How many of you folks are excited for the next run of Avengers films? With Thor: The Dark World coming up in just over a month, I thought it would be fun to review all the Avengers films here on the blog in chronological order. First up, 2008’s Iron Man.
Let me begin by saying this: aside from Batman and Christopher Reeve’s Superman, I am 100% a Marvel girl. I’ve had a longstanding love affair with comic books (going on 22 years), and the majority of them are Marvel. Much of this is likely due to my love of the early-mid 90s X-Men and Spider-man series that ran on Fox Kids Saturday mornings. Somehow or another, the mid 90s Iron Man series eluded my radar. In fact, the only Iron Man comic I own is an alternate universe issue and the first page details Tony Stark waxing philosophical about the proper way to snap a man’s neck. Needless to say, 10 year old me was slightly traumatized by that first page and I’m not sure that I bothered to read the rest. After that, I stuck to older back issues of my favorite heroes. They were a little tamer on the violence and just a little brighter than the comics of the mid 90s.
I say all that to say this–my familiarity with Iron Man of the comics is small. Outside his appearance in the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars series (1984), I’ve never picked up another Iron Man book. Keeping all that in mind, I wasn’t really all that jazzed about seeing Iron Man in the theaters. Don’t get me wrong, I would see it in the theater, but probably not opening weekend. As it happened, the movie came out about the time of one of my best friend’s birthdays. This friend of mine is all about some Iron Man. We went out to see the movie to celebrate. At the beginning of the movie, I found myself unable to stomach Tony Stark’s arrogance, but he grew on me by the end of the film. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself cheering for Stark by the film’s end and even liking him. This happy surprise along with Samuel L. Jackson’s interesting new glimpse into Nick Fury made for one of the best movie surprised I’d had in quite a long time.
I don’t know that I’d watched Iron Man more than once since then, so I picked it up from the public library to see if it still held up. I was pleasantly surprised all over again and here are a few reasons why.
- I have a fairly high standard for my superhero movies. I love superheroes and I love the potential they have to create three-dimensional stories on the big screen. Just because superheroes tend to be brightly colored and star in comic books does not mean they are devoid of literary value. (I had a serious debate w/ a classmate over this in college, so don’t get me started). What impressed me about Iron Man is the writer’s ability to tell Tony Stark’s story and make him more than just, for lack of a better word, cartoonish. Is he a bit egotistical? Sure, but so is the Stark of the comics. They take him from a simple egomaniac only out for a good time and turn him into a likable guy who learns how to care about some one other than himself. This plot happens in a lot of movies, but I think it’s made a little more interesting by the addition of a crazy weaponized suit or two.
- Robert Downey, Jr. I’m not sure that I’d ever seen a movie of his prior to Iron Man, but as soon as I saw a photo of him, I thought, “Well, at least he looks the part.” His ability to pull off the snark and be funny, not obnoxious is probably his greatest achievement with the character. RDJ does a great job establishing himself as Tony Stark. In fact, his Sherlock Holmes is so similar, I wouldn’t be surprised if his own personality was similar in real life. Aside from RDJ, I really dig the entire cast. Gwyneth Paltrow is an excellent Pepper, and I love Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger. He’s fantastic at rough and tumble characters, be they good or bad (think Rooster Cogburn in 2010’s True Grit). His voice adds a sinister growl to the character, making him a fantastic villain. I would have liked to have seen a little more Rhodey, and although many folks prefer Don Cheadle, I thought Terrance Howard gave a great performance.
- The story. As I mentioned before, my Iron Man knowledge is fairly limited, so I can’t comment on accuracy/continuity with the comic. What I can comment on is the excellence of the writer’s ability to tell a cohesive story that is easy to follow for both comic book fans and comic book newcomers alike. Origin stories are interesting to most audiences because they level the playing field; they put everyone on the same page. I think this is why this movie had a little greater success than the two sequels, among other reasons. The plot is great, added to a great cast, you’ve got a quality film.
- The Avengers Connection. This is over first insight into the Avengers film that would come along 4 years later. I did own a S.H.I.E.L.D. comic growing up, and being a big fan of many of the early/mid 90s Marvel cartoons (as well as some of the newer ones), was no stranger to Nick Fury. What I was not expecting was to see Samuel L. Jackson. Please don’t misunderstand–I’m not one of those southern white folks who gets all uppity about a person of color playing a role traditionally held by a white person. In fact, I think it’s much more interesting when it happens (I think speciffically about The Rock in the remake of Walking Tall and Angel Coulby as Gwen in the BBC’s Merlin series). Samuel L. Jackson has the sass and confident demeanor to play Nick Fury well. I like him very much as Fury, and his invitation to a larger overarching story made me that much more compelled to see the rest of the films.
Overall, Iron Man is a great start for the best string of superhero films to come along from Marvel. As much as I love the X-Men and their films, I think the Avengers series of films, by focusing a film on each hero, has the opportunity for greater depth and character development. For this first film, Iron Man gets 4/5 stars from me.