One of the arguments about Captain Marvel that I’ve seen recently is that it doesn’t try to introduce the new superhero so much as it tries to tie up any loose ends in the MCU. That it is more about Fury’s origin than it is Carol’s. And I kind of get that because, yes, this film goes back to a time before anything else. It shows us a time before S.H.I.E.L.D. knew anything about superheroes or other worlds. It inevitably acts as an intro to the MCU. But, at the same time, those arguments also really do a disservice to the film itself. I like the idea that her presence on Earth kick-started the Avengers programme. I like that it was her who introduced Nick to the wider world. It makes that pager scene in Infinity War all the more tragic. He finally has an emergency that requires her help but he is disintegrated before they can reunite. Imagine how Carol’s going to feel when she finds out she didn’t get here in time to save him? Horrible! But let’s not think about the future because watching Captain Marvel last weekend has put me in a reflective mood. The final moments of the film when Fury realises he needs to put something in place to protect the Earth the defining moment in the MCU. It’s the reason we’re all here. It’s the reason that, in 2008, Phil Coulson turned up on Tony Stark’s doorstop asking questions. So, why not go back to the start this week? See where it all began.
Everyone has their favourite Marvel film. And, because there are so many, nobody’s ranking is ever quite the same. Up until 2017/2018, I would happily have said that The Winter Soldier was the best thing to come out of the MCU. Then Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Infinity War complicated everything. On the other hand, a guy I work with has confidently told me that Iron Man is the best film Marvel have ever made. He’s also told me that nothing could top Guardians of the Galaxy but that’s another matter. We’re here to talk about Iron Man. Now, I know the first outing for Tony Stark way back in 2008 was important and will most likely always be near the top of my (and most people’s) rank. But, is it the best?
It had been a while since I last saw Iron Man before this week. It’s not one of the ones I’ve ever gone back to. I’ve probably caught half of it when it was on TV but I’ve never gone out of my way to see it. And I think it’s because there are so many fantastic films on offer. Not that I’m saying that Iron Man isn’t entertaining or good. It is. It’s just that time hasn’t necessarily done it many favours. As an introduction to the proper world of Marvel films, the first Iron Man film is perfect. Robert Downey Jr was a revelation as Tony Stark and Jon Favreau did an amazing job of basing the film in reality. It manages to be both a superhero film and more than a superhero film. It is sophisticated, fun, and looks really good.
So, what’s the problem I hear you cry? The origin story just never really did more than it needed to. This film owes a lot to a charismatic star in RDJ because, once you take him away, the narrative is just underwhelming. The villain is the first in a long line of boring and underdeveloped. And an absolute waste of Jeff Bridges talent. The whole plot against Tony is kind of stupid and it never really explores the layers created by their close relationship. And that final battle? Even when you take into account the repetitive nature of Marvel films these days, the final showdowns have become so much more memorable now.
This film, as a whole, feels a little awkward nowadays. Something I guess can be explained due to the fact that the script wasn’t finished when filming started. The production sounds a bit messy and fraught and maybe it shows on-screen? It’s a slick look but there are moments when the dialogue just feels unnatural. Some of the actors don’t seem comfortable and several characters are introduced badly. It focuses so much on what it thinks it needs to and kind of loses track of other things.
I know it sounds like I’m criticising Iron Man but I don’t dislike it in any way. It’s just that this film just feels a bit like the Granddad of the MCU nowadays. You love it and feel comfortable with it. It’s just, it’s of a different age. A different era. It started us off on such a great journey but things have moved on. Tony has moved on. There are some outstanding and funny moments throughout this film, there can be no doubt, but there are also some less slick aspects to it. Which, rather than being a criticism of Iron Man, is just a testament to how good a position that we’re in now.