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So, the road to the last Avengers movie has finally begun, and the first victim... erhm, specimen is Iron Man from the distant year of 2008.
This movie was released not long after the comic book craze began with Nolan's Batman, and at the time, I was more fixated with the comics from the far East—Japanese manga, to be precise, so I didn't queue up in the cinemas. Well, if we are completely honest, I actually got a copy of this movie from a bootleg DVD vendor on summer holiday in Serra da Estrela, as well as a copy of Stephen King's The Mist. Oh man, what a beautiful summer that was.
At the time, as I said, I wasn't that big into comics—although I was a Spidey fan and an X-Men fan—and most comics really made little to no impact on my life. So I went pretty much unprepared for this first viewing. Later on, things changed, and I (de)evolved into the guy that corrects movies while in the cinema... and now the guy that tries to be funny by reviewing it years later.
The movie opens up with the first iteration of the "Marvel Studios Logo," which to be honest, adds to my nostalgia effect, as this logo has been changed at least one time in the last 10 years.
As the proper movie begins, we are thrown right into the middle of the desert where our star RDJ is riding with some US soldiers in a military convoy. There is some small banter that ends up dating the movie and setting it as a relic of the past, as one of the soldiers asks for a photo and Tony Stark (that at this point has the personality of a douchebag) warns them that "I don't want to see this on MySpace;" for those too young to catch the reference... MySpace is one of the more successful ancestors of Facebook.
From here, the story pretty much gets the proper start, as just when the aforementioned picture was being taken we see one of the convoy vans getting hit, causing some confusion and a couple of deaths. Stark barely manages to survive after a brush with a missile that literally had his name written on the side.
After almost dying from a weapon his company built, he wakes up as terrorist hostage for the terrorist cell, the Ten Rings—a terrorist organization that has the original goal of destroying world peace, but we will get to know them a bit better in the third installment of Iron Man. It's interesting to see that at this point in time the stereotypical lousy guy was an Afghan-like terrorist, as this movie predates the death of Bin Laden.
As the title shot rolls, we get thrown into the past—36 hours to be precise—where we get to know Tony's history in a bit of "convention exposure," getting to see a bit of his business and intellectual achievements, as well as a brief introduction to the movie's villain and one of Tony's allies. This allows us to get to know the real Tony Stark, the charismatic brilliant yet selfish and goal-driven prick he his, to the point he hocks up with a reporter, only moments after being accused of being a merchant of death. A fitting title—especially as we discover why he was in the desert in the first place to present and sell powerful weapons to the US military. And so, after our quick detour in the past, we come back to the point where we learned that our obnoxious lead character was kidnapped. He is now laying in a bed in a cave somewhere with wires coming out of his heart and connected to a car battery, as this was the only way for him to survive after his own missile blew him into the air.
After getting to know his captors, and being offered an unpaid internship where—with little to no access to technology—he has to create one of the missiles he had come to present to the US Army. He also happens to the realisation that this organisation is one of his biggest buyers. Instead of building said missile, he decides to upgrade the machine that was keeping him alive, creating the first version of the ARC reactor—or in other words, the glowing circle that Iron Man has. Speaking of Iron Man, this is when we finally get to meet the very first "face," or rather a visage of the armour suit. And not soon after, we get to meet the full first suit in the robust and almost immobile MARK I. Although this origin is one of the most "believable" and more reality-based, it gets outshined by over 10 years of advances in special effects, and later on the existence of magical properties and cosmic elements. But it's a down to Earth first fight where we see Tony acting revenge over his captures, yet still struggling to move and use the suit properly. As Tony escapes, we know the end of the first act of the movie. We know who Tony is and what is Iron Man, but just before he gets rescued, we can see him throw the peace sign, something he asked not to have in the picture taken at the beginning of the movie.
This is also the first seed of change within the character, as his times in captivity seem to have left a considerable mark (pun wholly intended) in his life... and well, the need to a magnetic thing-a-ma-bob near his heart to avoid getting shrapnel in his heart.
After taking a quick break from the movie to write up some of my notes, I've realised how much I've been describing the film instead of reviewing it, so without further chit chat, let me discuss the last two acts of the movie.
As soon as Tony gets to US territory, we get to see one of RDJ's unique acting quirks (OK, not so unique, other actors do this as well) where we actually get to see him gulf down food when we get to see him destroy at least two of Burger King's cheeseburgers. Now, this is what I call patriotism... oh, that and the announcement that he is going to stop making and selling weapons. Oh, and there is a guy, a particular agent Colson (Clark Gregg) that tries to talk with Tony through his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) from a certain "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistic Division"—S.H.I.E.L.D. if you will.
Of course, this creates a commotion and he ends getting sidelined by the board of his own company. This kinda creates a void in his time, that is promptly filled with him revamping the suit he wore in the desert, and most of the next half hour is the evolution of the suit. This sequence takes the form of the ever so useful montage sequence. Usually, this is reserved for training, but since he doesn't really have to train that much, let's call it a creation montage.
After his tinkering montage, Tony decides to crash a big party! Where Colson—the guy from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistic Division—tries once more to get a hold of Tony, but Stark is way too much infatuated with Miss Potts's new dress to actually hear a single word.
Speaking of gorgeous women, remember the reporter that called him a merchant of death? She is back with proof that Stark Industries is still selling weapons. She somehow appears to act a bit like his integrity because change seems to happen after they run into each other.
It actually doesn't take long for the rest of the plot to unfold. Tony confronts his business partner regarding the weapons. Not only does Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) admit he is behind it all, he also admits being responsible for the board of directors vote to push Tony away from control of the company, claiming it to be a protective move.
Now armed with a motive, a brand new shiny red and golden suit, and real-time news proving that the Ten Rings now have the latest Stark Industries tech (yes, the same exact people that kidnapped Tony now have this company tech), seems to be the perfect time for a real test drive, not only a little joy rides. SUIT UP TONY! You have some Iron Manning to do! Comparing to today's standards, the suit up sequence seems to be somewhat slower and more deliberate, giving us time to absorb a lot of details in the process.
And in what can only be described as a moment of pure coolness and unadulterated badassery, Tony takes his suit to the location of the Ten Rings and singlehandedly handles the group that held him. From here, the subtle connections between Stane and the Ten Rings begin to grow larger and... well, less subtle... to the point where Potts discovers a video that shows the kidnapping was not accidental, nor a coincidence, but a setup by Stane. This video was actually neatly stored near classified information about a similar mech suit... you know like the one the protagonist has?
From this point on, the plot is easily unrivaled. Big bad guy makes his own suit. Steals good guy heart (or mini-arc reactor). Leaves hero to die, but hero survives. Initiate badass CGI fight, the big clash of interests... money versus integrity... boom boom stadium... Tony wins. Now, I need for the third act to reveal itself, cause I just wrote this fresh from my mind. But during this process, we get a few hits regarding sequel material and a couple of Easter eggs.
But in the end, Tony OBVIOUSLY wins, exposing the big meanie that is Stane.
Stan Lee Cameo
One of the most popular Easter eggs, or series of Easter eggs, in the MCU is the Stan Lee cameo. And I intend to call up some attention to it in every review from this series. This time his cameo is actually him, portraying the late Hugh Hefner, more or less around the one hour, five minute mark.
This movie was actually better than I recall: Solid performances from the cast, including the ones that are going to be recast in the several sequels, but also for those that only got this one chance to shine. At the time, Robert Downy Jr. was my favourite performer... a distinction that still holds today.
As a stand alone movie, it's a solid one. But knowing how that story is going to evolve and grow gives an extra edge to the story.
A must see if you love... popcorn blockbusters, Marvel, science fiction, and/or comic book movies.
Nowadays, people wait long after the movie has ended so they can catch a glimpse of a preview, but when this movie was released it wasn't so. And to be honest, I didn't even know that Iron Man had a post credit scene and as short as it is... it packs a big punch. To put it bluntly, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) talks about the Avenger initiative!