The Book Of Marvel – Phase 1, Chapter 1
In the summer of 2008, my wife and I went to a local drive-in theater to check out two movies: Transformers and Iron Man. We both expected Transformers to be the better of the two options. After all, who knew about or cared about Iron Man at the time? He was a pretty minor Marvel character compared to, say, Spider-Man or the X-Men.
When we left, we both agreed on two things – Michael Bay needed a kick in the balls for the absolute shit fest Transformers turned out to be, and Iron Man was a surprisingly good movie.
There was no reason Iron Man should have been good. The movie had been in “development hell” since it was first announced way back in 1990, going through script after script and director after director for over 15 years until Marvel brought in Jon Favreau to take the reins and point the ship in the right direction. The announcement of Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark, who is now so synonymous with Iron Man that even the comics can’t help but draw him in Downey’s likeness, was back then met with skepticism. And then there was the state of superhero/comic book movies at the time. Superman Returns and X-Men: The Last Stand, both two years prior, were a big “meh”, while movies like Ghost Rider were straight up embarrassments.
As of this article, Iron Man has made $585.2 million at the box office and batted lead-off for the 23 movie roster that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga. While Iron Man may not be a home run to all movie watchers, it is definitely a double off the wall that started a hot inning for Marvel and now Disney, which is especially helpful considering that some of the players lower in the order weren’t as strong.
Iron Man set up the formula which worked so well for the MCU:
- A charismatic hero, though flawed (Tony Stark)
- A BBOTM (Big Bad Of The Movie) which usually didn’t return in future films (Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger)
- At least one side kick who is either a love interest or like family (Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, James Rhodes/War Machine, J.A.R.V.I.S.)
- A mid- or post-credits scene setting up the next movie in the franchise (Nick Fury, directory of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
- A soundtrack which fits the movie but isn’t memorable
One thing that did NOT start with Iron Man and the MCU is the Stan Lee cameo. That award actually goes to the TV movie “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk“, where Lee appears as a jury member during said trial. This was back in 1989, before Iron Man began it’s long journey to the big screen. Lee would also make appearances in the pre-MCU Marvel movies, as well. Of course, thanks to the success of the MCU, those Lee cameos tend to be the ones people remember the most.
Iron Man was the first of the Avengers introduced to us, but not the FIRST Avenger, as we’ll discover later in Phase 1. Before then, we first will meet Bruce Banner (NOT David!) and his alter ego who we won’t like when he gets…hungry?