Dateline v. Iron Man

Iron Man (2008)

Rated PG-13: For Violence and Some Suggestive Themes

Running Time: 126 minutes (2 hours and 6 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Science Fiction, Superhero 

Released on May 2, 2008 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios, Fairview Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures

"Iron Man" Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby

Writers: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and Art Marcum and Matt Holloway

Director: Jon Favreau


  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
  • Terrence Howard as James "Rhodey" Rhodes
  • Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane / Iron Monger
  • Shaun Toub as Ho Yinsen
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War begins now! With only roughly a week left until the biggest crossover of 2018 comes knocking in theaters everywhere, we decided to take a look back at the movie that was expected to fail, but has instead become the one that kickstarted a multi-million dollar franchise!

Common accusations for the defendant include setting-up the many flaws that other installments will follow. So help us God, we will see if this really is one of the best superhero films of all time! Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and movie court is now in session for the case of Dateline v. Iron Man!

Also, in case it is not that obvious yet, a ton of spoilers are coming your way!

What is the movie about?

Tech-savvy weapons designer and womanizing billionaire Tony Stark, played by Downey Jr. (The Judge) finds himself where he himself has unintentionally ravaged with his own weapons.

Now at the mercy of a couple of terrorists who want him to build weapons of mass destruction for them, Tony, with the aid of fellow prisoner and genius Ho Yinsen, played by Toub (Crash), must become Iron Man, and put an end to their plans!

The plot thickens when, on the other side of the globe, Tony's best friend James "Rhodey" Rhodes, played by Howard (Wayward Pines), and Tony's assistant Pepper Potts, played by Paltrow (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) discover a deeper conspiracy within Stark Industries in the form of Tony's trusted adviser, Obadiah Stane, played by Bridges (The Big Lebowski).

What we think of the movie?

The Defense:
  • A little Ramin Djawadi is always a blessing.
Ramin Djawadi, the man behind two of the best theme songs in television, namely for both Game of Thrones and Westworld, and the man whose work at the pretty mediocre Pacific Rim just made it worth the watch, helps in bringing the movie to life with his electric guitar-centric musical work. While people do give the soundtrack way too much hate for its use of the instrument, I find it rather perfect for the movie, considering that rock music helped define the titular hero's character.

However, unlike all of the three previously mentioned works, Djawadi's output for this movie is admittedly not on the same level. Hey, I am not saying that his work here is awful or terrible, or any other words that are synonymous with those two adjectives. Personally, I felt that, despite his scores fitting thematically with the movie, and despite having exerted clear and obvious effort, the soundtrack feels something like I have heard from a bunch of other action movies that I have watched. In other words, it sounds unoriginal and uninspired.

Despite this, however, Djawadi, an adamant Iron Man fan himself, still does the best that he could. In fact, most of them, especially the tracks "Driving With The Top Down", which is made as the official theme song of the movie, and the updated, jazz version of the classic Iron Man cartoon theme song, are more than enough evidence to prove that Djawadi did not just phone it in for this project.

  • Awesome action, awesome costume designs, awesome visuals!
Imagine my surprise when I found that, years after watching the movie, more than half of the film is actually improvised, simply because director Jon Favreau and the rest of the production team wanted to focus more on the action and the story. I even remember reading one article about actor Jeff Bridges stating that he did not like the "student film" approach that they took, but was nevertheless glad that his efforts were not in vain. I will get back to their improvised performances later, but in the mean time, let us take the time to appreciate all of the crew's hard work at making some of the best, realistic visuals in a blockbuster film.

I do admit that I love how not much computer-generated imagery was used, except obviously for the costumes and the brief scene featuring the holograms in Tony's workshop. It helps give the movie a much more tense atmosphere, and you can actually see Iron Man battle evil without much of the unnecessary shaky camera angles and flashing lights that most CGI-filled action films have used. From Tony Stark's armored escape from his captors, to his battle against a group of terrorists ravaging a lowly village, to his final battle against his mentor, Obadiah Stane, never was there a time when you are watching the movie that you would feel bored. My personal favorites for this movie is actually the final confrontation between Iron Man and the Iron Monger, plus Tony's rescue of Ho Yinsen's hometown, because that part not only showed Tony's true heroic side, but also we get to see one of the coolest "walking away from an explosion" shots that I have ever seen. Sure, it is pretty typical, but cool nonetheless.

The costume designs are also a plus for me, because of the realism that the designs manage to carry, and as such, none of the designs look like  sprites that are taken straight out of a video game. The shots of Tony's face inside the armor is also a major game-changer. Besides, it would have been really boring if all we see is the exterior of the armor.

  • The story, simple as it may be, is timely and thought-provoking.

The entire "hero's journey to humility" and the whole "corporate hostile takeover" story angles are nowhere near to originality, and these two are actually the most frequently used premises in the movie industry, least of all a superhero movie. However, I believe the one thing that made Iron Man stand-out from its less than inspired counterparts is its realistic atmosphere, which we have mentioned has also been evident in the film's lesser use of C.G.I. In addition, because the last thing we, as an audience, really need for our entire lifetimes is an unnecessary retooling of comicbook properties, so it really is nice to see that the film, while making some necessary changes, remained true to the spirit of Iron Man.

A common theme in Iron Man stories is that technology, for all of its benefits, will also bring about dangers to everyone. This film tackles it almost perfectly through Ho Yinsen's sacrifice, who intentionally got himself killed in order to be reunited with his family in the afterlife, and even one of Obadiah Stane's lines about Tony giving the world the best weapon there is.

Its not-so subtle social commentary on the "War on Terror" is actually pretty timely, and while most of us know that Iron Man had tackled stories pertaining to the Cold War, the contemporary updates applied to his story makes him a much more compelling character. Iron Man is a personification of corporate evil turned into corporate good. Tony's announcement that his company will no longer be making weapons is arguably the best to showcase the film's theme.

And rewatching this movie is even more meaningful after you watch all of the future M.C.U. films, not because this is the first installment, but rather, this is where Tony Stark's journey begins. This is where we first saw a man become something else entirely, and this is where we first see Tony go on his world-saving journey, growing as a character after experiencing various failures and successes. Although we still see him stumble in future installments, it really is nice to see how much his character has developed, and it all started here.

  • Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man! (And the improvisation really did not hurt, either.)
And as we have mentioned before, this entire film has 99.9% improvised dialogue in all of its scenes, which actually pays off very, very, very well for this flick. This is also one of those instances when humor in an M.C.U. film does not feel out of place.

When I first watched it back in 2008, I had absolutely no idea that improvisation was used here, because back then, I cannot notice the differences between a "scripted scene", and an "improvised scene". And now, on my succeeding viewing of the film, I recognize that, despite the obvious challenge for the actors and the actresses, they are all able to pull it off. Think about it. No script means they have to make random stuff up on the spot, and no script means numerous potential takes. Through this, their acting prowesses have come to light, and thanks to their committed performances, each of the characters, especially Robert Downey Jr., has managed to stand out!

One of my most favorite scenes from the film is when Tony Stark returned home to announce that Stark Industries will no longer be developing weapons. Not only was it funny to see people play along by just sitting down just because Downey Jr. told them so, but it was also one of those scenes that truly fleshed-out Tony's character, and his entire dialogue about how he witnessed "Young Americans" (referring to the soldiers who tried to protect him) were killed by his own weapons, is just heartbreaking. Watching this, and his audition reel for the movie, Favreau was right to cast Downey Jr. in the first place.

Robert Downey Jr. auditioning for Iron Man 

Jeff Bridges, despite being basically cheated out of the contract when he first believed that he was going to return for the sequel to be an even bigger bad, and despite playing a "by the numbers corrupt co-worker" villain, delivers one of the best lines in this movie, with a box of scraps! (Plus points if you understood that reference) It really is a shame that Bridges will not return to the role anytime soon, since he did manage to make a very cliched role into something worthwhile.

Terrence Howard, whose behind-the-scenes drama has unfortunately forced people to doubt his capabilities as an actor, did a decent job as Rhodey, especially at their early exchange about trying not to drink. Although, I have to admit, the performance of Don Cheadle (Reign Over Me) is much more effective, in contrast to Howard's work, because for obvious reasons, Cheadle and Downey Jr. have better, best friend chemistry. Still, it would have been quite interesting to see Howard in the War Machine mantle.

Shaun Toub also does a remarkable job at performing a brief, but meaningful role to the big screen, and although those who are familiar with Iron Man's origin story might have seen Ho Yinsen's demise as inevitable, Toub's delivery of his final words, revealing that his family is already dead, is absolutely brilliant. And for Gwyneth Paltrow, who managed to make Pepper Potts more than just a love interest for the main hero, she remains as one of the best written female characters in the franchise, and her chemistry with Downey Jr. is stellar. 


The Prosecution:

  • Being the first M.C.U. film, it ultimately displays the many cliches that future installments will use.

I honestly just have one problem with Iron Man, and that is it gets really predictable. Even if you have not watched this movie before, even if you have not watched all of the other M.C.U. flicks, which I certainly doubt you have not, you really cannot get rid of that itch that, for all of its thought-provoking commentary and for all of its amazing performances, Iron Man more or less just follows the "been there, done that" hero's journey narrative, wherein our hero gets betrayed, gets even. The amount of improvisation applied for this flick does help with keeping thing interesting, but in the end, the narrative tiles are set at first glance. This is not really much of a serious problem, because there really is no use at changing things overtly, to the point that it barely resembles the original comicbooks. Just sit back and enjoy the movie, and the cliches would not even be troublesome.

The Ruling: Not Guilty!

A smart and energetic cinematic realization of a nearly forgotten comicbook property, Iron Man not only brings to life Robert Downey Jr.'s acting career, but also a cinematic juggernaut that we all know today!

And there you have it. Our official review of the first Iron Man movie, and the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Since this is a countdown for the long awaited crossover, expect for more of our upcoming posts to be related to the franchise, and expect more reviews of the remaining installments that we still have not yet reviewed.

In the meantime, it is a little known fact that most Iron Man animated properties have some of the best theme songs. For your inspiration, here are two of them, one is from the 90s cartoon show, and the other is the one that you saw on Nickelodeon with Tony Stark as a teenager, and are all played to the various shots of the trilogy! Plus, since the theme song for this movie is just great, here is a heavy metal rendition of it, which is also available on Spotify! Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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