Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
This review contains spoilers for Iron Man, and pretty much anything related to the MCU. If you haven't seen Iron Man or any MCU movie for that matter, yet you want to watch them at some point -- and have somehow not been spoiled yet (I mean, c'mon, it's one of the biggest franchises ever. If you haven't seen it yet, I'd say it's your loss) -- then I would not suggest reading this. If you have seen it -- or just don't care about spoilers -- then please enjoy.
The Film That Started it All
Iron Man: the film that kicked off the MCU as we know it. No one who saw this movie back in 2008 knew where the character of Iron Man would be today (especially not dead... sorry, too soon?); no one knew where the universe that Iron Man was a part of would be today. It's now over ten years later and Tony Stark is one of the most widely known figures in all of pop culture. Much of the MCU is centered around Tony (and sadly around many of the mistakes that he made). Without Jon Favreau's Iron Man, the MCU -- if it would have even come into existence -- would not be like it is today. However, not only did Iron Man kick-off an intertwined movie universe -- the likes of which had never been seen before -- but it is also a damn good movie.
What can I say about Tony Stark? I love the character that Marvel has built up over the years, starting with this movie. While yes, he does appear as massive a-hole at times, he also learns from his dickish ways (kinda) to become a better person. Tony IS a good man. He's just super cocky. Much of his arch is based around proving Cap wrong -- Tony Stark CAN make the sacrifice play. He does it on multiple occasions. While he is cocky, he cares about the world and will do whatever he can to save it.
But I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's focus on Tony in this film: a man who very much needs to learn how to be less of a cocky genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist. In all reality, Tony never really pushes that piece of his character away completely. He does get better, though, and that's what matters -- and it all starts when he first realizes his weapons are hurting innocent people. That is the first major change we see in Tony... but he doesn't get completely better. What I love so much about this movie is the fact that they don't try and make Tony look like the best man that ever lived. They still emphasize that he wants his weapons to himself and only himself -- that Tony wants the fame he will get from telling the world that he is indeed Iron Man. But that's what makes Tony so great: he's flawed. Insanely flawed. Yet so likable, because even if he is flawed, he is still able to prove to people that he has a heart.
As I said in my review for Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel movies -- actually, origin stories in general -- tend to have a certain set path. A piece of that path is the villain, who usually possesses the same powers and abilities as the hero. This film is no exception to that, but I don't entirely hate it. We get to see enough of Obadiah Stane -- who, with Jeff Bridges' amazing acting, is super menacing -- outside of the suit to see how much of a danger he is. He is pretty smart. Not Tony-smart, but smart nonetheless. He is able to get the upper hand on Tony before we even see the final suit that he built. He is a force to be reckoned with.
The final battle is... not AS great as I remember. For starters, it isn't that long, which in a way actually makes sense, because Iron Man isn't known to really be the fist-fighting type. It also appears semi-forced -- like they needed Iron Man to fight something other than the brains of Obadiah and a terrorist group. However, I still find the fight entertaining, even if Stane's dialogue and altered voice does come off as a bit... comical, at times.
I know I mentioned how Stane kind of came off as comical towards the end of the film... but if I'm gonna be honest, this is definitely one of the least comic book-feeling movies of the MCU, right there behind Winter Soldier. I can tell that the writers and director worked hard to make this film seem realistic -- seem like this is something that could happen in real life. For a film that kicked off a universe full of aliens, gods, wizards, and superhumans, it definitely feels grounded (in a good way).
I've always praised Marvel for being able to mix serious tones with comedy, and this film is no exception. I actually appreciate the seriousness. It made Stane look even more menacing and it made Tony look even more human.
I think the Ten Rings are a menacing group, and I'm glad we will see more of them in the upcoming Shang-Chi.
I will forever say this: I prefer Don Cheadle over Terrence Howard. I don't hate Terrance Howard's performance... I just couldn't see him doing what Don Cheadle did.
The opening scene and the cave scene are the two best scenes of the film (in my opinion). They show off Tony's brains and his humanity. They also give way to some awesome action.
Other pros: I like Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper. I love how they decided to end the film with "I am Iron Man." I love the post-credits scene that sets up the rest of the MCU as we know it. Heck, I even love watching Tony work in his shop.
I love this movie. I love Tony Stark. I love the MCU, and it all began here. While I do think that the final battle is a bit comical at times, and while I kept imagining Don Cheadle in Terrence Howard's place for the entirety of the film, I do think that this film is still one of Marvel's best. While I am a huge comic book movie fan (some would even call me bias towards them, but I will neither confirm nor deny that), I do think that the non-comic book-feel that this movie holds was for the better. I praise Robert Downey, Jr. I praise Jeff Bridges. I praise Jon Favreau. I praise Iron Man.
I give Iron Man a 9.5/10.
Next up on my rewatch is Iron Man 2, a movie that definitely does not live up to Iron Man... but I will get into that in my review. Once again, I did not review Captain Marvel again because of how recent that film is. If you want to check out my original review for that movie back when it was released, check out my page. You'll also find other reviews there, as well as random articles about random movies. I really appreciate the support. Thanks for reading.
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth
Matt Brown from Pasadena on April 18, 2020:
Great analysis! I agree with you about the realism in this movie - it is impressive how the filmmakers made it seem that this scenario is plausible!