Friday, September 17, 2021

Iron Man (a movie review post)

Marvel is on the verge of being the largest movie franchise ever. James Bond is still one movie ahead but, by the end of the year, they will be tied. Of course, it's taken James Bond 60-ish years to get there and Marvel only 13. Still, after watching the latest release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, my family decided it was time that we should re-visit the movies and refresh our memories as we go into this next phase of the MCU. Ironically, this decision had nothing to do with the connection between Iron Man and the Ten Rings but, rather, to do with what appears to be Marvel's foray into mysticism in this next phase. Doctor Strange seems as if he is going to be the next character to make the rounds of the Marvel movies as Iron Man did in the last phase.

Having said that, it was good timing to go back and watch Iron Man again after seeing Shang-Chi.

Iron Man is what I would call an excellent adaptation. It takes all of the basic origin of Iron Man and brings into the 21st century. It's current while also feeling like it's the same story from Tales of Suspense. Robert Downey, Jr. captures the character of Tony Stark perfectly. If you had to choose just one thing that Marvel has done really well (there are quite a few more than one, but this is one of the most important (and a thing that DC has, frankly, sucked at)), it's their casting. Not that they haven't made a few mistakes, one of them in this movie, but their casting has been nearly perfect. And Downey is perfect in this role. As he says at the end of the movie, "I am Iron Man." And he is.

Oh, yeah, spoilers. But the movie is 13 years old and, if you haven't seen it, that's on you.

I'm going to jump movies for a moment:
Shang-Chi, as the title says, is all about the legend of the Ten Rings. The movie sets out to differentiate these rings from the Ten Rings of the Mandarin in the comics. These are those rings, and they are not those rings. As I have mentioned here and there in these various reviews, Mandarin and the rings are a big deal in the Iron Man comic books.

But we had completely forgotten that the terrorist organization that kidnaps Tony at the beginning of the movie is the Ten Rings! So we're watching and they have Tony strapped to a chair to make this "ransom" video and, back behind Tony, there is a flag with the emblem of the Ten Rings! My son went nuts. We had to rewind and watch it again. There it was, right from the beginning, the Ten Rings. I had totally forgotten about that and, probably, didn't pay much attention to it to begin with anyway. But it's pretty amazing to be this far into the MCU and find that there are still connections going all the way back to the beginning. Because this is Marvel, and Marvel knows how to tell stories and how to build a universe.

I'm not much of a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, but she's good as Pepper. She and Downey have good chemistry together, and it works.

Terrence Howard is... well, I don't know what to say about Howard. He was, really, the big-name star of this movie, in the same way that Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were the big-name stars of Star Wars: A New Hope, which is strange to think of now but, at the time, no one knew who Harrison Ford was. Howard's pay for Iron Man was seven times more than Downey's. You have to remember that Downey was considered a washed up has-been. This was his comeback, and he was a risky move for Marvel. I'm not going to try to deconstruct what happened between Howard and Marvel after the success of the movie. Let's just say that Howard was no longer happy with the deal that he'd made, and he tried to force Marvel to change it... by threatening to walk. And Marvel let him walk, and, in my opinion, he was replaced by a better actor for the role of James Rhodes. But Howard was fine enough in this movie.

I had actually completely forgotten about Jeff Bridges being in this, so that was a surprise. Less of a surprise that he's in than that I had forgotten that he's in it. I love Jeff Bridges. Despite having some big successes, I feel like he mostly flies under the radar, especially for an actor of his talent. There aren't a lot of actors who can convincingly play both heroes and villains, but Bridges seem to fill the skin of whatever character he's in without bringing any of himself into the role. It was fun to be reminded of him and see him in this again.

And! And! This movie introduces Coulson.

So, yeah, the movie holds up. Completely. It may be better, now, even with the release of Shang-Chi. It gives the movie a bit more depth or reach or something. It was definitely worth revisiting.

1 comment:

  1. I think the first Iron Man was the best of the three. I remember the Ten Rings being mentioned in there, and then they never really followed up on that. Seems like maybe there was a plan once, but then they made a huge mess of The Mandarin.