Listen, I’m not really a comic book kind of guy, ok? What I don’t know about superheroes could reasonably fill a bumper anthology – but the old-school spectacle, event movie sparkle, and near-perfect reviews, have got me all excited for the upcoming Avengers movie (or Marvel Presents A Movie In Which The Avengers Are Variously Assembled For Your Delectation And Enjoyment as I understand it is officially known in the UK), out today. With this in mind, I’m going to watch all the “origin story” films that introduce our heroes – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk – before watching all the characters together in the same film, presumably surrounded by nerds in the throes of excitement-induced anaphylactic fits.
First up, then, is the first film from Marvel Studios, 2008’s Iron Man, which gave the ailing superhero genre, if not a kick, then certainly a well-placed nudge, on the arse. Yes, 2008’s other big comic book movie The Dark Knight won the box-office war, and admittedly also the which-is-the-better-film war. But whilst Christopher Nolan went for twisty noirish dramatic realism, director Jon Favreau reminded audiences that comic book movies could be – whisper it – fun. From the moment the thundering riffs of Back In Black introduce our hero in the opening seconds, we know this origins story is up for a bit of a laugh, unwilling to take itself seriously and boldly willing to puncture the ludicrousness of comics with humour.
If you weren’t sure of the tone, then Downey Jr quickly dissuades any doubts. His wisecrack-per-minute ratio is astounding, radiating electro-magnetic charisma even when held hostage by evil terrorists in a cave. The fit with the character is glove-tight. As one of the least troubled of superheroes he’s easily the most entertaining, and with the buckets of cash to mess around, he’s very much like a non-grumpy Batman.
Look, Iron Man was hardly going to win the Award in Plot Originality Excellence, nor the Gold Cup for Dramatic Depth And Character Development. But it’s a film set apart by a director and leading man both supremely confident in their abilities, and in the power of their source character, and it set a strong blueprint for further Marvel adventures to come. A good start.
“Join me” tomorrow when I move onto the next of the Avengers, The Incredible Hulk. “See you there!”