2008. A very different time. A time where movie tickets were much cheaper than what they were now, YouTube was still very young and there weren't multiple spoiler trailers before actually seeing the movie.
It was also the advent of Marvel Studios wanting to tell the stories of their characters and wanting to capitalise on the popularity of Superhero movie franchises since the success of the X-Men, Batman & Spider-Man series, respectively, had reaped the rewards from the Box Office. (although, I'm still iffy on Spider-Man 3. Especially that "Spider-swagger" scene....eugh!)
Before the 1st Cinematic release of Iron Man, the character was pretty much a B-List superhero that was not held in the same regard as that of Spider-Man, Batman or Superman.
What I think made this movie work so well is the charismatic performance of Robert Downey Jnr as the titular character and his alter-ego, Tony Stark. A Billionaire weapons industrialist. It should be noted that RDJ had overcome a lot in the years leading up to the debut MCU movie when he got himself clean and sober from his drug addiction, in which, there's a scene in which he's eating a Cheeseburger from Burger King, and it was a burger that made him quit drugs because he came to the realisation that if he couldn't enjoy a burger whilst under the influence then what was the point.
Downey is what I like to think of as a man that has achieved redemption when no one would hire him for any movie after being black-listed until Mel Gibson hired for the singing detective, which then opened the doors for him to be accepted for more work to when he was cast as Iron Man. He had said that he had always wanted to do a Marvel movie after being impressed with movies like Spider-Man and wanted to do it whilst he was still able to as he was 42 years young at the time of doing the first movie.
It is often said, that there's a blurred line between the actor and the character. I think that is thought because Robert gives such an honest charismatic performance that's almost like he's just being himself on set.
Because Charisma is not something you can teach. You can nurture it. But you're either born with it or you're not. And Downey was certainly born with it. He carries himself as Stark with a lot of charm. There are times where the character raises an eyebrow, but he does it in such a way where it's charming that you don't mind it.
Visually, I think the film makers made the movie at the right time because visual effects had advanced more than enough to make a convincing Iron Man movie that would not be perceived as looking fake. Industrial Light & Magic were chosen well to do the majority of the Visual effects. And given their resume of doing visual effects well from Terminator 2 to the Jurassic Park Trilogy, you knew you were going to get your money's worth and then some.
Also, there's this misconception that CG is classed as a special effect. First off, a special effect is something that is done practically on-set. Whether it be a miniature or an explosion.
A VISUAL EFFECT is something that is done in Post-Production where the CG characters/Vehicles/Creatures are added into the movie. So if you look at Jurassic Park for example; the final battle between the T-Rex and the Velocirpators is an example of Post-Production Visual Effects due to the fact they were full-motion dinosaurs that practical animatronics would not be able to perform due to the unrestricted movement they would be using, whereas an animatronic would be set up on a rig being controlled off-set by remote control. That said; there is an advantage with a practical animatronic as the actor's performance would be more reactive and genuine as they're reacting to what's in front of them as opposed to using their imagination to something that's not even there. There are pros and cons to both sides. But they both balance out in regards to what you're looking for from the performance of the movie.
Same thing with Green Screen work. This much I know from doing my own work for various videos for movie reviews and other Vlogs.
There had been plans to make the movie back in the 1990s at 20th Century Fox that would have seen Tom Cruise as Iron Man. Hey, I got love for Tom Cruise. Fantastic, gifted, charismatic actor. But he's not Tony Stark.
There are only certain people that are made for the roles that they were cast in.
Johnny Depp was born to play Captain Jack Sparrow because his performance was so natural, Steve Austin was the best man to bring the character of Stone Cold Steve Austin to life. David Hasselhoff was Thee man to be Michael Knight, Michael J.Fox is the only who can play Marty McFly and Robert Downey Jnr was the only man that could do justice to the role of Iron Man in a live action setting - he was born to be Iron Man.
The supporting cast are impressive to this introduction to the MCU. Gwyneth Paltrow is the best Pepper Potts with her reserved, no nonsense attitude towards Tony. Her and RDJ have decent chemistry and you can feel tension between them as if they were a real couple.
Jeff "The Dude" Bridges was charming to watch as Obadiah Stane, aka The Iron Monger. He is one of the few actors that can have you rooting for him to begin with and then wanting to see him taken down when you see the heel-turn from him. And for him, it's a hard heel-turn (I use wrestling terminology as it's pretty self-explanatory) and just goes full-on sadistic in wanting to have Stark's technology as he's so impressed by the Iron Man suit believing that it should be used as a weapon rather than an instrument of peace.
However....the way that Iron Monger aspect was written was fundamentally weak as it suffers from Spider-Man 3 syndrome as the confrontation between Iron Man & Iron Monger is just shoe-horned in at the last 15-20 minutes which really cheapens the pay-off at the end of the movie.
Now, you could argue that most of the movie was spent establishing Tony as Iron Man so that we could come to know the character and see how he learns to handle his new suit and not have it feel rushed nor contrived. I get that.
But....at the same time it didn't leave much room for Iron Monger to grow in as a villain. Because one the reveal of said heel was unveiled he was only there for a coffee break. And that's something I believe Studios should learn from. If you have a throwaway villain like that, it kinda cheapens the victory for the hero and it just leaves the heel as being forgettable.
Terence Howard, I'm just going to come out with this....Don Cheadle's the better Rhodey. Terence was ok. But compared to the Cheadle (or Ice Tray if you saw him from Fresh Prince) Terence just didn't have the same presence nor charisma as Don. Cheadle made the character extreme likeable and charming. That and hearing that he wanted twice as much as RDJ for the sequel didn't help matters for him.
Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S. brings a lot of amusing moments to the movie as Stark's AI Butler and the on-board AI in Stark's tech-suit. I like to think of JARVIS if KITT from Knight Rider was in a suit. Although that said a scene involving those two would be intriguing in the future. Hey, Hollywood? There's an idea for you free-of-charge from me - an Iron Man/Knight Rider crossover.
The other good aspect. The audience feels like they are on the journey with Tony as he becomes Iron Man, with evolving and improving his suit's design and capabilities when he's looking at the flaws from the metallic Mark 2 design before applying said improvements to the iconic hot-red and gold Mark 3 design.
It should be noted that Marvel put all their eggs in the basket when making this movie because if it failed, so would they. But the risk paid off and the movie raked in $585.2 million on a budget of $140 million. This then paved the way for a reboot of the Incredible Hulk after the somewhat lukewarm reception the 2003 Ang Lee was greeted with. And then a sequel to Iron Man followed in 2010, closely followed by origin stories for Captain America & Thor which then lead into the first Avengers movie in 2012.
And in the 6 years succeeding that, we had a 3rd Iron Man, which I honestly believe to be the weakest of the trilogy. It didn't have the same pacing nor charm of the original. 2 more Thor movies, 2 Captain America sequels and 2 Guardians of the Galaxy flicks, which I was surprised at how good they were, especially Vol.2 and 2 more Avenger sequels.
And all of this....began with Iron Man. And that is why, it is still my favourite MCU movie. It was a risk-taker, it wanted to break new ground and it had the right leading man, the best director and a soundtrack to match.
Happy 10th Anniversary to the first Iron Man. Here's to another 10 years.....and hopefully Iron Man 4.
Good night, from the Knight.
My movie review series
Thunderbirds Are Go | Up from the Depths Part 2 Review