Thursday, 11 August 2016
Iron Man (4½ Stars)
"I am Iron Man".
Those four words, the last words spoken before the credits rolled in the 2008 Iron Man film, were the film's biggest surprise. They were the film's biggest shock. They weren't a shock to naive cinema goers who were new to the intricacies of the Marvel Universe. They were a shock to hardcore Marvel fans like me who've known Iron Man since he first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963. I've read his early adventures from the 1960's countless times. I grew to know and love him when I was a child. Maybe "love" is an over-statement, because he was the least charismatic of all the early Marvel super-heroes, but I did know him. I knew his mannerisms. I knew the way he spoke. I know that he would never have spoken the words "I am Iron Man".
Why was it deemed necessary to make this drastic change to the character? It's a bigger change than placing him in a different century, 45 years later in the present day world. It's an even bigger change than relocating the country of his super-hero rebirth from China to Afghanistan. Those were logical changes. Making him reveal his secret identity at the beginning of his crime-fighting career is totally illogical.
This was the film that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, usually referred to simply as the MCU. It's a series of films that feature different characters, but are all interrelated. So far (at the time of writing this review) there have been 13 MCU films. At the moment another nine films are planned, but the exact number might still change. The films are leading up an adaptation of Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, first published in 1991. It will be a very loose adaptation, since the original comics featured the Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock battling Thanos, with assistance from the Avengers. It's unlikely that the Silver Surfer will be brought back after he was poorly developed in the second Fantastic Four film, and Adam Warlock hasn't even been hinted at in Marvel films so far.
After that it's possible that the MCU will either end or be rebooted. The actors playing the Avengers and the other super-heroes are getting older and don't want to play the characters forever. Up until now Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark is the most iconic, so it's difficult to imagine the MCU continuing without him.
Of course, the film has a cameo by the incomparable Stan Lee. If you blink you'll miss him. Tony Stark mistakes him for Hugh Hefner at a party. At least, that's what we see if we watch the extended scene which was cut from the film. In the deleted scene Tony Stark apologises for his mistake, and Stan replies, "That's okay, I get this all the time". In the version used in the completed film we only see the greeting, so it's more logical to assume that it really was Hugh Hefner being played by Stan the Man Lee.