“Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”

Iron Man

I am back!  I apologize for the lengthy break, but I did get some of my own writing done (there is still a lot left to work on, very much an on-going process) and I will endeavor to balance it all, but I did want to get back to blogging.  So here we are, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I will shorten to MCU).  I am aware there are a lot of Marvel movies and shows and I have not watched them all (and there are some I quite possibly won’t watch), and there will be a bunch that won’t be covered; my plan is to tackle the films that make up the “Infinity Saga,” [so no Agents of SHEILD or Agent Carter, and I’m still trying to get around to watching Loki].  And thus, the one that started it all: Iron Man.

It stars Robert Downey Jr (who I had never watched before, and gosh, looking back at this movie from 2023 to 2008, he looks young!  After watching these movies, I’ve come to respect the actor) as Tony Stark, billionaire weapons designer.  He’s aided by his best friend, Air Force Colonel James Rhodes aka Rhodey (in this iteration, he’s played by Terrence Howard, who appeared in Red Tails); his assistant, Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow (one of the leads in Shakespeare in Love); and his driver “Happy” Hogan, played by Jon Favreau (who also directed the film, and several others in the saga).  There is also Obadiah Stane, played by veteran actor Jeff Bridges.  Shaun Toub (he was in the failed movie adaptation of The Last Airbender, but that film did not justice for the wonderful show, so that is all I will say) is Yinsen, Clark Gregg is Agent Coulson (just a minor character here).  And if one of the Ten Rings’ members looks familiar, that is Faran Tahir, who was Captain Nemo in Once Upon a Time, and Captain Robau in Star Trek [the one where Chris Hemsworth plays Jim Kirk’s father], among other television show appearances like Supernatural, NCIS: Los Angeles, and MacGyver.  Paul Bettany (he was Bryden Vos in Solo, and unforgettable as Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale.  He was also Lord Melbourne in Young Victoria and Silas in Da Vinci Code, along with playing Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander) provides the voice of JARVIS.

The film opens on a convoy in Afghanistan, AC/DC’s Back in Black setting the mood [which always makes me think of Supernatural now].  Tony Stark is bantering with the soldiers, until they come under attack.  He gets out of the Humvee when the attack intensifies and tries to make it to safety, but he’s caught in the blast of one of his own weapons.  We get a brief glimpse of a hostage video before we’re taken back thirty-six hours previous.  Tony is supposed to be accepting an award; instead, he’s in the casino.  We do get a narrated backstory to our character, but he’s more interested in sleeping with a female reporter who is asking questions about his company.  The next morning, Pepper Potts arrives to guide the woman out of the house (where JARVIS is the AI butler), while Tony is working on a project in his workshop.  She manages to get him packed off to meet Rhodey, who takes him to a weapons demonstration at an air base in Afghanistan.  Stark demonstrates his newest weapon, the Jericho missile to the attending brass, then gets in the Humvee that later is attacked, bringing us to some flashes on Tony’s surgery to save his life.

Upon waking, he meets his cellmate, Yinsen, who helps translate the terrorist group Ten Rings’ demands that Tony build them a Jericho missile.  At first he refuses, but he’s tortured into cooperating; well, saying he’ll cooperate.  He’s under no illusion that he’d be let go if he actually builds them what they want.  Yinsen was the one who saved Tony’s life, by putting an electromagnet in his chest to repel the remaining shrapnel from his heart.  The first thing Tony actually builds is a new version, based on a miniature arc reactor (not a scientist, I don’t know how any of that is actually supposed to work).  Yinsen also points out to Tony that his real legacy at the moment are his weapons and what they mean to the civilian population in the Middle East (the female reporter earlier had commented that one of Stark’s nicknames is the Merchant of Death [there is the story that Alfred Nobel was termed the Merchant of Death in an obituary that was incorrectly printed, for his creation of military explosives and he determined that was not the legacy he wished to leave, so he funded the Nobel Peace Prize]; that is most likely what that comment by the reporter was alluding to).

Tony continues his work, but he’s not building a missile.  He’s forming an escape.  Honestly, one of my favorite scenes of this film is Tony Stark working at the anvil, the strikes of the hammer matching the downbeats of the theme building in the music.  And proof that Tony knows what he is doing; he knows the techniques to build what his mind creates.  And his escape plan is a suit of armor, with some upgrades.  When it comes time to put the plan into action, Yinsen has to buy Tony some time; which just makes Tony more determined to blast all of Ten Rings into oblivion.  Yinsen ultimately dies in the attempt, but that was how he figured it would end; he’ll see his family in the afterlife.  Tony burns the weapons cache and rockets out of the compound, crashing into the desert.

He is picked up by the American Air Force and returned home.  He calls a press conference, after he gets a cheeseburger (Happy is so good to his boss), and makes the announcement that he will be closing down the weapons division of Stark Industries, until he can figure out a new path for the company.  That creates chaos and Obadiah instructs Tony to lay low.  But Stane’s mind is now whirring with the knowledge that an arc reactor is keeping young Tony alive.  So Tony lays low at his home and has Pepper help install a new arc reactor, and tells her to get rid of the old one.  He tries to tell Rhodey about his new project, but since it’s not for the military, Rhodey cautions him to just take time. 

So the tech genius tinkers in his workshop and builds another suit.  He instructs JARVIS to keep the files on a secret server, since he doesn’t know who to trust at the moment.  Tony works up to his first flight, though he discovers that the suit ices over if he climbs too high in altitude; something to fix in the next model.  While he’s designing that, and painting it red, he catches the TV showing his own benefit, that he wasn’t invited to.  So the playboy crashes the benefit (Stan Lee cameo!), wrangles a dance with Pepper, briefly meets Agent Coulson, then is questioned by the reporter again, who shows him pictures of his weapons still in the hands of terrorists in the Middle East.  Tony confronts Obadiah, who reveals that is was the older gentleman who was nudging Tony out of the company, in an effort to “protect him.”

Tony takes matters into his own hands and uses his latest suit to take out a weapons cache in the Middle East.  The Air Force picks up his flight and he faces off against two F-22 Raptors.  Rhodey wonders if his friend has anything to do with the small craft and calls Tony; Tony keeps quiet, until he’s in the 22’s sights and yells “it’s me!”  Tony in the suit crashes into one of the planes, but helps the falling pilot, then skedaddles.  Rhodey cracks “you owe me a plane.”  Obadiah pays a visit to Ten Rings.  He was the one who put a hit out on Tony, for the terrorist group to kill him.  But they’ve recovered Tony’s first suit from the desert and Obadiah has a new plan, once he kills all the members present.

Pepper is the next person to discover Tony’s new suit and he instructs her to go to his office and download information from the server.  She initially tries to quit, because she won’t stand by and let her boss get himself killed.  But Tony is determined: “There’s the next mission, and nothing else.…You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction.  Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?…I shouldn’t be alive…unless it was for a reason…I just finally know what I have to do.  And I know in my heart that it’s right.”  Pepper agrees and has to distract Obadiah from what she’s doing.  Except he knows.  So his timeline is sped up.  Pepper meets Coulson on her way out, after discovering that it was Obadiah who put the hit out on Tony.  She’ll take the agents to arrest him.  Except Obadiah stops at Tony’s house first, to take his arc reactor because no other scientist can replicate it; while Tony Stark was able to build it in a cave with a box of scraps, no one else has his genius.  So Obadiah reveals his whole plan to Tony, having briefly paralyzed him, because he figures without the arc reactor, Tony will die, and he needs the reactor to power his own suit.

Tony manages to make it to his workshop and DUM-E helps him smash open the old reactor; “Proof that Tony Stark has a heart,” Pepper displayed.  Pepper sends Rhodey to Tony, where Tony tells him to keep the skies clear.  He races to his company to save Pepper, taking on Obadiah in his Iron Monger suit.  The fight starts in the streets, where Obadiah doesn’t care what destruction he causes, but Tony knows to take the fight to the skies.  As Tony predicted, Obadiah’s suit ices up, but Tony also starts to fall back to Earth because that first reactor was not meant to sustain flight, as JARVIS warned him.  Their next face off is on the roof and Tony has Pepper overload the system to fry Obadiah.  He would have likely gotten fried too, if the blast hadn’t knocked him out of the way.

So Tony has to hold another press conference to explain the events that occurred at his company (and knocked power out).  Coulson and SHIELD have come up with an alibi, but Tony goes off-script and reveals that he his Iron Man as the papers are calling him.  Cue the famous Black Sabbath song.  And the first of many post-credits scenes: Tony comes home to find Director Fury there, who warns him he is not the only superhero out there, and he wishes to discuss the Avenger Initiative.  [Robert Downey Jr. had ad-libbed the “I am Iron Man,” line at the end, but producer Kevin Feige approved it, going with the concept that MCU will do away with secret identities for the most part.]

This was not a film that I watched when it initially came out, because I’m not a comic book person.  I rented it at one point and enjoyed it.  And I still like it, even with all the other movies that have come out after it.  It’s a simpler film; made when it just had to be a superhero film with action, a bit of backstory, a hint of a love story.  It didn’t have to fit into a web of plot lines and how will it match up, etcetera, etcetera; though it was well planned and does fit in with the arching stories.  It’s a fairly happy film (because SPOILER, later films are not), and I like seeing a character have a change in heart.

Up Next: The Incredible Hulk [I’m aware there is technically more than one, but the MCU one is from 2008 with Edward Norton; there is one from 2003 with Eric Bana, but it’s not part of Marvel’s continuity]

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