Iron Man (Avengers Countdown)

April 20, 2012

Iron Man (2008) – Review reworked and reposted.

“You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out? – I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.”

I know what you’re thinking, Audience, “everyone has seen Iron Man! What can Isaac possibly say that I haven’t heard already?” – Trust me, I’ve got this.

Tony Stark saves the Cat

Until last night, I had never seen the first two minutes of Iron Man, and it totally changed my perspective on the entire film. “So what”, you ask, “nothing happens, they just crack some jokes on a Humvee ride.” – But oh, its incredibly important. You see, this is Tony Stark’s initial “Save the Cat” moment. (“Save the Cat” is a phrase for when the main character does something endearing/heroic in the first 20 minutes so that the audience will like him.) The opening scene: the legendary Tony Stark is riding in a Humvee with three US soldiers; its quiet, awkward, and boring. Tony breaks the silence with a few jokes, and after a minute everyone is laughing, snapping pictures, and enjoying his company. Its a simple scene but it establishes Tony Stark as inherently fun and likable. Without this introduction, Tony’s character is merely an arrogant billionaire playboy with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Raising the Bar

Iron Man showed the world that superhero movies can be fun, witty, action packed, engaging, adventurous, well-written, expertly directed, fantastically acted, and most of all, pretty darn good. Superhero movies don’t have to be half-baked, poorly written, 2-hour cheese fests. Long gone are the days of “let’s cast somebody big! like, uh… Ben Affleck!” (facepalm.) Iron Man has it all, especially in the acting department. Robert Downey Jr owns Tony Stark and has great chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.

The Origin of a Icon

Jon Favreau did a fantastic job of directing Marvel’s first big movie. I wish all superhero films were executed with such exquisite attention to detail. He captured the essence of Iron Man: Tony Stark discovers a reason to live for something other than himself. He begins as a spoiled and naive playboy, the ‘quintessential capitalist’, but its not long before the billionaire is thrown into a cave (‘with scraps!’) and given an ultimatum. This is where Iron Man finds its heart; Tony Stark becomes a man of character. In a stirring montage (gotta love those montages), our hero builds the MK1 armor, pounding away with a purpose. This is more than a thrilling tale of how Tony Stark made the superpowered armor, this is the mythic essence that drives our hero onward. This is the powerful ‘origin story’, the ‘heart of the hero’ that will call audiences back to film after film of Iron Man’s legacy. Executing the ‘Origin of the Superhero’ is the most important part of the mythos, and every sequel must uncover a subsequent heart and passion to drive the Superhero on. (More on that in Iron Man 2).

Themes: Redemption, Technology, the Global Arms Race

While its spotlighted more intensely in Iron Man 2Iron Man talks quite a bit about the nuclear arms race. While this was a hotter topic during the Cold War (the era of Iron Man’s comic debut), the global arms race is far from irrelevant today. The United States is involved in a number of foreign crisis’, and Tony Stark’s situation begs the question: “what’s America’s responsibility in foreign affairs?” While Jon Favreau wisely avoids the archetypal wise-old-man repeating “with great power comes great responsibility,” he asserts that Iron Man has a duty to use his technology to not only right his own wrongs, but to protect the innocent. The ending crowns Stark with the fame of the Iron Man identity, but the technology will inevitability open a proverbial ‘Pandora’s Box” of evil potential.

At at its core, Iron Man is a story of redemption. “I shouldn’t be alive… unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.” Tony experiences a profound change of heart as his eyes are opened to his true legacy: death and destruction at the hands of Stark Industries. Everyone around Tony challenges his redemptive experience, insisting that its PTSD. They encourage him to “get back to his old self.” But this idea is abhorrent to Tony; his old life represents selfishness and death, his new life must embody selflessness and justice.

Conclusion: Shut Up, and Watch the Movie.

I could go on about the Superhero Formula (trading punches), the humour, the gorgeous visuals, the thrill of the Iron Man suit… but who am I kidding, you’ve all seen this. Here’s one time where I’ll just Shut Up and Watch The Movie.

4.5/5 Zipped Lips

One of the best superhero movies ever, setting a high standard for a new generation of comic-book films.


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