One of the most anticipated films of 2012, The Avengers brings together a gaggle of super-heroes introduced (or re-introduced in some cases) to audiences over the last three years in their own movies. There is a lot to keep track of, so in the next two weeks I will be typing up a series of posts briefly covering the comic history, movie history and Blu-ray extras for each of the four origins films, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. Bex will also do a post giving a little background for Nick Fury, Hawkeye and Black Widow.
Iron Man – The Comics
Created by Stan Lee in the year we lost JFK and gained an ever-deepening role in Vietnam, Tony Stark represented the very military-industrial complex Americans would come to hate in the next ten years. Lee himself says in the documentary, The Invincible Iron Man, that the character was something of a dare he gave himself – make a man in an unsympathetic profession and position as an unabashed capitalist, likable. More – make him a hero.
Operating with a “non-crazy Howard Hughes” template, Lee designed Stark with phenomenal intelligence, endless financial resources, and a broken heart – literally. Having suffered a chest injury during a kidnapping, our protagonist becomes a super-hero in part because he has to designed a machine to keep himself alive. Using the same principles of design, he creates the first of many suits he dons over the decades, through several “reboots” of his story (moving the story forward from Vietnam, to the Gulf War, to Afghanistan respectively), to do battle for…good. Or, at least for causes he feels justified. No Captain America, Tony Stark is a more cynical, less squeaky-clean super-hero, but nonetheless driven by conflicted feelings about his own role in weapons manufacturing that push him toward a desire to be a good man. Having no powers beyond his brain and his resources, Iron Man is in some ways more accessible to readers, who can imagine for themselves the feeling of stepping into a suit that transforms one from ordinary to invincible.
Man’s man, ladies man, man-about-town, Lee states in the same documentary that no Marvel character at the time received more fan mail from women than Tony Stark. Indestructible on the outside, wounded on the inside, Lee speculates women feel a desire to both be protected by and protect the hero. Perhaps. For this generation, it is likely the portrayal by Robert Downey Jr. that brings all the ladies to the yard, so to speak.
But I’ll get to that.
Directed by Jon Favreau and staring Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard, Iron Man was released in May of 2008 to overwhelmingly positive reviews and phenomenal ticket sales. Released just a month before The Incredible Hulk, it is the first of the Avengers origins stories to hit the big screen and follows a traditional Origins outline. Audiences come into Stark’s life as he is at the top of his game as a weapons manufacturer working with the US military. His world is thrown into chaos when he is kidnapped in Afghanistan, receiving the aforementioned chest wound, and is forced by his kidnappers to build for them, the Jericho – a weapon that, as Tony himself describes it, “only has to be fired once” to strike fear into all enemies.
Stark and a fellow prisoner work together to create the first version of the Iron Man suit that will get him out of captivity; from there the story shifts back to the US, to Tony’s rise into the role of super-hero as he is forced to confront the fact that his technology may be used for evil, and that it may very well be those closest to him that stand to profit from the carnage.
The Avengers Speculations
Played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr., the movie version of Iron Man holds all the appeal for both men and women as the comic ever did, perhaps even more (that might just be me – as a child of the 80s, Downey Jr. has been on my * sigh * list for decades). The “after the credits” bonus scene introducing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury as he approaches Stark about potential involvement in an as-of-yet unnamed project to save the world gave fans an exciting hint of things to come. The importance of Stark in the operation seems clear, as he is the first to get his own film and the first to be approached by Fury. Stark has a stint as head of SHIELD in the comics and I expect to see him step into a leadership role among his fellow Avengers in the film. He was the one sent out to find Banner in The Incredible Hulk, after all, so it seems as though he is already recruiting folks behind the scenes.
On a personal note, one of the things I am most excited for is watching Robert Downey Jr. say lines written by Joss Whedon. They seem like a match made in pop culture heaven.
While I have a particularly strong bond with Thor, I suspect that Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man will be the Avenger most appealing for a large percentage of those standing in lines at midnight on May 4th. There is just somethin’ about that guy.
The Blu-ray Extras (All in HD)
Note: My Blu-ray is only one disc. There is a two-disc version out there and I will list what is available on that below. If only I had known, I would have surely bought the two-disc version. That’s what I get for picking up the first one I saw.
Disc one (and the only disc I have)
1. Hall of Armor – an interactive tour through the four “marks” (models) of Iron Man’s suit in the film. It’s interesting enough for those into the technology side of Iron Man, but would be enhanced by some music. As it is, it gets a little dull after a few minutes.
2. BD Live – Iron Man IQ trivia game. Unfortunately, I do not have my system connected to the internet, so I couldn’t try this feature out. I have read a few reviews that say it is pretty cool, but you will need to create a profile on BD Live to use it.
3. Invincible Iron Man Documentary – about 45 minutes in length, this features interviews with many of the writers and artists responsible for Iron Man in his various incarnations and arcs over the last five decades. As a social studies teacher (including a stint teaching Pop Culture), I loved it. Comic fans will likely love it as well. Others will probably get bored after about 15 minutes.
4. Deleted and extended scenes. I rarely take the time to watch all deleted and/or extended scenes, but there are some pretty good ones here. Again, it’s for the hard-core fan.
Unfortunately, there is no commentary option, something I find surprising and disappointing. Commentary is often among my favorite features on DVD/Blu-ray.
The Ultimate Blu-ray 2-Disc edition can be purchased for just over $30 on Amazon and contains the following on the second disc.
I am Iron Man a “making of” featurette
Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test
The Actor’s Process – a scene rehearsal with cast.
The Onion Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film
Image Galleries: includes posters, concept art, and unit photography
All that sounds totally awesome and, again, I wish I had purchased this option.
All in all, the $15 I paid (Amazon) was well worth it, however. Even if only the movie had been included, that’s a fair price for a fantastic flick.
That’s it for Iron Man. Stay tuned for Avengers Boot Camp: The Incredible Hulk
This post was originally published on Good Girls Gone Geek, April 19th, 2012