The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Iron Man (2008)

| April 6, 2019

For better or worse, a generation is now growing up with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever that says about the direction of Western Civilization will be left to history depending largely on who writes it.  Avengers: Endgame brings the hammer down on this series on April 27th, so for the next few weeks I am going to take a look back at the films that have built a massive phenomenon.  Are they any good?  Let’s take a look . . .

Image result for Iron Man 2008

By the time Iron Man came out in the summer of 2008, the superhero movie was experiencing a revolution thanks largely to Christopher Nolan’s Michael Mann-style Batman movies and (arguably) the forth-coming Watchmen.  Batman Begins proved that an origin story need not be a hack-strung series of genre obligations; The Watchmen proved that superheroes could be fallible and make hard-hitting mistakes.

Iron Man has both, but it lands somewhere in the middle.  For one thing, the load here is lighter, less sour, and far more confident.  What they all have in common is that they focus on the characters  (which the X-Men movies failed to do).  Tony Stark is a billionaire with an ego the size of, well, Ego himself.  He can build state-of-the-art weaponry either in the caverns of his vast estate or in the caverns of the Middle East, but his best weapon is his mouth.  Its a laser, skewering the pomposity of selling futuristic weaponry to those who are likely to use it for nefarious purposes.  Then it’s an even better weapon when he comes to realize that mistake that he’s making.

The masterstroke here is the casting of Robert Downey, Jr. whose performance here is a comeback from some well-publicized off-screen problems.  His character, Tony Stark, is written and performance with a measure of looseness.  Downey is given the freedom to let his character be fun and light and without all the broody requirements have weigh heavily around the neck of the Dark Knight.  He’s having a ball with this role and he is a large part of the reason that it works so well, not because he’s the perfect superhero but because he’s anything but.  He gets ahead of himself, makes self-serving mistakes and then works to wriggle his way out of them.  He’s a human being under all the technology and that’s better than all the special effects in the world.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.