#12 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.
I know what Tony Stark’s character arc is supposed to be in this movie. I do not know what it actually is, though.
Tony Stark is a weapons manufacturer who works on contracts from the United States government. He starts the movie finishing a large sale for a new missile called the Jericho. It produces its large explosions, the military is happy, and Tony makes his sale. His convoy is quickly beset by terrorist forces, Stark is captured, and the terrorists force him to produce a Jericho missile for them in a cave with some leftover Stark weapons they have sitting around. The idea that they have the right materials for a new weapon system from older weapons is a bit ridiculous, but it’s probably not quite as ridiculous as the idea that these same weapons have the parts to create a state of the art, miniature, perpetual source of energy that fits into a slot in Tony’s chest. But hey, it’s a techno-fantasy. Let’s just roll with it.
Tony produces a suit of armor instead because his captors are idiots who can’t tell the difference between a chest plate and a missile casing. With the help of a kindly local doctor who speaks every language the plot requires of him, Tony escapes. It helps that the doctor has the perfect mix of wanting to live long enough to help Tony and wanting to die to join his family in death so he throws his life away to help Tony escape.
Tony returns home where he immediately holds a press conference and declares that Stark Industries will never produce weapons again. Everyone freaks out, but then everyone forgets about it about twenty minutes later when Tony just never shows up to work in order to ensure that his radical orders get carried out. Instead, he stays in his mansion over a cliff looking out at the ocean and plays with his toys. That is, he upgrades his cave suit for the 21st century and gives himself a new miraculous source of eternal energy for his chest (ordering the old one, which could conceivably power a house for some time, to be thrown out).
Okay, so let’s take a step back and try to figure out what Tony’s arc is. He starts the movie as a playboy arms dealer. He gets captured and realizes that his weapons are being sold to terrorists. He gets home and starts the process (without ever following up) to end all weapons manufacture in his company. He then proceeds to build his own weapon in the form of a high-tech suit which he then uses to kill a bunch of people, protecting some family we’ve never met before. So, what’s the arc? He almost grows and then doesn’t? He starts as a playboy and ends as a…murderous playboy? Yeah, he protects people, so I guess that’s it, using his tools for good instead of just not paying attention to who uses them. It’s confused and thin.
Oh, and let’s get to the antagonist of the film, Obadiah Stane. Stane makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There are really two parts to his villainy, so let’s take it one at a time. The first part occurs before the action of the movie. He arranges for Tony to be kidnapped and murdered by the terrorists before Tony ever leaves. Why? The closest we get is that Tony doesn’t take the business side of things seriously. He doesn’t show up to an awards ceremony. I mean, I guess that’s good enough reason to murder the CEO and lifelong friend. The second part of the character’s villainy occurs after Tony returns from the caves. Obviously, Stane isn’t going to like the idea of Stark shutting down a major division of the company, but he actually ends up ensuring that the steps Tony wants to happen never happen. There’s a shock to the system (highlighted by talk of the company’s stock price dropping), but once Tony’s in his little lab working (for supposedly weeks), things seem to be going on as normal at Stark Industries. So, of course Stane recreates Tony’s original suit in a larger form and goes on a kill crazy rampage which only Tony can stop.
Stane has bugged me since I first saw this movie in 2008, and I just can’t shake the fact that there must be at least ten minutes of deleted scenes explaining a lot of this. But whether they’re on a home video release as extras or not, all that matters is what’s in the movie itself, and the movie chose to make Stane completely nonsensical (probably for “pacing” reasons).
Alright, I’ve ragged on this movie enough. I’m far from hating it.
The action is good. Robert Downey Jr. is fun as Stark and carries most of the movie despite my problems with Tony’s arc. It looks good in a clean and straightforward sort of way. The music is functionally complimentary to the action on screen. If you ignore the fact that none of the characters do anything that makes a lick of sense, it’s actually fairly entertaining when it’s not being overly serious. I remember liking this movie a whole lot more in 2008 than now, though I never loved it like many people do. Eleven years later, rewatching it for the first time in about a decade, I have to say that I was actually really disappointed in it overall.
Netflix Rating: 3/5
Quality Rating: 2.5/4