Property Review: Iron Man

The first com­ing of Tony Stark is one of the best MCU ori­gin stories

Iron Man
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

Act­ing: 8.5

Story: 8

Total: 24.5/30 or 8


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.

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