Iron Man was the first movie to kick off Phase I of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You might not remember that, when Iron Man debuted, anyone who didn’t read comic books was like, Iron Man? Who’s that? Now, of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know Iron Man, and that Robert Downey, Jr. plays him. Even though it was the first film on the Marvel movie timeline, Iron Man brought in $318 million.
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Iron Man is an origin story. Tony Stark is living large on the profits from the sales of the weapons that Stark Industries manufactures. In the Middle East, he’s in a ride-along that goes bad and winds up a captive of a terrorist organization. Guess whose weapons they’re using? Yep, Stark Industries. The terrorists want Stark to make weapons for them. Meanwhile, Tony, and his roommate, realize he’s got shrapnel that’s headed toward his heart. With the parts and tools they’re given, they come up with the arc reactor, and a very primitive Iron Man suit.
Iron Man is a really, really good movie.
Its grounded style and character-driven story is a far cry from the slick action of Iron Man 3. While both movies work well, Iron Man shows Tony’s evolution from a playboy to a hero in a realistic and touching way. Iron Man put critics on notice that Marvel wasn’t making shlocky superhero movies anymore. They had a new formula, and it worked. Iron Man was a critical success, earning 94% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes.
Iron Man is also an unusual superhero film because it explores the darker aspects of the human psyche. Tony Stark doesn’t come lightly to the decision to stop being an arms dealer. His actions are a result of some serious soul-searching, and, well, imprisonment.
Iron Man is also different from other Marvel movies because its brutality is scarily realistic. Tony isn’t fighting aliens or a guy with whips that came from some sci fi fantasy. He’s up against terrorists who show no mercy. Director Jon Favreau didn’t hold back on the realism. You know exactly what kind of movie it’s going to be in just the first few bloody frames.
That realistic violence makes Iron Man that much scarier, that much more tense. Even Captain America: The First Avenger, which is set in the 1940s, long before Iron Man flew the skies, doesn’t have the sense of realism that Iron Man does.
Plus, RDJ isn’t the only actor chewing up the scenery. Jeff Bridges is terrifyingly menacing. He has an amazing talent for being able to play a cuddly teddy bear one minute, and a frightening monster the next.
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