Avengers Endgame comes out on the 26th, but we here at Gabbing Geek did do a rewatch of the whole MCU (up until that point), so why not do a reposting of the old ones with newer posts for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel as another countdown to the end of Phase 3?
OK, we should have started this yesterday, but we’re not always on the ball. Anyway, here’s the first one, as Jimmy, Watson, and I discuss the first movie of the MCU: Iron Man.
While working on our 2018 Year of Anticipation post, Ryan discovered the following:
We know a challenge when we hear one!
So go and watch Iron Man, and then come back here for some geeks gabbing about the beginnings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
tomk: Here we go. Iron Man.
tomk: Oh that bald Jeff Bridges is clearly up to no good.
You know he’s up to no good because he rides a Segue.
However, I want to start by saying Iron Man is a good, if unconventional, choice for a first movie. The character was basically a Marvel second stringer for years, always in publication but never much of a top tier hero. But Marvel’s best known heroes had their film rights held by other movie studios, so Spider-Man and the X-Men were both out. Iron Man was, at the least, a very believable concept and not one that required a particularly ridiculous backstory with weird powers (i.e Thor) or a paragon of virtue that might not do as well when crafting a hero with “realistic” problems in the Marvel style (i.e. Captain America). Tony Stark was a guy we could look at and say, “Yes, a billionaire who was also a tech genius can do that.”
jimmy: I think you summed it all up nicely. Shall we move on to Iron Man 2?
tomk: Well, if we’re done already, I think The Incredible Hulk is next.
Iron Man is high on my all-time MCU list and it still holds up. Stane is a bit of a lame villain. Not the last lame Marvel villain we’ll be seeing in short order. But outside of that it all still works. Even the effects don’t look dated. RDJ looks incredibly young, but it was almost 10 years ago. From the start he was the perfect Stark. Paltrow is great as Pepper as well and we get the introduction of Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. And Sam Jackson steps out from behind a hay bale for his first turn as Nick Fury…if you stick around after the credits…which I remember NOT doing the first time I saw it, and was devastated. Post credit scenes just weren’t really a thing back then. And Rhodes looked different, but I can’t put my finger on it.
tomk: I think Rhodes will get an upgrade.
Something that jumped out at me about Downey…he’s not in bad shape when we see him without a shirt, but he didn’t go all-out like most superhero actors do. Even Paul Rudd got some abs for Ant-Man.
jimmy: He has iron abs.
tomk: Well, he’s got nothing on the Chrises…Evans, Hemsworth, and Pratt.
jimmy: Definitely not. But doesn’t need to. I don’t think the 12 Maxim cover girls were complaining.
tomk: Well, no.
Since you mentioned Jeff Bridges, I was told once he took the role because they asked him to shave his head and he’d never done that for a movie before. According to Bridges, the set for this movie was pretty chaotic, with a lot of crazy energy (he approved of that) and not the controlled environment we think of with the MCU having to put plot points and stuff in future movies. A lot of the dialogue may have been improvised, too, and I can believe that because it does have an improvised feel to it.
jimmy: It’s no surprise that it feels different from other films in the MCU. At that point they didn’t know if they would even get an Iron Man sequel let alone one of the most success cinematic franchises in history. Remember, this was basically an independent film.
tomk: True, true.
I mean, Downey’s career was resurrected by this movie, and he was the perfect choice since he basically was Tony Stark.
I think Stane and the Iron Monger (ugh) are the only things keeping this from being perfect. The end fight seemed like they ripped off the finale of Robocop 2. And after spending like an hour showing Tony doing test after test to learn how to use the suit, Stane puts his own and has it mastered in like 3 seconds.
tomk: Except for the icing.
Besides, no one suspects the Dude would be a villain. Ever.
jimmy: Well, at least I could understand what he was saying. 80% of the time I see Jeff Bridges in a movie he sounds like he has a mouth full of marbles and an accent he invented, as no one else on Earth has it.
tomk: I have no idea what you are talking about.
jimmy: Yeah, that’s one of them. PS. That movie is God awful.
Hey! Is that the guy from Punisher?
tomk: Which one?
The one with the beard who doesn’t have a beard there, or the one who might be Jon Snow?
jimmy: It is him. The guy who played Billy Russo is the Seventh Son.
tomk: Oh. Side note: while looking for a bad Jeff Bridges accent, I noticed Kit Harrington is also in that movie.
jimmy: So I see. I never noticed him in the trailer and am not watching it again. The trailer or the movie.
tomk: Sounds like a smart move. But you know who should be in that movie? Iron Man.
jimmy: Oh, right. Him.
So did anything not work for you with this viewing?
tomk: You know, nothing I could think of. I’ve seen it probably more than any MCU film from start to finish, but it works.
It does feature the only time Iron Man actually does some superheroing sort of thing before Avengers. Usually he suits up in self defense and that’s about it.
jimmy: Well, really, he suits up and goes and destroys all of the weapons that have fallen into the wrong hands. Almost a riff on Armor Wars.
tomk: Yes, and he saves some lives. He doesn’t really do much of that unless someone attacks him first.
jimmy: Well, he is only Stark’s bodyguard.
tomk: True…nice lampshade of the old “Iron Man identity” thing that Stan Lee used to actually use.
jimmy: Yes. One of the few cover stories that could work for the most part. Stark does need protection, and you could get anyone to put on the suit or control it remotely or in later years have it be run fully by AI so Tony can make public appearances.
tomk: Yeah, but it was also supposed to be one of the flimsiest cover stories in the Marvel Universe. I remember an Avengers issue where She-Hulk and another hero chuckle over it.
jimmy: They are all pretty flimsy.
tomk: So moreso than others. Tony is a highly recognizable public figure. Who the heck is Peter Parker?
jimmy: I think he’s Polkaroo. (Will Americans get that joke?)
tomk: I don’t!
He’s the guy that is always taking pictures or Spider-Man at impossible angles putting himself in great peril. Yet is never around when Spider-Man is. And if he is in Paris doing a story, hey, what’s Spider-Man doing in France for the first time ever?
tomk: Yeah, but who reads newspaper photo credits? That really should just be something his editors pick up on.
tomk: He’s as goofy as a Jeff Bridges accent.
jimmy: He used to be on a kids show called Polka Dot Door. But the joke was that one of the guys on the show would always “disappear” right before Polkaroo showed up and return after he left, all disappointed that he missed Polkaroo again. We knew what was going on.
tomk: You know, that makes enough sense to me.
Side note: I got a Marvel Year in Review one year, a tongue-in-cheek rehash of all the storylines from the year before, and it included a couple of fake interviews, but one was for some random, handsome lawyer that the interviewer just ambushed and asked the guy what superhero he was. The guy wasn’t a superhero and denied it. The interviewer was leaving, but his last words were, “Your secret is safe with me.”
jimmy: A superhero lawyer? We’ll never see that in the MCU!
tomk: Nah. Keep that for the TV where you don’t need a character to be a variation on Tony Stark.
jimmy: Any particular Easter Eggs stand out to you? Of course we had a funny though low key Stan Lee cameo.
tomk: The 1960s Iron Man cartoon theme song is Rhodey’s ring tone for Tony.
I only know that because someone told me once.
jimmy: Lol, was it? Awesome.
I can’t really think of much. I think they were just happy to get this made.
Marvel is less likely than DC to, say, throw a bunch of creator names into the script near as I can make out.
jimmy: Wow. How have I not seen that before?
tomk: I barely remember those old cartoons. They aren’t that good. They tend to mostly be adaptations of various comics with the characters barely moving outside their mouths.
I think there were five. Besides Iron Man, they had a cartoon for Cap, Thor, Namor, and the Hulk.
jimmy: I’ll have to watch them in 19 years when I finish my Spider-Man Rewatch.
tomk: I am not sure how much I would recommend them if you can barely get through Spider-Man from that era and his show was the best of the bunch.
jimmy: I definitely remember the Cap and Hulk shows…well…their theme songs anyway.
tomk: We can cover the Hulk next week!
With or without the sad piano music.
jimmy: Ain’t he unglamorous?
tomk: Yeah. Ain’t he?
He’s no Tony Stark.
Then again, I’ve never been much of an Iron Man fan outside of the movies. I don’t know why, but Iron Man never grabbed me in the comics unless he was on an Avengers team. His best known storylines were the Armor Wars and Demon in a Bottle. His biggest enemy probably couldn’t appear in the movies for a wide variety of reasons. And his personality, pre-Downey, was rather just a straight arrow type. Post-Downey, and near as I can make out, he’s just more of how Downey plays him.
jimmy: I’m the same. I read Armor Wars, and that was probably the only time I was regularly reading Iron Man.
tomk: I can’t even claim that much. An issue here and there for a crossover was about all i got.
jimmy: Armor Wars came out in 87/88 (damn I’m old) and I was pretty much buying everything Marvel in those days.
tomk: Huh. I’m not sure I ever did that. I got a lot of DC and Marvel based on which characters I liked best.
So, not much Iron Man.
But Bendis’ Tony sure does seem a lot like Downey.
jimmy: No surprise. Like Nick Fury becoming more like Sam Jackson.
tomk: But Ultimate Fury already did, and since he was Ultimate Fury, it didn’t matter.
jimmy: Yes. A lot of the MCU takes it’s cues from the Ultimate Universe as opposed to the 616. But they still changed Fury in the 616 eventually.
tomk: True, but Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, possibly with Jackson’s permission, made a Jackson-esque Fury before this movie came out.
jimmy: Yes. I know.
tomk: But our readers might not.
I mean, Ryan.
jimmy: Ryan’s not going to read this.
tomk: Saying so would be a good way to test him.
But what did you think of the vital character of Happy Hogan?
jimmy: Happy had a smaller role than I remember.
tomk: Jon Favreau was busy doing other things at the time.
jimmy: Always with the excuses.
tomk: Someone had to set the MCU house style before Joss Whedon came along.
jimmy: It’s hard to think of him now as anything but one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but this film (along with Tropic Thunder) resurrected Robert Downey Jr’s career. At the time of this release, was Paltrow the biggest star?
tomk: Her or Bridges.
jimmy: I wouldn’t count The Dude.
tomk: Downey wasn’t an unknown quantity, but he did bounce in and out of legal trouble for a drug habit and ended up doing some TV.
jimmy: Oh, I know he was well known, but prior to this was a very low period for him.
tomk: Lower than his year on SNL?
jimmy: Lower in some ways, but higher in drug ways.
tomk: Well, maybe.
watson: Joining in late by threat of Jimmy! My GOD you old bittys have prattled on forever. Just going to jump in. I rewatched it a couple of weeks before we started this rewatch.
It holds up really well, and is my #3 all-time MCU film, but you can tell the superhero genre has evolved. The pacing of the original Iron Man is a lot slower than newer films. It took its time a lot more than the newer MCU flicks.
Overall, RDJ really embodies the role of Tony Stark. In fact, Tony Stark changed more to become like RDJ than vice versa. Downey’s was such a shockingly amazing performance…and the success of the film was equally shocking.
It was pure lightning in a bottle. I still say RDJ deserves gross points in EVERY MCU film…even when he doesn’t appear. The MCU is the house that Downey built and it started here.
jimmy: It pains me to say that I agree with all Watson has to say here.
tomk: I would be inclined to think he’s giving Downey too much credit. Jon Favreau behind the camera had something to add.
jimmy: Agree with that too, but most box office would be driven by RDJ, especially going forward.
tomk: Going forward, sure. But the first time? Was he really that big a draw? Superhero movies had been around for a while, and Maguire invented the unconventional superhero action star.
watson: His career was dead in the water. That was the surprise. We knew he was talented (see: Chaplin) but I figured he was one bender away from joining River Phoenix and John Belushi.
Instead he lit the spark that started something that is culminating in freaking INFINITY WAR!
Favreau is great. I love him as a filmmaker. But replace RDJ with ANY other actor and there might not be a shared universe.
tomk: True, but movies are highly collaborative efforts. It would be Downey being awesome, having great chemistry with Paltrow, Favreau pulling everything together, a good story, good effects, it all adds up.
jimmy: Downey is the glue from a viewer standpoint, though Favreau probably was behind the scenes. But, you are right. It wasn’t just Downey, but all the right parts at the right time. And Terrance Howard.
tomk: Yeah, that guy. How ironic he says maybe he’ll suit up next time.
watson: He does not…
And the quality of Cheadle’s performance in the later films actually hurts a rewatch of IM1 because Don is a MUCH better actor!
tomk: True enough. Don is an upgrade, though I think the material he got was weaker.
jimmy: Well, he was War Machine.
tomk: And the Iron Patriot.
But he’s never been asked to act opposite a character named Cookie…to the best of my knowledge.
watson: Cheadle’s best performance? I want to say Hotel Rwanda, but the real answer is his portrayal of Sammy Davis, Jr in HBO’s The Rat Pack.
tomk: What would you say was Howard’s?
watson: Hustle and Flow.
Quite honestly nothing else stands out.
tomk: Well, not this movie. That’s for sure.
watson: I was typing “we don’t need to ask about RDJ’s best performance…it was THIS!” but then I remembered Tropic Thunder.
tomk: Should we ask about Paltrow and Bridges?
watson: Bridges is The Dude!
Paltrow? I really BELIEVED her head was in that box in Se7en…
tomk: I actually really like Paltrow as Pepper Potts. Though, yes, I also believed her head was in that box.
jimmy: Ok. Let’s put an iron bow on this chat. Any final thoughts before we move onto the MCU’s green headed stepchild?
tomk: This movie is about as perfect an introduction to both the character and the MCU that Marvel Films could have asked for. 10 out of 10 bald versions of the Dude not wearing the pajamas Tony bought him.
jimmy: I’m very reluctant to give out 10’s, and I need to save my 9.5 for Winter Soldier, so I’ll give it 9 out of 10 that’s not Don Cheadle.
watson: I am willing to give out 10s when warranted and this one is certainly warranted.
10 I Am Iron Mans out of 10.