (I’m kiddng…it did fling him across the room though).
What came after is Iron Man rocketing overseas in an upgraded, well designed, repulsor-powered suit to get revenge from his former tormentors, save Mideastern victims, including women and children, and crusading against devious corporate heads. This leads to earth shattering battles on the roads and over California between Iron Man and his new nemesis, the more turgid Iron Monger.
What Made this Movie Special
Apart from a Stan Lee cameo, what made this wonderful movie exceptional is the fact that even though it had marvellous CGI effects, it does not abandon it’s plot! The big f/x budgets did not turn the movie to a special effects jamboree. It sticks to the story it’s telling and does not just throw animation to the face of the audiences every second. It addresses the real global crisis of how weapons and armaments are on the rise beyond supervisory measures to control them. And it was told so genuinely that it controlled the whole movie regardless of the impacts and collosal flare of explosions. This movie like Superman: Quest for Peace (1987) reintroduced a certain political reality of super hero’s awareness of international conflict, knocking down metal doors and provides a fascinating and unique overlay.
Robert and Jeff put up such graceful portrayals of their hero and villain characters as they astonishingly upstage their robotic suits; it’s amazing how much those two giant iron men mirror the personalities of the men inside them. Everything these robots do are over-the-top of course, but they seem to be doing it, not the suits. That was key to keeping the audiences more invested in the men and not the amours.
Favreau’s take on “Iron Man,” however, is that sometimes audiences wonder how seriously even Stark takes incoming calamities. He remains cocky in the face of disaster, and flippant on the verge of ruin. Always ready to go full snarky swagger mode and make an ass clown out of anyone when he pleases. This portrayal of the amoured avenger has become the version of the character loved so dearly globally.
At the time, Iron Man was not as popular as other Marvel franchises like X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, or Hulk, so this was a gamble to serve as the spring for a cinematic universe. This shot in the dark became an ace in the hole as it became the stimulant Marvel needed. The Marvel cinematic universe was never seen as ordinary again.
In the end, the personality of the man Robert Downey Jr. galvanized the role of Tony Stark, separating this from other superhero movies. You hire an actor for his strengths, and Downey was intelligent, swift and funny, he also had a public persona that masks personal ‘wounds’ he had been struggling with. Favreau built on that creating his movie, and it was a good one.
Quotes from the Movie
[Pepper catches him in Iron Man suit.]
Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts : What’s going on here?
Tony Stark : Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve
ever caught me doing.
Jim Rhodes : You’re not a soldier.
Tony Stark : Damn right I’m not. I’m an army.
As “Avengers: End Game” draws closer we could be at the brink of Tony’s death. The big question is “Are you ready?”.
Until next time. Filmstorian says; Good movies make you better.
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