The Road to The Avengers – Iron Man (2008)

Luke Owen takes the first step on the road to The Avengers, revisiting Iron Man…

Iron Man, 2008.

Directed by Jon Favreau.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Clark Gregg, John Favreau and Paul Bettany.


After building an armored suit to escape capture by a terrorist group, billionaire industrial Tony Stark decides to fight against evil as the invincible Iron Man.

Our first step towards The Avengers brings us to the man in the iron mask (not that one).

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been the biggest fan of Iron Man as a character. While he has had a lot of great comic book arcs, he always felt like he was missing something. My other concern was that the trailer for the movie made it look like a very standard comic book action adventure affair that we’d seen a million times over. But my skepticism was incorrect.

Iron Man tells the story of billionaire weapons developer Tony Stark who, while in Afghanistan testing some new weapons, is captured by terrorists. Unfortunately for Tony, the explosion he was caught in means that he now has to have his heart hooked up to a car battery in order to stay alive. In his prison, he develops a reactor that he can place in his heart to keep him off the car battery when he is supposed to be working on a weapon for his captors. With the help of his cell mate Dr. Yinsen, he creates a mechanical exoskeleton complete with flame throwers so he can escape. Back in America, he refines the armour and his arc heart reactor to be become the technologically advanced superhero – Iron Man.

Iron Man is a really, really great comic book movie. But not just that, it’s also a really great movie. The script is very tight, the acting is superb and the characters are incredibly well rounded. And I think that is the key – the characters. They are so likeable, well written and well performed that it really takes the movie a level above your average comic book film. When you look at comic book movies that had come before it, the majority of them had been focused on the action set-pieces and flash effects to move the film along. Iron Man is a more character-driven film. I can count on one hand the amount of action scenes and there is only one scene of Iron Man ‘fighting crime’ in the suit. The rest of the time we are treated to fabulous dialogue sequences with great characters.

While the script is excellent, the acting is superb and brings it all to life. Robert Downey Jr. is at his absolute best. I remember seeing the Internet react badly to the announcement of his casting but he shut every single one of his critics up with a performance that shines. The real surprise however is Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. She has never looked so good and well cast in a film in her entire career. While Terrance Howard and Jeff Bridges also put in good performances as Rhodey and Obadiah Stane respectively, the true stars are Downey Jr. and Paltrow. What makes their relationship work however is the improvisation of their dialogue. Favreau gave the pair a lot of free reign in the scenes and it really helps build their relationship into something so believable.

If the film does have a problem, it would be Iron Man’s antagonist. If there is one thing Iron Man isn’t known for, it’s a large selection of decent villains. Outside of The Mandarin, Iron Man has a really lacklustre enemy pool. The decision to use Iron Monger was a wise move given the type of hero Iron Man is, but he wasn’t a good enough villain to carry an entire movie.

Iron Man was a great place to start on the road to The Avengers. He was the perfect choice of character to introduce to an audience to this new Marvel Studios and everyone involved pulled out an A* flick.

It was also the movie that started a trend that would carry over the rest of our Avengers steps – the post credit sequence. When I was buying my ticket, the girl serving me told me specifically to stay until after the credits because it would be worth it. As soon as I saw Samuel L. Jackson walk on set I gasped because I knew he was Nick Fury and I knew what he was there for. He wanted to talk to Tony about The Avengers Initiative. The comic book nerd inside me exploded with glee because I knew we were in for an amazing ride – and we were only just beginning.

Tomorrow: The Incredible Hulk

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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