The film that started everything. If it were not for Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige, Iron Man as well as the MCU might not exist. It's hard not to believe that before this film, the character of Iron Man was not a major comic book character. Tony Stark had his few moments, but Tony Stark was nowhere near the level of Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. Yet, here we all are ten years later, and Robert Downey Jr. is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood helming a multi-billion-dollar property as well as helming one of the biggest films in the last decade. While Tony Stark has only had three solo-films, Robert Downey Jr. is tied with Chris Evans for the most appearances in the MCU with eight. That is almost half of the films inside the comic-book universe. It is hard to believe this universe working without Robert Downey in the red and gold.
One of the things that might throw fans of the MCU off when revisiting Iron Man is how grounded the film was when it came out. While it might seem weird to think but before the year 2008, Marvel was at a terrible spot at the box office. The X-Men franchise had released its third that left many to believe that the franchise was dead. Spider-Man was coming off of the stench of Spider-Man 3 with rumors that nobody wanted to come back for a fourth installment. Even the Fantastic Four were dead in the mind of audiences after Rise of the Silver Surfer stunk up the theaters. Fox now saw both of their properties (X-Men and Fantastic Four) on life support and Sony was trying to figure out the future of their Spider-Man franchise. The entire Marvel film catalog was nearly dead, and it did not help that DC decided they should release their next film in their catalog, The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight destroyed almost every record held by a comic book film making over a billion dollars worldwide. The Dark Knight set the record as being the 6th grossing film all time back in 2008 and set the bar for superhero films to come.
Iron Man was Marvel's counter-punch to DC's success with Batman. Both characters share similar traits, billionaire who had no superpowers except their wallets and minds. While Iron Man has a ton of positives going for it, there are a few negatives that stand-out after a revisit. One of them is the one and only appearance of Terrence Howard as Colonel James Rhodes. While his performance is not a bad one, Howard definitely conveys a different version of Rhodes that Don Cheadle would not bring when he takes over the role in future MCU films. There is definitely a "what if" feeling seeing Howard play the character but I personally like Cheadle's take on the character over the prior.
Another negative from this film is less of a negative on the film itself but more of a negative for what standard it set for future MCU films. While I personally enjoy Jeff Bridges in this film as Obadiah Stane, many might look at his performance as a simple villain that Marvel would rinse and repeat in multiple films to come. Bridges would set the stage for Tim Roth, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Eccleston, Corey Stoll, and Mads Mikkelsen to get by with being vanilla villains who only serve the plot as being sinister and a mirror of who the hero could have been. While I have begun to hate a lot of the MCU's villains during this retrospective, I don't fault these failures on Jeff Bridges.
Whatever your feelings are for this film, you have to give credit to Iron Man for its world building and the bar Tony Stark and company set for future films to come. A lot of the hype going into Infinity War is due to the success of this film and the foundation it created for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I hope that we have more films to come with Downey Jr. in the Iron Man suit, I would not be shocked if Infinity War will be his last flight in the Iron Man suit.