Marvel Studios, 2008
The one that started them all. The metaphorical start of Robert Downey Jr.’s comic book-like redemption arc. The birthplace of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The beginning of the beginning. All of these titles are appropriate for Iron Man, the 2008 origin story of veteran Avenger Tony Stark. Another title to throw in there? Magnificent.
It’s not just the tight story telling or excellent acting chops of the main cast. It’s also seeing Stark make his turn into the Avenger we all know and love. Stark starts out super hedonistic and self-serving. Through his wounding and subsequent capture by the Ten Rings organization, little by little, you see Stark have the needed epiphany that he was, in fact, War Machine, not Iron Man. Half of its fun ride comes from this need to see him come to that realization. The other half is, of course, learning that Stark can apply his genius for good and productive ways while still being the billionaire philanthropic playboy he declares himself to be to Steve Rogers in the later Avengers film.
Where Iron Man particularly succeeds, however, is the parallel Stark shares with perfect portrayer Robert Downey Jr. What most new generation Marvel fans don’t realize is, is when Iron Man was casted, Downey Jr. was not the bankable star that he is now. The man’s past is well known to older fans and caused several — including himself — to pause.
But the single most compelling thing about Downey Jr. is his will to better himself, work every day like most others to redeem himself and grow. That indomitable will shows in every second that Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is Iron Man. He is the living embodiment of the character who struggled to redeem himself and be a team player. Downey Jr. is such perfect casting that there is no one else that could ever step into the role. He became the character.
And for all that Iron Man succeeds in doing bombastically, it quietly sets up the rest of the cinematic universe perfectly. Iron Man in its stumbling glory is what we now know as the standard for a Marvel movie. It makes Stark relatable, tells his superhero origin story and sets up future films with a deftness that reminds us that there is, in fact, a plan for all of this. Now that we’ve seen that plan unfold, we can come back and praise the beginning for all that it is. The heart and soul of the MCU lives on.
Like the comics: 8
Total: 24.5/30 or 8
HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.