Sunday, August 17, 2014

14. Iron-Man (2008)

Code-name: JARVIS

(just founding out now that's an acronym that stands for "Just A Rather Very Intelligent System"... oh yeah, very creative #sarcasm...
reading further, in homage to Edwin Jarvis, Tony's butler from the comics and they went to AI root to avoid comparisons to Bruce Wayne's Alfred... #nowTHATScreative)

Director: Jon Favreau

Type: Marvel, comic book, action, comedy


Tony Stark- Robert Downey Jr.
Pepper Potts- Gwyneth Paltrow
Captain James "Rhodey" Rhodes- Terrence Howard
Obadiah Stane- Jeff Bridges
Christine Everhart aka "Miss Brown"- Leslie Bibb
Jarvis- Paul Bettany
Happy Hogan- Jon Favreau
Agent Phil Coulson- Clark Gregg

Notable Awards and Nominations:

AFI- Movie of the Year
nomination-OSCAR-Best Visual Effects
nomination-OSCAR-Best Sound Editing
nomination-Grammy-Best Score Soundtrack for TV/Movie


First Impressions

Those who've visited this blog before know I'm a huge Robert Downey Jr. fangirl.

Those who haven't... well, there you go.

For as long as I can remember, when I enjoy a movie, I usually come away with a couple names... people I want to keep in the back of my mind so I remember them for the next time...

Taking that all that into account, that was NOT the case with "Iron-Man."

When it was first announced, I just heard he was a 2nd-tier Marvel superhero, not quite as big as Spider-man or the X-Men. Didn't think too much of it. I heard two sequels were announced early into its opening weekend. I was super skeptical because things never happen that fast.

Then we borrowed the movie from family when it came on DVD.

Don't remember exactly when but it was definitely before I saw "Tropic Thunder," the movie that slipped RDJ into the back of my mind... because there was no way I saw that movie and not immediately focus on him during "Iron-Man."

By this point, I'd been through all the "Spider-Man" movies, all the Batman movies (except "The Dark Knight") and a couple X-Men movies. So I knew a little bit about superhero "folklore."

This was a completely different ball game.

This was maybe... wow, 6 years ago... so I don't remember a lot of details, but after the dust from that mental supernova clears, I offer the following:


  • At best: Tony Stark was an incredibly flawed superhero with charisma and a wicked sense of humor
  • So many superheroes have "damsel in distress" type love interests: Pepper Potts is not one of those girls and that makes her awesome
  • The storyline creatively used our war in the Middle East as the backdrop for a lot of its key pieces
  • Defying conventions even further, in one final mind-blowing moment: Tony Stark reveals that he's Iron-Man just before the end credits roll
Kinda funny, isn't it?
A lot of the things I loved about this movie the first time was that it defied the conventions of all other films in this genre.
It should only be fitting that the same can said about the portrayer of our titular superhero. Once massive success happened, it's impossible to think about Tony Stark without RDJ in the same train of thought.

Director Meets Actor, Actor Meets Destiny

Off the top of my head, I really don't know how this brilliant match made in Marvel heaven materialized. Whether it was something Robert heard about and desperately wanted to be a part of or whether it was suggested to him, I don't know.

What I do know is that he prepared for this screen test so feverishly, he knew it backwards and forwards to the point where nobody else could do it better.

I did not know the name Jon Favreau before I started reading into Robert's films, but he's one of those people I definitely am super grateful to. And with the expanding Marvel universe, the reasons why keep growing all the time. Until this point, Jon Favreau was an indie film writer/director (still meaning to see "Swingers" to get a feel for that) and his support of Robert for this role went a long way.
Given the time and place, yeah, it's a little unconventional and a little bit of a gamble... the first time he's headlining a film of this size (and dozens of other reasons I won't go into because I'm a fangirl who keeps things positive).

Amazingly, it worked out, well, AMAZINGLY

There was some luck involved, but for the rest of it, all of the right pieces were in place at the right time. That's all there is to it.

The Story

Right away, I think superhero movie and Gotham City pops into my head. As well as worlds where mutants walk among us humans. So off the bat, it was mind-blowing that this took place in present day America, including our engagement in the Middle East.

Tony Stark is debuting his company's latest weapon for the military: the Jericho missile.

While in Afghanistan, he gets kidnapped and threatened to create the Jericho for a group of terrorists known as the Ten Rings. (Again, really topical stuff because there were dozens of videos circulating of terrorists holding Americans hostage and making demands... somehow that feels like forever ago).

But instead of making the Jericho, he first makes an arc reactor: a self-sustaining electromagnet to keep the shrapnel (from the assault on his Humvee that led to his capture) from reaching his heart. Then he creates a body of armor to escape after 3 months of captivity.

After returning home, he shuts down his weapons division due to the lack of accountability for whose hands his weapons fall into, and begins work on a new project: the suit of armor.

Without him knowing it, his partner Obadiah is plotting against him. Not only did he supply the terrorists with weapons dealing under the table but the kidnapping was his idea to get Tony out of the way so he can once again take charge of Stark Industries (as he did from Howard Stark's death until the day Tony turned 21).

Upon finding out accountability is still not happening, Tony takes the suit for a test run to the Middle East where he takes care of some terrorists and their supply of weapons.

Unfortunately, this catches the attention of the military (those flames are temporarily contained by his friend Rhodey who writes it off as a "training exercise" to the press) and Obadiah, who steals to the specs to make his OWN suit.

We have an epic showdown, bada bing bada boom, Tony does another press conference to the end the movie and reveals that he is Iron-Man.

...and for those who stuck around for the end credits, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury pays Tony a visit to talk to him about "The Avengers Initiative."

More on Cast and Characters

While I will maintain Robert's best acting is in the indie film circuit, by far, Tony Stark has to be my favorite persona he'd brought to life on screen. Various running jokes in the Marvel community poke fun at the fact he and his character are indistinguishable.

Without committing the name of his actor to memory (the reasoning beyond which escapes me), Tony Stark as a future superhero blew my mind because the two entities don't work together on paper. Most superheroes are selfless humanitarians while he's notorious for his egotism as much as his womanizing.
Yet, somehow, he gains somewhat of a moral compass and you want nothing more than to see him succeed.
But really, the thing that turned me on the most about him was his unique sense of humor.Something Robert Downey Jr. possesses and, aside from his wicked good looks, is why I'm the fangirl of his that I am. As for how I know the difference: despite all these qualities, I actually find the genuine article more attractive: for his eloquence as much as how grounded he is.

Despite how Tony Stark operates as if he's an island, he wouldn't have made it through this movie without his greatest supporters: Pepper and Rhodey.

I only had seen Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love" (which I saw in 10th grade and have ZERO memory of). Rachel Adams may have been Jon Favreau's first choice to play Pepper (how she turned it down, I cannot fathom but "Sherlock Homes" proves it had nothing to do with the leading man), but Gwyneth brings a certain charm and sophistication to this character she'd be incomplete without.

We first meet her after Tony has his one-night stand with "Miss Brown" (a Brown alum Vanity Fair reporter critical of his company) and she says how she does anything Mr. Stark requires "including, occasionally, taking out the trash." See, Pepper isn't just a swooning fangirl or a girl-next-door. She's just as smart as, if not smarter than, Tony and handles everything like a professional.
This helps especially when she has to deal with Agent Coulson from the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division. Your first impression of this guy is that he's a corporate suit whose constant badgering for answers won't lead to anything good. Ultimately, the opposite turns out to be true and he develops into one of the Marvel universe's most beloved characters-- certainly the most beloved non-superhero.

Rhodey is Tony's best friend and just like Pepper, gives him support when needed and tries to reason with him when he seems to be in over his head (which happens often).

After bridging the gap from fan to fangirl, I saw the original "Iron-Man" at least 7 times in 2011. For that reason, I grew very accustomed to see Terrence Howard in this role. To the point where I still have trouble seeing Don Cheadle in the sequels. At the same time, though, the former has an unfair advantage since I'd only seen "Iron-Man 2"  twice and "Iron-Man 3" only in theaters last year...
I'm still waiting for that trilogy boxset with all the special features, guys!!!

So anyway... it was a shame when this role was recast. Granted, the recasting rose from some rather negative circumstances. Terrence Howard wanting more money, recently blaming Robert for his departure... People well versed in celebrities, movies and such say he has an attitude problem.

His version of Rhodey, I still prefer in its given context of the first film. I haven't felt that comfort level with Don Cheadle as of yet, but Rhodey having a more active role (as in being in the thick of the action as "War Machine" and "Iron Patriot") in the sequels, takes some getting used to as well.

Paul Bettany as JARVIS is a piece certainly not to be estimated. Loved him in "A Knight's Tale" (not for the running joke of nudity but for his inspirational pre-joust speeches). He doesn't just bring authority and class as JARVIS, but the perfect wry sense of humor for the necessary situations.
Then we have our villain- my first encounter with Jeff Bridges.
To this point, I'm not still a big fan. This movie is a huge part that's still hard for me to shake, that old snake in the grass (never mind that Tony Stark needs that arc reactor to STAY ALIVE, he steals it to power his obscene suit of armor). Another part is the "True Grit" remake... I'm sorry, after seeing John Wayne in that role, nobody else will do.
Robert name-dropping him as "The Dude" from "The Big Lebowski" convinced me to get the movie for $10 at Target... I'd been meaning to watch it a 2nd time, just to see if knowing what I'm in for will change my mind about it. So off-beat and WEIRD. I'm not willing to admit that there was a single time RDJ steered me wrong with his movie suggestions ;)

I do appreciate how he lobbied to have "The Giver" adapted to film, but there are so many debacles in place (Meryl Streep's expanded role, the two of them getting higher billing than the fricking protagonist...) that I don't think I can bare to see it.. so disappointing.

Additional Comments

I don't think anyone imagined just how much this franchise would blossom. This was the first self-financed film from Marvel Studios and is the reason for its existence.

With the exception of "The Incredible Hulk," every film to come out of Marvel Studios has done really well in the box office as well as its target audience. All of the origin stories were great, "Captain America" especially blew me away. "Avengers" remains the best, I think, of all the films so far, but "Iron-Man" I'd probably still place at the top a) cuz it was the pioneer and b) I have my biases.

It's somewhat unfortunate the sequels haven't recaptured the same lightning in a bottle, but not for lack of trying. I loved the character development on "Iron-Man 2" in theaters, but the second time around... Tony Stark's downward spiral was hard to watch in places (especially after knowing how some of it kinda hits home). Who knows? I might come around now that "Seven Psychopaths" made me a Sam Rockwell fan. Did not like him in this movie at all.

Then "Iron-Man 3," it did a lot of things better than "2," but still not quite as good as the original. However great the best parts are, the time Tony Stark spent as a civilian in hiding (love the acting in those scenes because they're so raw and remind us he's still human), I'm still getting over the overlong 3rd act and the villain that WOULD NOT DIE.

One thing definitely worth noting: Stan Winston was one of the best known special effects guys in the business (other credits include the Terminator movies and Avatar). He's the main reason these Iron-Man suits became as effective and aesthetically pleasing as they are. Sadly, this was his last project before his death later in 2008.

As often as Robert name-dropped Jon Favreau and credited him with this film's success, he gave just as much to Stan Winston. He will be sorely missed.

Coming Soon

All I can really say is that next week will be a Brat Pack film.

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