I don’t know. That was probably the answer people gave if asked about Iron Man before May, 2008. Hard to believe considering Tony Stark is now a household name with his 3rd outing grossing over $1 billion and counting. Before Robert Downey Jr. took to the screen, only those who wanted to knew of Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, War Machine, and the man inside the iron suit.
Like every superhero before him, Iron Man’s first outing detailed his origin, updating it slightly for a modern audience. Regardless, the core is still the same. Tony Stark was a billionaire weapons design, whose fortune was earned because of the suffering of others. Stark echoed of Howard Hughes and Hugh Hefner with a smattering of Howard Stern. Having been captured by terrorist if Afghanistan, he was forced to build weapons. Instead, he created the MK I Iron Man suit and escaped.
Other than nailing the characterization of Stark, the movie did the superhero origin right, showing a man who was forced to rebuild himself when his world view was shattered. Another trope of the comics world was the secret identity, something only Spider-Man and DC characters. The awesome final scene of Tony revealing his identity was a mockery of the idea of secret identities in the modern age.
I am a little surprised this movie exists at all. It’s hard to think like that in a post Avengers world, but this movie was in development hell for over 15 years. Marvel was in financial ruins in the ’90s thanks to comic speculation and over printing. To stay afloat, they sold the film rights to all their characters, a decision that still haunts them today. At the time, I could see why they did, considering how superhero movies were thought of as a joke instead of being the bread and butter of cinema they are today. The rights were passed from Universal, to 20th Century Fox, and New Line Cinema with everyone from Tom Cruise to Nic Cage attached. After years of non-starts, the rights were returned to Marvel in 2005. Over 30 writers passed on the project because of the obscurity of the character. Once Jon Favreau was attached to direct in 2006, things began to take off with writers finally being hired on.
I remember seeing a showing for Iron Man on the Thursday before release at 8 pm. The theater put it on because they didn’t think it would sell that many tickets. Living in a major college town I thought there’d be more in the audience (only about 20, including the 4 of us). We sat through the ending credits as I answered questions about the character (as people with my stock of nerd knowledge typically did). Suddenly, the famous scene with Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury began to play. “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.” My jaw was on the floor. None of my compatriots understood. I went on about the Avengers for the rest of the night and what it could mean. I don’t think they got it until sometime around May 2012.
The following Monday, Marvel announced plans to release Thor and Captain America in 2010 all working together and building up to the Avengers in 2011. Many balked at the idea, but were curious given the strength of Iron Man. Iron Man has gone on to have 2 direct sequels, Iron Man 2 taking place before the Avengers and Iron Man 3 immediately after. I think the original Iron Man is still the best of the three, and out of all the Marvel movies, second to only the Avengers. There’s talks right now about if RDJR will return to portray Stark in Avengers 2 and 3. I think he will at least in both. He was put in the forefront of the Avengers marketing. Kevin Feige, Marvel executive, sees Tony as more of James Bond character. I agree, but that would be too confusing and should happen until after Avengers 3. Keep everything in line for a little while.
Black Sabbath lolololol