Before heading out to IRON MAN 3 (review forthcoming, I promise), I re-familiarized myself with the cinematic evolution of Tony Stark thus far. Hence, let’s take a look at his first three appearances on film in today’s Film Geek Journal.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 36
IRON MAN (2008) – Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy who makes his fortune as a weapons manufacturer. While schmoozing military bigwigs in Afghanistan, his convoy is assaulted, killing the American soldiers guarding him and leaving a piece of shrapnel embedded in his heart. Worst of all, this was done with his own weaponry. Stark builds an electromagnet to keep the shrapnel from is heart and the first Iron Man suit in order to escape captivity. When he returns to civilization, he resolves to stop manufacturing weapons and destroy all the places where his arms have been used to hurt or enslave the innocent. For that, he becomes Iron Man.
This film was a game changer We had decades of comic book films of course, but this was a major production written and produced by the very comic juggernaut that had birthed it. The result raised the bar for all comic adaptations to come. No longer would people sit still while these characters were diluted into a generic storyline. IRON MAN works because it features a genuine sense of character depth and growth throughout the film. The casting is spot-on, with Robert Downey, Jr. making an excellent Tony Stark. This is of course a little different from the Tony Stark in the comics, who has become a symbol for authority recently (Bring up Tony Stark and “Civil War” to a comics geek and watch him/us foam at the mouth in fury). Downey brings a bit more swagger and party lifestyle to the part, a reflection of the decades of alcoholism and drug abuse he was finally putting behind him in real life. Gwyneth Paltrow makes a fine Pepper Potts. Every bit as domestic and businesslike as she needs to be while still being alluring without really trying. And then you’ve got Jeff Bridges, he gets it.
As I said in my recent piece about Marvel Studios, IRON MAN was a gamble that paid off. We’re better off for its existence and it’s a pretty excellent film in its own right. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
IRON MAN 2 (2010) – Six months after Tony Stark’s very public declaration at the end of IRON MAN, he is the subject of government inquiry. As owner of the Iron Man suit and technology, the U.S. Government believes it is too dangerous for one man and wants it turned over immediately. Almost on cue, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, in a role loosely based on the Whiplash character from the comics) reveals remarkably similar technology, using it in an attempt to destroy Stark, something rival weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is only too happy to see happen. Through all of this, Iron Man isn’t really up to the challenge, as he is facing some possibly fatal blood poisoning, resulting from the magnet in his chest.
This sequel retains much of the charm of the original IRON MAN. Where it stumbles is in its surprising lack of action. The film seems to drag a bit more than it should and even if the film is at least as entertaining as most films out there, there’s a genuine lack of thrills. Downey and Paltrow continue to be great, their bickering a highlight of the film. Rourke turns in yet another great performance. The brightest spot of the film is Scarlett Johansson, showing a sexiness, intelligence and athleticism that only teases at how great her role will become. But Rockwell needed to scale back a bit. Watching this film multiple times, one gets a feeling for how great Rockwell was in his role, and also how it was a bit too much. He chews the scenery and unlike the rest of the cast who work well together, the film becomes all about Justin Hammer whenever he’s on screen. Rockwell’s a good actor and probably would have toned it down a bit if asked, but he wasn’t.
IRON MAN 2 is probably the least of the Marvel productions so far. And that’s a good thing, since it’s still a perfectly serviceable summer movie. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE AVENGERS (2012) – Iron Man reluctantly teams up with Nick Fury, Bruce Banner, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America when Loki steals the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D and makes several allies, including Hawkeye, his hypnotized slaves. The group doesn’t get along all that well at first, especially since it appears Fury has been keeping a few secrets of his own. But all of this is just the preamble to a larger alien invasion that will occur if the Avengers can’t assemble.
Superhero team-ups are nothing new in comic books, but even the ability to join this many heroes in one motion picture has been something that was practically and financially impossible up until this point. Marvel was playing the long game here, teasing THE AVENGERS five years before the film actually happened. Fortunately, they put Joss Whedon in charge of writing and directing the film, which insured its success. Basically everything is just as fans would want it. All the players interact well. Everyone retains their character traits and the film gives plenty for everyone to do. Whedon has a knack for handling this kind of material and he ushered this film to greatness. If IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT raised the bar for comic book adaptations, THE AVENGERS raised the bar even further. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
IRON MAN 3 (2013) – Following the Battle of New York, Tony Stark finds himself facing a foe he has never imagined before, namely his own anxiety and insecurity. At the same time, a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has been murdering dozens of people, striking at American targets and creating unrest in the United States. And what does all this have to do with AIM and their Extremis program?
I tease. you can now read my full-length review of this film RIGHT HERE!
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 174
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!
And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!