By: Samar Khan
Quick show of hands: who here is excited for Captain America: Civil War? If you don’t put your hand up, you’re lying or just abhor having fun. I’m kidding! In all seriousness, Marvel has crafted a uniquely fun live-action Cinematic Universe of its major properties that it has the rights to (no, Fantastic Four and the X-Men films belong to Fox, not Marvel) and it will culminate in what promises to be a real barnburner in Civil War (not to mention the still-to-come Avengers: Infinity War films on the docket). We are reviewing the films that make up this Marvel Cinematic Universe and first up is the film that laid the foundation for Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers films; ladies and gentlemen, this is our review of Iron Man.
Iron Man, as is the norm for almost every single superhero franchise that comes out nowadays, was an origin film. Following a few years after the highly acclaimed Batman Begins and focusing on a character even most Marvel die-hards would not have considered A or B tier at the time, Iron Man had low expectations. Its story was predicated on the owner of a technology company, Stark Industries, who happens to be in the volatile Afghanistan/Pakistan region when he is attacked. Cue teaming with another abducted scientist, Yinsen (Shaun Toub) and it leads to Tony Stark developing an Iron Man outfit and an electromagnet to power his heart (this is key). They develop an arc reactor to power Stark’s electromagnet in his chest and then have the Ten Rings, led by Raza (Faran Tahir). Stark wins, heads back to civilization, teams up with his good army buddy Rhodey (Terrence Howard) and budding love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). While the majority of the supporting cast was commendable with no standout performances amongst them, it isn’t until Jeff Bridges, as Obadiah Stane, shows up that the film rises again. Bridges is a decorated actor for a reason and his performance as the villainous Stane, resentful of Stark diverting from his father’s path, provides a nice foil to Stark as the corporate evil “bad guy” (it sounds cheesy but was anything but in execution). Stane turns out to be working with the Ten Rings, eventually manages to steal Stark’s Iron Man suit and the two have a climactic face-off at the end. Then, in a fascinating decision (especially for those used to superheroes always masking their identities), Stark reveals his true identity to the world and the film ends. OOH, don’t forget the post-credits scene, a Marvel film staple now that sets the groundwork for the other Avengers films. All in all, the film takes a predictable story and makes it FUN, a testament to the charisma of Downey Jr. and the talent behind the camera.
You know a film is excellent when its star, playing the titular superhero, rockets to superstardom at levels that most wish they attain. Robert Downey Jr. is said superstar, a man that went from being a criminally underrated and troubled actor to arguably the most popular blockbuster star in cinema today. How did he do it? He brought his natural charisma to his role of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, and he brought it in spades. It’s not a stretch to say that if this film had someone else playing in the lead role, it would have lacked the magic Downey Jr. brought to it. Seriously, they began to model the character in the comic books even closer to Downey Jr. after the success of this film and the rest of the Cinematic Universe. Think about the magnitude of that statement.
His supporting cast differs in its level of competence, with Paltrow and Howard not exactly delivering award-worthy performances. The aforementioned Bridges, however, is the real standout of the supporting cast and it is a real shame that he wasn’t in any more Marvel films afterwards, as his presence alone lent a certain credence to the character of Stane that the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s villains have lacked. It’s a shame that the rest of the supporting cast and their attached stories were weak relative to the performances of Downey Jr. and Bridges, as it highlighted a writing discrepancy wherein certain characters clearly were just there for the sake of being there.
Directing was stellar, with Jon Favreau (director of new release The Jungle Book, for which we should have a review shortly). He cameos as well, in a role as a chauffer named Happy and is a joy when on-screen, with a natural rapport with Downey Jr. that shows on screen. His (and Marvel’s) decision to keep the film lighthearted in tone and visually was a wise decision, as it provided audiences with a nice contrast to the brilliant yet drearily bleak nature of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films at the time. Said tone carried over to the rest of the Cinematic Universe and allowed for the series to be supernatural in nature and just appeal to all audiences. Added bonus: it allowed for Tom Hiddleston to deliver easily the most entertaining villain in the Marvel stable today, as Loki in Thor and the Avengers film. That alone is worthy of raising the grade of Iron Man by a notch. The soundtrack was decidedly excellent but won’t wow you the way Hans Zimmer did with his majestic score for the Dark Knight films. The soundtrack just complemented the tone of the film and Downey Jr’s character perfectly.
So, Captain America: Civil War comes out in a matter of weeks. What do you, our readers, do? Do you watch the films or just read our reviews to get caught up? Well, I’m here to solve that issue for you. You read our review FIRST, as we shall let you know (with the briefest of plot synopses, we promise) whether the film is worth watching. Then, you watch said film. Voila.
We here at The Film Lawyers have decided to grace the excellent original Iron Man man film with a grade of B+ (7.8/10).