Iron Man
RDJ made a fortune wearing a suit

‘IRON MAN’ (2008) – Marvel Rises To The Top

“The truth is……I am Iron Man” The line uttered by Robert Downey Jr (Back To School 1986) at the end of the first movie in a series that culminated in one of the most highly anticipated movies ever nine years later capped off an amazing thrill ride for IRON MAN. The film celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2023.

Before we get to the 2008 movie itself, it would be wise to check out the character Iron Man’s origin.

Back in 1963, Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee wanted to create Marvel’s answer to legendary aviator Howard Hughes, an eccentric playboy that’s actually a genius inventor. Stan came up with Tony Stark, a fast-talking, rich, anti-communist, capitalist playboy who becomes the hero Iron Man upon putting on a suit of armor. Lee wanted the character to be everything that early 60s rebelling kids hated but could understand that underneath the exterior was a hero.

Lee was originally supposed to write the story that would appear in Tales Of Suspense #39 in March of 1963, but because he had so many other comics on his plate, he tasked Larry Lieber to script it. Jack Kirby designed the original clunky gray suit of armor while Don Heck designed Stark himself and some of the series mainstays such as Pepper Potts. By December 1963, artist Steve Ditko changed the armor style to the iconic red and gold design we know today.

Tales of Suspense
Jack Kirby’s original design

The character’s background is: Stark was a child prodigy of Howard and Maria Stark who takes over Stark Industries after his parents are killed in a car accident when he was a teenager. While in Vietnam, he’s captured by Wong-Chu and forced to build weapons for his army. The problem is Stark took shrapnel in the capture and it’s getting fatally close to his heart. Fellow prisoner Ho Yinsen saves his life by building a magnetic chest plate to stop the shrapnel from entering the heart.

Yinsen sacrifices himself so Stark can escape with the Iron Man suit they built and after he escapes, Stark finds wounded soldier James “Rhodey” Rhodes. The character that started as a one-off in March of 1963 became so popular that Iron Man was one of the founding fathers of The Avengers in September 1963 and finally got his own series starting in 1968 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Iron Man #1
Issue 1 came out 55 years ago

Forty years after the first Iron Man series comic came out, production began on the first Iron Man movie. The movie first got greenlit in 1990 and went through one production company after another until 2000 when New Line Cinema got the rights. They originally had David “Solid Snake” Hayter write the script which was going to see Tony Stark fight Howard Stark as War Machine. The deal fell through, but in 2006, director/actor Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian 2021) resurrected the project.

Robert Downey Jr was cast as Tony Stark and did five weeks of training to get in shape for the role. Terrence Howard (Crash 2005) was cast as James “Rhodey” Rhodes and he did F-16 simulated missions to get ready. Favreau cast himself as Harold “Happy” Hogan, Stark’s chauffeur, and Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare In Love 1998) to play Pepper Potts.

Iron Man (2008)
“You know Rhodey, we should just blow it all up”

The origin story would be retconned a bit since Favreau didn’t want it to take place in the 60s. Stark goes to Afghanistan to assist Captain Rhodes in the war effort by showcasing the cruise missile “Jericho.” Then Stark is captured by the Ten Rings gang and their leader Raza (Faran Tahir – Escape Plan 2013) wants Stark to build the Iron Man suit for him. Stark’s heart is being kept alive by a car battery built by the movie’s Yinsen (Shaun Toub – Crash 2005) and when Stark escapes after Yinsen’s death, he vows revenge on terrorists.

Back home his right-hand man Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges – Tron 1982) is shocked when Stark wants to cancel weapons manufacturing and instead concentrate on defense technology. Stark builds his own Iron Man suit and now we got ourselves a movie.

“You know Rhodey, we should just blow it all up”

Without spoiling the rest, let’s just say the final battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger was epic and made for a fun climax. Now for the million-dollar question, is it a good movie? Absolutely. We got a killer soundtrack, RDJ at his best, and a great supporting cast. It’s got emotion, it’s got one-liners, it’s got explosions. Family fun for all. Ironically it was Predator creator Shane Black who got RDJ the role since they worked together on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Another fun fact is Favreau was an eyelash away from picking Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile – 1998) for the role of Stark, but was just too impressed with RDJ’s screen test. Rockwell ended up playing Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.

“Kevin Flynn at your service”

Now for the legacy. The success of Hulk, Spiderman, and X-Men movies in the early 2000’s led to the Marvel Cinematic Universe forming with Iron Man technically being the first movie. With superhero movies making a lot of money, they kept coming. The Incredible Hulk followed in 2008 along with Iron Man 2 in 2010. When Iron Man 2 was shown in theaters, a loud cheer erupted in the post-credits scene when Thor’s hammer was shown. The same cheer erupted in the post-credits scene of Thor when Captain America’s shield was shown. Captain America rounded out the cast of one of the most highly anticipated films of the era, The Avengers in 2012. The MCU kept building with more movies and characters which culminated in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. It all started with Iron Man back in 2008.

The Avengers

All in all, if you want a fun action movie that combines humor with explosions then the first Iron Man is for you. If you’re a comic book fan, you’d love it as well. It’s mostly true to the original comics with some things retconned for the time period, but not too much to whine about. If you want to know why Marvel and DC movies dominated the big screen, look no further than Iron Man in 2008. Oh….and one last thing. At the end of Iron Man, a very familiar song plays as you rock out during the credits. In case you haven’t guessed what it is, here you go:

About Kevin H's number one heel. Favorite horror movies: Insidious, Friday the 13th Part 6, Trick Or Treat (Gene Simmons version), the original King Kong, the Alien/Aliens franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, I've been a writer since middle school and have been so controversial I was suspended in middle school, nearly got suspended in high school and kicked off two websites for bad language or different opinions. I can write reviews, fan fics, real fics, romance, sports writing, critiques and anything I'm challenged to do.

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