10 years of Iron Man - the Stark reality behind the importance of Marvel's first film
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Ever since Marvel Comics and CGI started their all-powerful alliance in the late 1990s, we've been given superhero movies aplenty. The Fantastic Four (1994), Spiderman (2002), Hulk (2003). So what would Iron Man (2008) have to offer that was any different?
When it was announced that Iron Man would be getting a theatrical adaptation, there was an unmissable amount of worry amongst fans of the original comics. It’s no secret that comic-book-to-film movie adaptations usually flop under the high pressures of representing the beloved characters, portraying the original story well, balancing action sequences with comedy, and most importantly, creating a connection between the film and its audience, especially when there is already an established fanbase.
Upon release in 2008, the film was met with an uproar of applause, by not only comic book fans, but also by the general movie-going public. Director Jon Favreau created an innovative first film that showcased impressive FX, authentic three-dimensional characters, an intelligent and humorous script, the rebirth of Robert Downey Jr’s career, and so much more.
Downey Jr stars as "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist" Tony Stark, a man who leads a life unburdened by the world around him, until he's taken captive and held hostage in Afghanistan by terrorists, a group using none other than his own company’s (Stark Industries) weapons.
Stark eventually escapes by creating a suit entirely made of iron, which later would become the inadvertent design for the superhero's costume. After returning home, Stark rebuilds and upgrades the suit, installing ammunition, blasters, and numerous weapons, into what we instantly recognise today as the famous red and gold Iron Man suit.
Just going off the description of Stark's character, he may not sound like a particularly likeable character, but RDJ manages to play him with a surprising amount of charm and wit, bringing humour and vulnerability to his role. RDJ's interpretation of the role is only one of the many reasons why Iron Man is such an adored and treasured character within the Marvel cinematic universe.
Stark’s lack of superpowers, (without the suit), isn’t what makes the character so relatable and responsive. Rather, it’s the visible genuineness and accountability that RDJ translates on screen, which is why he is perfectly suited for the role.
Although now cherished, it's no secret that there was initially some opposition to the casting of RDJ as Tony Stark, but honestly, it’s difficult to imagine the role being portrayed by anyone else but him. Just like the character, Downey Jr had to make changes and sacrifices within his own life to better himself, which is something that connects the two, bringing a whole new level of credibility and authenticity to his depiction of the eccentric Stark.
Alongside the performances, the seamless effects were also instrumental in making Iron Man a groundbreaking film for the superhero genre. The high-tech suit of armour itself was astonishing, not to mention the graphical Heads Up Display (HUD) presented within the suit, otherwise known as Jarvis, featuring multiple interactive screens and flawless 3D holographic simulations, again only furthering the expectations for any future films within the genre.
Marvel Studios have become recognisable for their exuberant and entertaining action spectacles, bringing the famous comics to life in an immersive and engaging way, staying accurate to the original storylines and events that fans are familiar with, whilst also exploring slightly darker and more daring themes as the films have progressed, something that is first demonstrated in Iron Man.
The first film undoubtedly sets the tone for the franchise, a perfect balance of playfulness, sincerity, positivity, and sorrow.
Even amongst recent and current staggering cinematic releases such as Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man still holds its own as the film that paved the way for the heroic genre, setting the bar and finally bringing justice, if you will, to the questionable reputation the genre had made for itself.
The release of this monumental first film unconsciously created the mold for the franchise's future projects, giving us the remarkable eighteen MCU films we have today.