Movie Catch-Up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe
#1: Iron Man (2008)
The year is 2018. Superhero movies are THE dominant genre of blockbuster in theaters around the world. To the excitement or disappointment of others you can’t step three feet outside without hearing about Captain Irons fighting America Mans, or how Superman’s lip is 3 times the size of a normal human. Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, this is your life now you monstrous masses of money! And the Mouse is coming to collect his share in the form of Avengers: Infinity War, releasing in North America on May 4, 2018. 10 whole years after one man put on an iron suit and showed the world how to make a good superhero movie.
That’s right. Every movie that’s been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been culminating to this epic moment of the Avengers verses a giant purple Titan (Thanos) who thinks he’s entitled to the universe’s jewelry.
Unfortunately it can seem like an intimidating task to learn/remember the details of everything that’s transpired over the course of 17 movies (soon to be 18 with Black Panther). Is it really worth watching/re-watching all those movies just so you’ll stop getting into screaming matches with your partner, where you end up yelling at them “I’M SORRY JESSICA, BUT I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NIFLHEIM AND MUSPELHEIM,” thus ending a loveless, but comfortable relationship? I didn’t think so. So that’s why I’ve done the heavy lifting for you!
Welcome to Movie Catch Up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU for the MCU because I think I’m clever). The weekly series where I re-watch every movie in the MCU so you don’t have to! I’ll give you all the important details for each movie in order to get you up to speed for Avengers: Infinity war. I’ll be watching every movie in release order, which means this week we’re starting from the top, with the playboy himself, IRON MAN.
So the movie opens to the arid landscapes of Kunar Province, Afghanistan while the only song that’s acceptable to open Iron Man to plays in the background and that’s… Back in Black by AC/DC. Soldiers are driving in a convoy and we’re introduced to the hero of our story, Tony Stark, a weapons dealer who is just way too cool for everyone in any room. In the next 2 minutes he manages to make sexist jokes, brag about how powerful he is and brag about sleeping with 11/12 calendar models. Yet you STILL want to like this guy. I don’t know what genie Robert Downey Jr. killed to get this much charisma, but let’s just say I’ve hid tracking devices around his house for years now and I still haven’t found out.
Things fall apart very quickly though as their convoy is attacked by unknown combatants. The soldier fight hard, but they’re all taken out one by one until only Tony’s left. Despite his best efforts to hide he’s struck by shrapnel from the very weapons he designed, a Stark Industries missile. Thankfully, he was also wearing a high tech Stark Industries vest and survives the explosion, only to be captured by an unknown organization…
CUT TO 36 hours earlier in Las Vegas, where Tony is being honoured for an Apogee Award for engineering excellence and we get to hear about Tony’s life story. He was a prodigy engineer since childhood, took over his dad’s company in his 20s and made billions because unfortunately… his parent’s died in a tragic car accident. Move over Batman, this guy is also a playboy billionaire with dead parents. Presenting the award is Tony’s longtime friend and military man James Rhodes (Rhodey), played by the reluctant Terrence Howard, who is phoning in his performance so hard that you’d think his lines were written directly into his contract.
Unfortunately Tony is not there to accept the award, so accepting the award on his behalf is long-time partner of Tony’s father, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane (also known as Obi, The Stane, and any other name I can think of, until I burn this joke to the ground). Tony is too busy gambling with his bodyguard, Happy Hogan, and arguing with reporters who hate that he’s a war profiteer, but not enough to not sleep with him.
The next day we get to meet Pepper Potts (Tony’s personal assistant), inside Tony’s Malibu dream house, taking out the “trash” from the night before (you go Pepper) and coaxing Tony to head over to Afghanistan for his military presentation. This is a really nice scene showing the great chemistry between Pepper and Tony despite it being a huge HR violation. His presentation in Afghanistan is to show off his brand new bomb, the Jericho missile, a new level of overkill. The presentation goes without a hitch, they drive off into the sunset and the USA happily controls the world with devastating weaponry…JUST KIDDING, their convoy explodes and we’re back to where we were at the start of the movie.
Tony and another scientist named Yinsen have been captured by a terrorist organization called The Ten Rings (they’ll be important in another movie). This subset group of The Ten Rings are under the leadership of Raza (he will not be important in another movie). They have been keeping Tony alive by hooking up is body to a car battery. The idea is to use the battery as an electromagnet to stop the shrapnel in his body from reaching his heart and killing him. It is up to Tony and Yinsen to build The Ten Rings their very own Jericho missile using a bunch of scraps in the cave, or else they’ll be killed. Tony has other ideas.
Rather than building the missile Tony decides to do a couple things. The first is to upgrade the car battery hanging out of his chest to a new more portable high powered battery called an Arc Reactor based on a bigger one built to power one of his factories (unfortunately this does mean he can no longer save money on his life insurance by switching to Geico). The second is to use that bunch of scraps to build himself a giant suit of armour, powered by said Arc Reactor) so him and Yinsen can escape captivity. In an absolutely mind-blowingly awesome scene, he dawns the suit of armour and wreaks havoc on the camp. Tony does escape (destroying the suit in the desert in the process), but at the cost of his companion Yinsen’s life. Good night sweet prince. You will be remembered, at least until the end of the movie.
After wandering through the desert, Tony is found and rescued by Rhodey the robot and brought back home for a touching reunion with Pepper and Happy. Shaken by his experience and upset over the role that his weapons played in terrorism, Tony calls an emergency press conference to announce that Stark Industries will no longer manufacture any weapons. This announcement, which causes the Stark Industries stock price to plummet, scares the wallet of The Stanemeister so much that he’s forced to go full damage control for Stark Industries while he prays that Tony lays low and that his heart shrinks a few more sizes.
The problem is that Tony’s version of laying low is secretly working on advancing his Iron Man suit technology way beyond what he built in a cave with a bunch of scraps (with the help of his A.I. buddy JARVIS), while keeping the Arc Reactor specs away from Obisforme, who would very not so subtly weaponize the technology. Plus he has Pepper perform some amateur surgery to replace the Arc Reactor in his chest with a new one.
Tony does stay out of the public eye for a while though until he decides to make a surprise appearance at a Stark Industries hosted charity event. Two important things happen here. First thing is Tony runs into Phil Coulson, Agent of SHIELD (It stands for the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division and it’s a secret US government organization that deals with “unique” phenomena), who wants to talk to Tony for unknown reasons. You may have seen Coulson as the main character of the Agents of SHIELD TV show. He’ll also be important in other movies. The second thing is Tony finds out is that Obistank has been not only trying lock him out of the company, but has also been providing weapons to the terrorists who captured him!
Fueled by a sense of guilt and responsibility for his company’s actions, Tony Stark once again feels the need to take matters into his own hands and this time… it’s personal. For the first time in the movie, Tony suits up and dawns the mantle of Iron Man! He quickly flies back to where it all began in Afghanistan to stop the terrorists and destroy the weapons sold to them by Stark Industries. In the process he fights numerous ground soldiers, a tank and 2 F-22 Raptor fighter jets, while barely breaking a sweat. Sure both Rhodey and Pepper find out his secret in the process, but I’d call that a small price to pay in order to be a badass.
Angered by Iron Man’s successful mission against The Ten Rings, the Harvey Weinstein version of Jeff Bridges takes a trip to visit Raza himself to punish his men and take back the Iron Man mk1 armor collected from the desert because it turns out you can make expensive weapons out of walking suits of death. Around the same time, Tony sends Pepper to collect proof from Stark Industries that they’ve been doing dirty deals with terrorists. She successfully grabs the goods with a USB stick and escapes with our favourite SHIELD agent from the charity event, Phil Coulson, but not without alerting Obidyinginside of the hack into his computer.
Not one to be outdone, Obi(I’ve run out of ideas)diah takes one last trip to Tony’s house to solve one last problem. You see, in order to use his newly stolen suit he needs power, but he doesn’t know how to make an Arc Reactor. So he decides to take the one out of Tony’s chest and run away. Thanks to a newly created cup holder installed in Tony’s chest, Stark starts to undergo cardiac arrest. Thankfully Pepper kept Tony’s old crusty Arc Reactor framed in his basement. He barely makes it, but he’s able to get to the reactor in time and lives another day (did you think Iron Man would die in his own movie?).
Pepper sends Rhodey to check in on Tony, while she and Coulson take it upon themselves to arrest Obi Wan Lebowski (nailed it). This turns out to be a not so great idea since Obidiah has developed his own suit to become The Iron Monger. He attacks the whole team and wipes out half of them. At the same time Rhodey finds Stark and helps him into his suit so he can go save the day. As Iron Man flies away heroically, Rhodey stares longingly at an Iron Man prototype and exclaims “next time,” implying that in the next movie he’ll get to wear a suit. This will happen, but thankfully Terrance Howard will no longer be playing Rhodey.
Tony does make it in time to save Pepper and Coulson. He’s also just in time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Iron Man vs Iron Monger. In the climactic battle they trade blows, fly high into the sky Iron Monger freezes from the altitude aaaaaaand it’s over.
Well not quite. There’s a little more. After the flight into the sky they both crash into the roof of the factory where the original much larger Arc Reactor was built. Iron Monger wasn’t fazed much from the crash, but unfortunately Tony’s reactor power his suit is almost out of juice. In a weakened state Iron Monger easily crushes Tony’s suit and is about to kill him. As a last ditch effort, Pepper overloads the factory’s Arc Reactor and hits Iron Monger with the full force of the energy burst, killing him the process. The day is saved.
Only a few more things to tie up some loose ends. The next day Rhodey holds a press conference to lie to the public about the big fight from the night before. Agent Coulson has even prepared a speech for Tony with full alibi. Tony shares a romantic moment with Pepper and he’s off to brush everything under the rug. Except that’s not Tony’s style. In one last surprise twist, Tony Stark announces live to the world that he is, in fact, Iron Man. Credits. That’s all folks!
…Or is it? ONE MORE SURPRISE. In a scene that shows up after the credits (something that will be tradition in these movies). Tony is alone in his house, or so he thinks. Out from the shadows comes Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD and Coulson’s boss. He’s here to tell Tony (and the audience) that there’s something big going on and that Iron Man isn’t the only superhero out there. Fury has been working on something called “The Avenger’s Initiative” and he’d like Stark to be a part of it.
This is the part where every Marvel Comics fan in the audience had their minds blown and it’s the reason why I can write this article here today. It’s going to be a bright future. Thanks for reading! Next time we talk about The Incredible Hulk.