Iron Man is a film released in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released on May 2nd, 2008, the film is the first film in the MCU and the first film iteration of the character. It stars Robert Downey Jr as the titular character, and was directed by Jon Favreau. The film was a success both domestically and worldwide, grossing nearly $600 million at the box office. While the film bears similarity to its Earth-19999 counterpart, there are various cosmetic differences, such as the beginning and the explicit mention of The Mandarin in the film, that help distinguish it.
Plans for a film based on the character had lingered around since 1990, when Marvel had sold the rights to the character to Universal Pictures. The property passed through several different hands throughout the 1990s, eventually winding up in the hands of Paramount Pictures, who planned a release in 2006 with Nick Cassavetes attached to direct a script by Tim McCanlies and Miles Millar (based on a story concept by Stan Lee). At the time, Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise were all rumored to star as Tony Stark. However, with production stalling in late 2004, Paramount removed the Cassavetes film from pre-production and sold the film rights back to Marvel Studios.
Marvel reworked the production entirely, starting from the ground up. In 2006, Jon Favreau was hired as the director, and with him he brought star Robert Downey Jr. Paramount executives were hesitant on Downey as the lead actor, given his history with drug and alcohol abuse, and required Marvel Studios to put down a bond for an undisclosed amount as insurance for Downey's participation. Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle were all cast in their respective roles between October 2006 and January 2007. Filming began in California in June of 2007, wrapping up in September of that year.
We open at a share holder meeting for Stark Industries, and get a rundown of the history of the weapons manufacturer. Started by Howard Stark in the late 1930s and growing into an industrial powerhouse during the Cold War, Stark Industries, it is said, is the world's leading weapon designer and manufacturer. The video plans to introduce Tony Stark, but instead we see Obadiah Stane, the COO of Stark Industries, who gives the speech Tony was supposed to give about keeping America safe in the 21st century. Elsewhere, Stark is drunk partying with some girls, paying them to start dancing on the blackjack tables. When a hotel concierge comes over to ask him to leave, Tony merely replies he can't...he bought the casino that morning.
As Stane drags Tony away from the casino floor, they are confronted by a young woman who claims to be a reporter. She talks to Tony, who seems a bit more sober all of a sudden, and starts talking about his legacy as a weapons dealer. Tony responds in kind saying that his weapons sales make his humanitarian work possible. In the end, we cut to a scene in Tony's Las Vegas suite, where the young woman wakes up naked in bed, the implication being she slept with Tony. She is met by Pepper Potts, who gives her her clothes and tells her their will be a ride waiting for her downstairs.
Later, Stark is taken overseas to Afghanistan by the United States Military to demonstrate his new Jericho Missile Platform, which uses rudimentary AI in its targeting systems. He is escorted by Lt. Col James Rhodes of the US Air Force. En route back to base, Rhodes and Stark's convoy is attacked by a terrorist organization called the Ten Rings, with Stark being kidnapped after he is knocked unconscious by one of his own mortar shells.
In a cave near the town of Gulmira, Stark awakens to find himself hooked by wires to a car battery, along with a doctor named Yinsen. Yinsen says the car battery is powering an electromagnet which is keeping shrapnel from piercing his heart. Tony is brought before a warlord named Raza, who demands that Stark build him the Jericho Missle Platform. Stark refuses, but sees that he is cut off from the rest of the world, surrounded by weaponry he made that had been sold to America's enemies. Eventually, he and Raza reach a deal where Stark is released if he builds the platform in under four months.
Stark though has no intention of keeping the deal, melting down components of missiles to create a miniaturized ARC reactor to replace the battery keeping him alive. With that in place, both he and Yinsen begin constructing a crude suit of armor to try and escape from the terrorists. After three months of captivity, Raza returns to check on progress for the Jericho. At the same time, Stark attempts to make an escape, while Yinsen distracts the terrorists long enough for Tony to finish powering up the suit. Upon finding Yinsen mortally wounded, Tony is told "not to waste his life." He maims Raza inadvertently, destroys the weapon cache, and escapes via jet propulsion, crash landing in a nearby desert as his suit falls apart around him. After a day wandering in the desert, Tony is found by Rhodey and brought back to the US.
Upon returning, Stark immediately suspends all weapons manufacturing at Stark Industries, and begins making improvements to the ARC reactor in his chest and refining his suit of armor. He is approached by Agent Phil Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention and Enforcement Logistics Division for a debriefing on his experience, but Stark declines to answer. Obadiah Stane tries to "play nice" with Stark, trying to goad him into divulging more information concerning his ARC reactor technology, but Stark resists revealing what he is working on. When Stark discovers that someone has been clandestinely selling weapons to terrorists, including the Jericho Missile Platform, he builds his Mark II set of Armor and defeats the Ten Rings in Gulmira, despite being pursued by two F-22's at the unknown command of Rhodey.
Tony returns to his home and is discovered by Pepper, who is aghast at what he has done. She and Tony have a fight, nearly leading to Pepper walking out on Stark when he says that his mission is the only thing that matters to him right now. She asks if that includes her, which Tony has no immediate answer for. Tony is once again contacted by Agent Coulson, who seems to know more about his little jaunt to Gulmira than he is letting on. Stark and Coulson dance around the issue, but the SHIELD agent seems to give implicit approval at Stark's current course of action.
Eventually Raza uncovers the remnants of Stark's armor and contacts Stane, revealing that it was Stane who had initially put the hit out on Stark so that he could take over the company. Raza attempts to blackmail Stane, citing the fact that he works for the Warlord known simply as The Mandarin at the head of the Ten Rings, but Stane calls his bluff and winds up killing Raza and his men, stealing the armor. Stane reverse engineers the armor into a working prototype, but can't duplicate the power source. Upon failing to replicate the ARC reactor to power the new Iron Monger suit, Stane steals the one in Tony's chest, just as Pepper discovers Stane's duplicity and contacts Coulson and Rhodes to help Tony out. Rhodey arrives to Tony's house just in time to help him retrieve an older version of his ARC reactor, which Tony uses to power his new Mark III armor against the Iron Monger. After a battle at Stark Industries, Stark helps Pepper to cause an overload in the main ARC reactor which kills Stane and destroys the Iron Monger.
In a postlude, Tony is handed an alibi by Coulson, who remarks that they will be in contact soon, telling Stark to "expect a call from SHIELD". Before the press conference, Tony and Pepper come to something of an understanding, each saying that a relationship "might be fun." At the press conference, Tony starts to read the alibi of being away from the incident, but is quickly goaded into revealing to the world, "I am Iron Man."
[Fade into Tony Stark walking into his home, the lights turning on as he does.]
Stark: Honey, I'm home.
JARVIS: Sir, I'm afraid there's been...
[JARVIS' voice cuts out as Stark stops short of the main living quarters, seeing a man dressed in black staring out the window.]
Fury: "I am Iron Man." You just couldn't resist could you Stark?
Stark: Well it's not everyday you get to call yourself a hero.
Fury: That's just it. You're not a hero. At least not yet.
[The man turns around and approaches Tony, who backs up a bit.]
Stark: Mind telling me who the hell you are?
Fury: Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD.
Fury: We need to have a little chat Mr. Stark, about something called the Avengers Initiative.
Summary of Changes
- The opening scene takes place at a Shareholder's Meeting for Stark Industries, rather than at an awards ceremony for Tony Stark. Likewise, Rhodey is not present at the meeting, unlike in the first film.
- Stark is seen blowing off the meeting by drunkenly playing blackjack and paying women as opposed to the first film, where he is at a craps table. He also didn't buy the casino in the first film.
- Stane is the one who retrieves Tony from the casino, as opposed to Rhodes.
- The Jericho Missile System is said to contain rudimentary AI in its target scanning equipment. Though it is never explicitly stated, this is similar to the technology that Project Insight would use in the Winter Soldier.
- Yinsen is explicitly mentioned as a doctor, with no particular background in mechanical engineering. He also serves as a field medic for the Ten Rings organization, by force.
- Raza is the only warlord present in the Ten Rings camp, whereas there were two separate ones in the mainline film.
- Stark is not told about his company selling weapons by Christine Everhart. Rather he finds out by overhearing some executives at a company meeting.
- Raza explicitly declares himself to be working for a "powerful warlord from China.", though Stane dismisses this as mere fantasy. The Ten Rings was just an allusion in the original film to the Mandarin, with Raza explicitly hinting at his existence here.
- Rhodes finds Tony near dead and has to get the old ARC reactor for him, as opposed to Tony being able to crawl to his workshop and retrieve it himself.
- Pepper and Stark are explicitly in a relationship at the end of the film.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man- A self described billionaire, playboy and philanthropist who fights international terrorists using armored suits of his own design.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts- The personal assistant to Tony Stark, who later becomes his girlfriend at the end of the film.
- Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger- The CFO of Stark Industries and former business partner of Howard Stark, who secretly hires a terrorist group called the Ten Rings to kill Tony Stark, and later builds a suit of armor of his own to combat Iron Man.
- Jon Favreau as Harold "Happy" Hogan- Tony's friend, chauffeur, and self-appointed head of security.
- Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson- A SHIELD special agent assigned to debrief Tony Stark following his escape from the Ten Rings
- Don Cheadle as Air Force Lt. Col James Rhodes- US military liaison between the Air Force and Stark Industries. Also a longtime friend of Tony Stark.
- Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S.- The personal A.I. system that runs Tony Stark's home and equipment, and serves similar functions within Tony's Iron Man suits.
- Shaun Toub as Yinsen- A surgeon from a small town in Afghanistan that saves Tony Stark's life, first by attaching an electromagnet to him to keep shrapnel from piercing his heart, and secondly by sacrificing himself to allow Stark time to finish building his first Iron Man suit.
- Faran Tahir as Raza- A Ten Rings warlord hired by Obadiah Stane to kill Tony Stark, who instead keeps him alive to try and build a Jericho Missile System
- John Slattery as Howard Stark- Tony Stark's father and the founder of Stark Industries.
In addition, Stan Lee cameos as a man mistaken for Hugh Hefner at a party. Samuel L. Jackson cameos as SHIELD director Nick Fury in a Post-Credits Scene. Leslie Bibb plays Christine Everhart, a Vanity Fair reporter that Tony seduces at one point. Gary Sinise also cameos as the narrator of a Stark Industries video package early in the film. Financial analyst Jim Cramer also cameos as himself.
The film received near universal acclaim, with review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 94% with an average score of 7.7/10 out of 268 reviews. The film's critical consensus reads "Director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. make this smart, high impact superhero movie one that even non-comics fans can enjoy." Critics in particular praised Downey's performance, calling it a career comeback, while some criticized the lack of a strong supporting cast and weak villain.
The film opened at #1 at the box office, gaining $98.6 million dollars en route to a domestic gross of $318.4 million overall. The film went on to gross $585.2 million worldwide.