We never truly understood what a superhero movie could be until the first Iron Man film hit theaters in 2008. We had classic films like Superman: The Movie, Batman ’89, Spider-Man, and Batman Begins; but none ever attempted to do what Iron Man did. Iron Man dared to try something that has rarely been done. It gave us a flawed hero.
In the films mentioned above the heroes face challenges, and at times things seem to look insurmountable. Aside from Batman Begins, most superhero films make sure our heroes are pure. Whether they’re saving cats from trees or damsels in distress, one thing is clear, they’re the good guys. In Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) isn’t a good guy, at least, not at the start.
Marvel made Tony Stark a selfish, egotistical, playboy who constantly shows that he only looks out for himself. Honestly, he’d be the villain in most stories. Think more Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom. Stark doesn’t change until he witnesses first hand the destruction his creations cause. He matures, he learns how to survive, he creates one of the most advanced pieces of technology on earth in a cave… With a box of scraps. He realized that war gets people killed (shocker, I know), and wants to do everything in his power to stop it. Even if it means potentially losing his fortune in the process. The development of Tony Stark has been one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a movie franchise. He starts out creating weapons for his own personal gain, and now he does everything in his power to protect the earth.
The fact that this movie took this kind of risk is pretty remarkable considering what it had to go through. Marvel put everything on Iron Man. “We didn’t have Spider-Man. We didn’t have Fantastic Four. [We had] the B-list characters—that was the L.A. Times or somebody’s headline. Said Marvel executive Kevin Feige. “I never really thought that because I knew that Iron Man was really cool and Hulk was, arguably, next to Spider-Man, the biggest character we had. I thought they all had amazing potential, but the goal was deliver… and make the best Iron Man film we could… It wasn’t, this is the first of a 22-movie cinematic saga.”
Iron Man delivered and was the launching point for an entire universe, and thus the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. Ironically, that wasn’t even the intention. Director Jon Favreau said: “For me, it was just a fun Easter egg for the fans who would sit around until the credits were over. But at that point, Kevin was definitely involved in all of that. Because specifically what Sam Jackson says about the Avengers initiative is a way to light that fuse. But for me, it was very easy because it was just let’s have him [Jackson] pop in here and there and have him say that. But it was more about getting a reaction from the crowd. Kevin had other plans.” That’s what makes the MCU so intriguing. It was an independent film that wanted to do something that’s rarely been done.
With a single scene, Iron Man took things to a whole other level. “We put it at the end of the credits so that it wouldn’t distract from the movie. People going, “What is Sam Jackson doing in this movie all of a sudden? What’s going on?” said Feige. I thought it would just begin the potential conversation of hardcore fans going, “Wait a minute, could that mean. . .” Instead, by that Monday, Entertainment Weekly was doing sidebars about Nick Fury and who he was and what that meant. That blew up much faster than I was anticipating.”
Iron Man [a B-list character] became a worldwide phenomenon and the face of all superhero movies. The characters were great, the story was fantastic, and the action scenes are still some of Marvel’s best. After the success of Iron Man, Marvel went on to complete Phase One of their Universe. They brought characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor to the forefront. Here we are 10 years later and Iron Man [along with the rest of the MCU] is still going strong.
Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige’s full interview can be found here. Our countdown to Avengers: Infinity War continues tomorrow with a look at Iron Man 2!