TSC – Iron Man (2008)
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
We delve deep to discover hidden treasures from the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Iron Man
I remember seeing the poster for this film when I was little – my father and I were shopping and I turned to see this, as a standing cardboard sign. Little did anyone know what kind of effect this film would have on the world, but even at the time I was certainly intrigued, and wanted to watch it.
Even to this day, eleven years later, the visuals of this film still hold up against the bombastic action and exceptional CGI of the modern movie landscape, even beating out most other films in the immersion the audience feels when watching.
The film is split into 3 identifiable acts, and 17 scenes. The soundtrack was composed by Ramin Djawadi primarily using electric guitars and heavy metal themes, having been given the instruction by the film’s director, Jon Favreau, who believed Iron Man to be “more of a rock star than a traditional superhero.”
Robert Downey Jr. Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts
Jeff Bridges Obediah Stane
Terrence Howard James Rhodes
Jon Favreau Happy Hogan
Shaun Toub Ho Yinsen
The Film begins by introducing Tony Stark - the billionaire tech mogul - to the audience, sitting inside an armoured vehicle and surrounded by soldiers, comfortably chatting. This, in the character’s ‘hero’s journey’, is the “known” world, which he is accustomed to… which is almost immediately broken by the “call to adventure”, this being the terrorist attack that leaves Stark with his life-altering injury, showing him waking up in a cave, with his “mentor”, Ho Yinsen. The film continues, showing Stark’s first trial - having to bend to the demands of the terrorists, before his “first success” - building the arc reactor that will save his life. This leads the character smoothly into the creation of the titanic, solid steel Mk. I armour, which allows him to escape. However, his "revelation" comes when his friend and fellow-prisoner, Ho Yinsen, is fatally wounded by the terrorists. Stark, distraught, discovers this had always been the plan for Yinsen, whose family was dead, and heeds his friend’s last words: “Don’t waste your life”.
What follows is Stark’s return to society, which is the greatest turning point of the film, as Tony discards his old self. And, after creating a new suit of armour, the Mk. II, he accepts his new role as the ‘Iron Man’: destroying the weapons of his which had fallen into the wrong hands. Interestingly, both the replacement of his now-outdated arc reactor, and the fact that in his first test of the Mk II suit, the idea of the armour ‘icing up’ at extreme altitudes returns later, and is a fantastic example of Chekhov’s Gun, becoming relevant - nay, crucial - in the third and final act. Meanwhile, his rival - Obadiah Stane - experiences a similar, though opposite, transformation. Stane, who had been as a foster father to Tony, realises he must kill his young rival to achieve his goals. In pursuit of their goals, both characters create armour - but where Tony’s is small, sleek and personal, Stane’s is titanic, bulky and corporately inefficient (reflecting a rocket launch in its flight systems). This final challenge begins with Stane’s first true and open betrayal of Tony - poisoning the younger man and taking the arc reactor keeping him alive, so as to power Stane’s armour. Here, the principle of Chekhov’s Gun is demonstrated brilliantly, as Tony is forced to use his defunct old arc reactor to try and stop Stane’s rampage - and is able to defeat his enemy, in part, due to the “icing problem” introduced earlier in the film. Stane is finally defeated, and order restored, when Tony willingly places himself in the face of mortal danger - i.e.: the corporate-sized arc reactor’s meltdown.
The film ends with an interview scene, where Tony comes into his own with the final line of the film
"I am Iron Man"
The music composer Ramin Djawadi created a vast list of songs and theme tunes for Iron Man. Most notably of the songs he made was called “driving with the top down” this is used in many parts of the film and I couldn't possibly name them all. There are also a handful of songs created for big scenes in the film. Most notably the songs called “Mk I” and “Mk II” for the creation of the first two Iron Man suits with the same name. There is also a couple of songs that are very subtle like “merchant of death” at the beginning of the film hinting at the Nickname he was given.
ACDC’s - 'Back in Black' is a good contender for Tony Stark's lyrical theme within the MCU. He just made that song his own on every single level. It's one of the opening songs of the film and corresponds to his playboy attitudes.
The song 'Institutionalized' by Suicidal Tendencies plays in the background of one of the fan-favourite scenes, when Tony Stark is working on his prized Hot Rod, followed by the entrance of Pepper Potts. This song represents how Favreau wanted to present Tony Stark, saying that he wanted to present him as more of a rockstar than a superhero. Although this song could be overlooked, I believe it has a much deeper meaning when used in the film, the songs talks about drugs and alcohol addiction, which in the comics is a major part of Tony Stark's story arc, is also lightly touched on in Iron Man 2 (2010).
One other small detail to do with the music is that James Rhodes’ ringtone is the original main melody to the 1996 iron man cartoon, the full song from the cartoon can be heard a couple of times throughout the film but, mainly at the red carpet scene after the creation of the Mark III amour. The long-standing tradition of a Stan Lee cameo continues in all the films from the MCU. The scene begins on the red carpet and Tony walks past Stan Lee and addressed him as "Hef" while he is surrounded by women. This is referring to the famous American publisher, Hugh Hefner.
A short scene appears after the closing credits: Tony Stark arrives home to find S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) director Nick Fury waiting for him, to discuss the Avengers Initiative. This leads into The Avengers (2012) - the superhero team of which Iron Man is a founding member. This was Marvel Studios' first self-produced film (and the first film to set up the Marvel Cinematic Universe), so the Marvel logo is slightly adjusted: it appears fully, then morphs into "Marvel Studios."
I enjoyed the film a bunch and at the time; the visuals were game-changing, even for a film with a 140 million dollar budget. I am giving Iron Man (2008), as a film independent of the MCU’s standards, a 7 out of 10. It’s a good watch and not a waste of your time nor your money. I just wish that they didn’t count on the sequel to be the place to stick all the great action because this one could have used a bit more. However, I have a great amount of respect for this film because it kickstarted the MCU, and fundamentally altered the perception of how superhero movies are created. This is why the score is so high.
By Dominik Ciszek & Chris Speight