Iron Man (2008) Movie Review “A Great Starting Point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe”

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There are a few important years for the superhero genre. First would be 1978, with the release of “Superman: The Movie”, the first highly successful film in the genre. It showed you could do the genre and make a critically acclaimed film.  That next landmark year would be 2000 with the release of “X-Men”, which helped explode the genre into popular mayhem.  Soon after we’d a large amount of new comic book film output.  The final big landmark here would be 2008.  Just when comic book films (and superhero films in general) started to feel repetitive and clichéd, two films would come in and change the game of the genre forever.  One of those films would be Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” and the other would be Marvel’s “Iron Man”.  Two films that were different in tone and reinvented the genre.

Amongst all the Avengers mayhem and countless sequels in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (one of the first of it’s kind), we sometimes forget what type of impact that first film really did have.  With “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” getting its release, I decided now is the best time to trek back to the beginning of this universe and watch the entire series without the hype that we all experienced back during their initial release.  First up is one of the big game changers in the genre “Iron Man”.  A risk upon its release in more ways than one, “Iron Man” shocked us all, and even after seven years since its release the film is still brilliant.  Although “Iron Man” still suffers from a weak and somewhat disappointing third, the rest of the film fires on all cylinders.

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After Billionaire Playboy Tony Stark gets captured by a terrorist group called the ten rings, he engineers an escape plan by creating a body armored suit.  Seeing the errors in his business ways when the terrorist group gets a hold of his weapons, Stark vows to protect the people he put in harm’s way by using his intellect (and his check book)  to craft himself as a new hero.

In many ways, a lot of superhero stories are very similar.  Nearly all popular superheroes go through a self realization to set them on the path of a hero.  Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Hal Jordan all have things in common with one another.  That path can create some tough but not impossible storytelling troubles where all the origins can start to become redundant.  “Iron Man” overcomes this possible hurdle by focusing firmly first on it’s character and performance by our main actor Robert Downey Jr. as oppose to action.

At the beginning Tony Stark is rather unlikeable.  A brilliant scientific mind ,but narcissistic and egocentric.  Stark rubs a lot of people the wrong way.  He cares about new tech, new weapons, and more money.  The character building of Stark starts off in the right way.  He begins one way, but the writers and director Jon Faviou carefully construct the character to grow and develop throughout the movie.  After his convoy in Afghanistan comes under attack from the Ten Rings, Stark is striped from all the confronts in his life making him a different person.  He never loses his douche bag and eccentric ways, but a conscious grows on him (along with a possible romance with his secretary Pepper Pots).

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Downey plays this role to perfection.  He brings this comic book to life as a character with a multi layered and varied performance that hits notes of hilarity as well as seriousness.  It’s sometimes hard to think that Marvel was initially hesitant on bringing him onto the lead role.

The movie may be focused on character development, but it doesn’t short on the action sequences. There’s not a huge abundance of them, but when the action is flowing, they are solid and fun to watch on screen. They also have really well done special effects by Industrial Light and Magic.  The final showdown, however, between our main foe and Iron Man is a bit lackluster.

The film does a great job of building up its first two acts to a big climax, but it doesn’t hold up to the promise that it gave us. The villain reveal isn’t all that impressive nor is he all that imposing.  A pretty unmemorable villain and not the foe Stark deserved to face.  It’s not a horrible ending like “The Wolverine’s” ending dropped the movie’s quality down a few points, but it certainly isn’t as well done as the rest of the film.  I wasn’t expecting a final climax like “Man of Steel” where there are large levels of destruction, it’s just something a little more than what we got.

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Either way, Marvel certainly stepped off on the right foot with this first film in their groundbreaking Cinematic Universe. One of the most influential films in the genre, “Iron Man” stills holds up after seven years, even if the third act is weaker than most.

Final Score

8/10

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