It’s hard to imagine that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) is only twelve years old and yet it feels like it’s been a part of me throughout my life. Maybe it’s because they have twenty-three films to its catalog, and more are being produced as of this moment. That said, every great series or franchise has always had a humble beginning and today I am going to talk about the film that started the MCU, which is Iron Man (2008). When this film was first released, I had no idea that this was going to kick off something great, but in retrospect I’m glad I was fortunate enough to experience this critically acclaimed film in theaters. Before I go any further though, allow me to reintroduce you to the plot of this film because some of you have probably forgotten about it. After all, it has been twelve years.
In Iron Man, the very first film in the MCU, we follow Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a genius billionaire who’s the head of Stark Industries that manufacturers robotics and weapons for the government. He’s living the best life he could imagine, but what he doesn’t know is that his life’s work will almost bring an end to him, literally. I’ll elaborate. After presenting a weapons demonstration to the U.S. military, he is ambushed during a convoy with weapons that he manufactured, which nearly kills him. His attackers, a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings, then kidnap him, bring him back to their hideout, and save his life. The reason they saved him was so that he can fulfill their needs of making the weapon he previously demonstrated. After discovering that his legacy was in the hands of a group of people with the intent to harm others, Tony decides to do something about it. He “agrees” to help his captors and requests supplies in order to make the weapon, but what they don’t know is that Tony has other plans in mind. Using the tools supplied to him, he starts making a suit of armor with weapon enhancements. When he completes his secret weapon, he then successfully escapes the terrorists and is soon reunited with the U.S. military. Afterwards, he starts processing his past actions and from there he decides to cease his weapons facility and vows to protect people from here on out.
I would be lying if I said that Iron Man was in my top five films in the MCU (it’s most likely in bottom half of my top ten) given the fact that there have been so many films that Marvel has produced. One thing that I can say, however, is that after twelve years it still holds up to being one of the greatest superhero origin films from the development of characters to the setup of films proceeding it.
I’ve seen Iron Man a good number of times since its release, and it definitely has a lot of re-watchable moments. But one thing that I always admire is the character development of Tony Stark. When we first meet Tony he’s depicted as a unlikable character with little value as a person. Sure, some people love him because of his wealth and talent, but other than that he’s not somebody that I want to be around. It’s not until he has a near death experience where he learns to value life. Of course, this may be a trope used plenty of times in other films, but here it is particularly effective. Because Tony now has a deeper appreciation of life, he starts using his gift of intelligence and resources to craft his new Iron Man suit. This transformation of a character makes us sympathetic towards him, compared to his earlier actions, while also making us marvel (no pun intended) at his Iron Man suit during those action moments. While the film doesn’t do it total 180 on his character, it’s always refreshing a character go through a transformation.
Normally during this part of my review I would list any flaws that I would have had to endure when I was watching Iron Man. If I have to be honest though, I can’t think of any real major criticisms for this film. I could nitpick the film for not giving other characters in the film more screen time, but overall this is this film is about Tony Stark and his road to redemption as a decent human being.
Overall, Iron Man is the definition of a fun Summer blockbuster with fantastic character development that’s surrounded by stellar action scenes and quirky dialogue. I can re-watch it over and over again. While it’s unfortunate that the two sequels don’t live up to potential as this one did, I take comfort knowing that the MCU started off with a bang and introduced a hero that we grew to love. When you get the chance, I recommend re-watching this on Disney + just to see for yourself how it has changed since the beginning.