Retro Review – Iron Man
Retro Review: Iron Man
The 2008 film Iron Man spawned a generation of movies which have turned into a franchise worth billions of pounds.
It is hard to imagine that prior to Robert Downey Jr’s witty and relatable portrayal of Tony Stark; good superhero movies were few and far between at the time. Usually, they played too much on the effects and powers, with little to relate to in terms of the human connection.
That all changed with Iron Man, the film which launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Little could director Jon Favreau have known what impact his film would have, or how it would eventually lead to Avengers Endgame, which grossed $2.8bn (£2.2bn).
Had the movie flopped, who knows what might have happened? Luckily, the casting of Downey Jr as the protagonist worked wonders and it was the actor’s previous history that fitted perfectly with the persona of troubled genius Stark. “The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye,” Favreau said of his decision to cast Downey Jr. “He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That’s Tony Stark.”
Whilst 12 years have aged some of the special effects a little, it is easy to overcome those when watching the film that launched a sensation. The plot moves along at a nice pace and the tortured Stark makes a wonderful central character. His chemistry with co-star Gwyneth Paltrow is especially endearing, fusing real human emotion with the effects and action of a serious superhero romp.
Jeff Bridges excels in a villainous role too, straying from his usual stereotype of a bumbling anti-hero or laid-back, easy-going characters. Whilst some of the action was sensational at the time, as the MCU has progressed it now seems tame in comparison. Without ruining the film for those who haven’t seen it (what have you been watching the last 12 years?), the climactic ending is both a predictable pay-off and a precursor to the juggernaut of marketing and cinema which was to follow.
It also must be noted how this film laid the foundation for Marvel becoming one of the top media companies in the world. Capitalising on the success of the films has been a marketing masterpiece by Marvel, with not only hugely successful films to help drive home the narrative, but also a number of games and comics all of which add to the rich tapestry of the official canon. Marvel branched out to provide online themed slots and tournaments to help further drive home the imagery and characters, and reach a wider audience base, as well as endorsing a number of console titles too. Marvel’s Spider-Man is the best-selling superhero game ever, none of which would have been possible without the success of the original Iron Man.
Overall Iron Man is carried along through some of the slower moments by Downey Jr’s witty ad-libbing and charisma. He is muddled and yet strangely focused, predictable, and spontaneous all at once. It is a great insight into the man behind the iron suit, exploring Stark in a way films such as Batman or Superman rarely did with Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne. Superhero films have always been about the hero and their powers, but Iron Man began to change all of that, making Stark the true hero.