Even looking back over a decade later, it’s hard to find a lot to criticize about Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. When you consider that Marvel went with a very dangerous choice of actor in the recently-rehabbed Robert Downey Jr., to play a third-tier comic book character and spent $140 million making the movie, it really was one helluva gamble.
Of course, the gamble paid off. Iron Man grossed over $580 million at the box office, the second biggest movie of 2008 behind The Dark Knight and launched the multi-billion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe we all know and love with a pretty big bang.
Watching it for the first time in a few years, I’m struck by how well the tech holds up. The only things which look dated are the phones (oh my God, Tony, that LG VX9400 looked HILARIOUS).
The combination of real armour, both metal and rubber, and CGI which was used to make Tony’s suits looks as real, if not more so, than the armour in the more recent movies. And when I say ‘more so’ I mean it has nuts and bolts and screws and it makes clanks and squeaks… it looks like there’s weight to it, unlike the entirely-CGI armour we’re seeing now. As an engineer, I gotta say I like the older stuff. A bit like the animatronic dinosaurs in the original Jurassic Park, there’s something to be said for actors getting to interact with tangible objects as opposed to talking to an eyeball on a stick.
Moving on to the storytelling and the acting, I’m going to cover these two together, because I don’t really think anyone could have portrayed the story of the drunken playboy sobering up when the real world hits him hard in the face as well as Robert Downey Jr. (thank goodness Tom Cruise turned the role down, amirite???) The storytelling in Iron Man really is amazing. Stark’s still fundamentally a spoiled genius, but by the end of Iron Man he’s a spoiled genius with a conscience and the will to make a difference. Pepper, of course, is the one who sees his downfall early on; she warns him that his hubris will destroy him, in a refrain which repeats over and over again for Tony throughout the MCU’s entire arc up to the current time, really. Pepper is Tony’s voice of reason, which makes it only logical that he makes his worst decisions when she’s not around to check him (ahem, Ultron, Civil War).
I’m just going to mention Terrence Howard as the actor who originally portrayed Rhodey; I didn’t know this, but apparently Howard ended up being the highest paid actor on Iron Man. Offered a pay cut for the sequel, he turned it down and was replaced by Don Cheadle, who to be honest I’ve always thought was a bit too old to play Rhodey. It’s a shame Marvel didn’t put their hand in their pocket and pay Howard what he deserved, because he did a damn good job and I’d like to see him still playing the role today.
Favourite moment in the movie: The boys and I definitely agree that it’s “My turn” when Tony comes out of the cave and flamethrowers the terrorists’ camp to charred rubble. Incidentally, they pointed out that Avengers: My Turn would be an excellent alternative title for Endgame, too.
Best one-liner: The boys are sticking with “My turn”. For me, it’s “Let’s face it, this isn’t even the worst thing you’ve caught me doing”.
Least favourite moment: Connor says when Tony and Pepper almost kissed. (He’s 9. Kissing bits are not his favourite thing.) Kieran said when Yinsen died, which ran a very close second for me to when Pepper likened Christine Everhardt to trash. That was an unnecessarily woman-bashing and slut-shaming line to write in, particularly since Everhardt is actually a ‘good guy’... she’s a journalist with a conscience who gets angry with Tony when she thought he’d sold weapons to terrorists. We didn’t need to see the only two named female characters in this movie have a verbal catfight.
Overall star rating: 9/10. Incredible storytelling, great acting and special effects which hold up superbly a decade later. There isn’t much not to like.