2008 in Review: ‘Iron Man’

There are a few moments in the history of cinema that serve as complete game changers. The release of “Iron Man” should stand in that pantheon, as it altered the landscape of blockbuster filmmaking for the next 10 years. The film may not be perfect, but it felt revolutionary at the moment. Even so, I remember having discussions with friends about whether or not “The Avengers” was really even possible. Until I actually saw “The Avengers,” I don’t know if I even believed it could happen.

The film served as a resurrection for one Robert Downey Jr., an actor that had always felt like he had missed out on his potential. If you were paying attention, his amazing performance in “Zodiac” hinted at what was to come. Yet Downey’s take on Tony Stark was a perfect blend of cockiness and energy. Downey had real skin in the game, and he left every ounce of himself on the screen. An equally important figure in this film is Jon Favreau, who had come off of several weak movies, including “Zathura.” If I had told you in 2007 that a film that was premised on this collaboration would change the Hollywood landscape, I would have been looked at like a crazy person.  Now, 10 years later, “The Ant-Man and the Wasp” makes its way into theaters. Clearly, they did something right.

The Moment I Fell in Love with “Iron Man“/Best Scene

I was not instantly taken with “Iron Man” the way that I was for many of the other films that we’ve mentioned on the list. Yet the heart of this film is much greater than one might have expected, in both a literal and figurative sense. When Tony Stark wakes up in a cave in war-torn Afghanistan, the film really takes it shape. Tony’s heart was essentially destroyed in a shrapnel blast. He is joined by another scientist, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), who is also being held captive. Yinsen and Tony met years ago, but Tony’s alcoholism and arrogance didn’t let him take notice of the man. The two begin to plot their way out, building the Mark I Iron Man Suit. The escape goes wrong, and Yinsen is killed. Tony is changed by the moment, spurring him to change from the weapons dealing playboy he had been, and instead turn into something greater.

Most Rewatchable Scene 

There are a handful of great scenes in “Iron Man” but when Tony is confronted with the fact that the Jerico missile is still being used in Afghanistan, he runs for his suit. The following scene is the Gulmira fight scene, one of the best in the entire MCU. The scene opens as villagers are tormented and beaten by terrorists. Iron Man flies into the action mid-sequence and the cinematography shifts to a grittier look. The sequence feels real and lived-in, favoring the stark reality of the situation in Afghanistan to the comic book aesthetic present in other films. The hammer on the scene is the tank battle, which ends with our hero walking away from an explosion. The sequence is only 3 minutes long but remains one of the most visually spectacular fight scenes in the MCU.

Why You Should Rewatch “Iron Man”

One of the things that aged this film well is the way in which it treats the War in Afghanistan. Iron Man’s original origins took place in Vietnam, and the parallel is clear. Tony’s realization that war is not a black and white affair was a political statement in 2008. America had already been in Afghanistan for 7 years when “Iron Man” released. The threat of the war becoming the new Vietnam-like quagmire has come to pass. Furthermore, pairing Tony with a man of Middle-Eastern descent, only to have that man die, seems prescient as well. While Marvel would not be fully engaged in political discourse until “Black Panther” earlier this year, the political undertones of “Iron Man” are unmistakable. It is a blockbuster film, but it is also a snapshot of America at a moment. That snapshot feels extremely poignant a decade later.

What do you think of “Iron Man” 10 years later? Does it continue to hold up? Let us know in the comments below! Check out Aaron’s feelings toward the film!

Check out our other retrospectives on 2008 here

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