A common consensus is that superhero movies are just recently becoming a thing, the truth is they have been around for well over 50 years and successful. Sure the road to get where they are now has been deeply troubled with studios going all in on franchises only to find out after a few years the reception to the sequels had died off. DC’s Superman started the trend and was followed by Batman, then finally a Marvel had its first run at things with Blade and then X-Men a few years later. The X-Men franchise has carried on the longest even though they have suffered heavy criticism on most of their movies.
Things changed in 2002 when Sony released Spider-Man. It was the first movie to gross over $100 million in its opening weekend and finished first domestically for the year and third worldwide (behind other nerd related movies Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As everyone knows, that series has had trouble finding consistent footing. A few years later DC hit back with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, it was critically well received and its sequel The Dark Knight is one of the most well regarded movies let alone comic book movie.
A few months before Batman Begins, there was a movie that blew away expectations on all accounts and would change the way movies were made. A recovering actor famous for his substance abuse past landed the role of a B-grade superhero in a film directed by an up and coming comedy director. Regardless, Iron Man was the start of something bigger … a shared universe.
I would give it 8 “plot devices that fell by the wayside” out of 10.
FOR THE UNITITATED
Tony Stark (RDJ) is a genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist who runs Stark Enterprises – the world leader in weapons manufacturing. After showing off the newest weapon for some military leaders, his convoy is attacked by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings. Kept in a cave and forced to build a weapon, he secretly builds a power source that will help keep shrapnel from the initial attack from killing him and also power a mechanical suit created to aid in his escape. After being rescued and getting back to his life, Stark announces his company will no longer manufacture weapons. He fine tunes the power source and suit before taking revenge on his captors. Eventually he finds out his partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) arranged for the convoy ambush and his death. It comes down to Tony vs Obadiah in a battle of the suits, which has Tony being defeated and saved by Pepper … something that may or may not happen again further down the road.
Far and away the best thing to come out of Iron Man is casting Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. There is method acting that people like Daniel Day Lewis are known forel, but then there are roles people are born to play. He joins the ranks of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones / Han Solo, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Keanu Reeves as Neo, and Heath Ledger as the Joker. His snarkiness and overpowering confidence is just as much what people want to see as the Iron Man suit.
The second best thing is the end credit scene introducing Nick Fury who invites him to join the Avenger Initiative. Sure after credit scenes have been around well before Iron Man, but now they are expected and almost as highly anticipated as the main feature.
The number of dropped plot points are probably my biggest complaint. Raza (leader of the Ten Rings) is not killed and has yet to appear again. The Ten Rings should have also lead to the Mandarin who is one of Iron Man’s biggest antagonists in the comics … instead we got a farce / dead end in Iron Man 3. There is a lot of tech that we never get to see again, such as the paralyzing device or the Iron Monger. Engineers who couldn’t replicate the arc reactor still managed to create a bigger, stronger suit based off the MK 1 whereas no one else could create a strong contender.
Iron Man was a great example of Marvel Studios using what they had available to create something bigger. No longer would studios go all in with one hero, since now everyone wants to have a cinematic universe. Slowly all of the cinematic rights Marvel sold off years are reverting back to Disney with all eyes on Sony and Spider-Man to see whether the most recent agreement will bring him back into the fold. Surely almost everyone has seen Iron Man, if not … seriously? Go watch it already!
My recommendation would be one of the most forgotten Marvel Cinematic Universe movies: The Incredible Hulk. Before Mark Ruffalo assumed the mantle of Hulk, Edward Norton had a shot at it. It wasn’t well received critically or financially, but it did have two big positives: the fights with Emil Blonsky / The Abomination and the end credit scene that we had to wait 7 years for a payoff. It should have spawned a sequel or somthing along those lines, but due to the distribution rights we have yet to see another Hulk movie. If you haven’t seen The Incredible Hulk, you should definitely check it out.