Iron Man: the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Iron Man: the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Iron Man

The Marvel Cinematic Universe today is a hyperkinetic and varied world, capable of offering all kinds of adventures, from science fiction with Guardians of the Galaxy to espionage, as demonstrated by the recent series The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. A similar narrative structure can afford these digressions only if it rests on solid foundations, which in our case are the metallic shoulders of a red and gold armor, worn for the first time on May 2, 2008 by a playboy, billionaire, philanthropist. The obvious reference is to Iron Man, the first chapter of the cinematic adventures of Marvel's Golden Avenger, now regarded as the first step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In hindsight, it's easy to identify in Iron Man a promising first chapter for the fledgling MCU, but if we went back to 2008, and were a bit cynical, we couldn't help but wonder how many possibilities there could be with a foolishly wasted highly talented actor like Robert Downey Jr. and a non-top-notch character from the House of Ideas can become the backbone of a project of such great ambition. Despite this skepticism, Marvel Studios invested in this strange couple, driven by an idea that had been trying to make it to the cinema for years.

Iron Man: from comics to cinema

Since the early 90s, in fact, at Marvel's house they wanted to transport Iron Man to the world of cinema. Even before Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man, the billionaire in armor was the character designated to bring Marvel comics to the big screen. At the time, cinecomics were not yet the Holy Grail we venerate today, which is why Universal Studios, which had bought the rights to the character, aimed to make a film with a low budget, useful for testing the waters. The success of the first Batman the previous year and the memory of Donner's Superman were encouraging signs, but before investing in a large production it was better to carry out a simple but effective project.

The task initially on Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Honey, the boys have shrunk), but after a long traverse between unfinished screenplays and various complications, it comes to 1996, when the rights to Iron are acquired by 20th Century Fox, a change that also involves a change of perception on the potential quality of the final product, so much so that two actors propose themselves as interpreters: Nicholas Cage and Tom Cruise. The first has always been a fan of comics, already returning from a failed attempt to film a comics, the infamous Superman by Tim Burton. Cruise, on the other hand, is heading towards his role as an action actor, but his interest was taken more into consideration, so much so that in a comic miniseries of the period, Extremis, Tony Stark was portrayed with his features. >
20th Century began to seriously consider making this film, so much so that they involved character creator, Stan Lee, as support for Jeff Vintar, who was in charge of writing the screenplay. The two conceived a science fiction story, identifying the antagonist in MODOK; this first draft convinced the studios, who asked Jeffrey Cane to polish some details in order to arrive at a final version, in the same period in which Quentin Tarantino was tried to involve in the project as a director. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox had acquired the rights to other House of Ideas characters, such as Fantastic Four and X-Men, which were deemed more promising, a vision that prompted the major to sell Iron Man rights to New Line Cinema. .

The relationship between New Line Cinema and Marvel had already given birth to the first film dedicated to a character from the House of Ideas, Blade. When the rights to Iron Man were taken over by New Line in 2000, the production company had hired a team of writers (Ted Ellito, Terry Rossio and Tim McCanlies) who hadn't just imagined a Tony Stark movie, but he saw potential on this occasion: to create a universe of stories and characters. So much so that cameos of other Marvel Universe figures were imagined, such as Nick Fury, of which a film was started to be hypothesized. From these early ideas, the Iron Man script went through several stages, which saw a first villain in Mandarin, later shelved to make room for a plot in which Howard Stark would become a villain by the name of War Machine. In the same way, several directors were approached, including Joss Whedon, but even in this case the hesitation made time pass until 2004, when the failure of the project entrusted to Nick Cassavettes, led to the moment in which everything changed: the rights of Iron Man returned to Marvel.

Iron Man and the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

In 2005, the perception of exploitation of their characters had begun to change at Marvel's home. Some of the most beloved heroes had been entrusted with big names, such as 20th Century Fox and Sony, and the leaders of Marvel Studios decided to follow a different path: to independently make films inspired by their heroes. Iron Man was identified as the first superhero of the Marvel Universe cinematic, even if this choice forced the Studios to confront an unexpected reality: no professional wanted to approach the project. The reasons, basically, were the lack of confidence that the film would be an internal production and that the character was little more than an unknown. This last consideration was confirmed by some focus groups organized by Marvel, which revealed that for the people Iron Man was little more than a robot. It was therefore necessary to overturn this image of Tony Stark's alter ego, a task that was entrusted to a name now considered one of the great storytellers of pop culture: Jon Favreau.

Favreau had already ventured into the Marvel world , having participated in the role of Foggy Nelson in Daredevil (2003), the occasion in which he had befriended Avi Arad. The two were determined to carry out a project together, and Iron Man became the right opportunity to try. Favreau had clear ideas on how to present Iron Man to the public, appealing to his humanity and weaving a story that had spy story suggestions, humanizing the character as much as possible.

It was necessary to create an origin story that showed in Tony Stark clearly on the human level, before the superhero one. Favreau decided that his Iron Man would be a reflection of Tony Stark's realization of how the world was different from his facilitated perception, forcing him to face the truth as hard as possible. To do this, the origins of the character were rewritten, also updating him historically, but trying to preserve the authentic spirit of Iron Man, making use of the collaborations of important names in the publishing history of the Avenger (Mark Millar, Joe Quesada, Brian Michael Bendis). >
For the lead role, Favrau's first choice was Sam Rockwell, who showed interest in the role, but what changed everything was an audition from another actor: Robert Downey Jr. An actor with a stormy history of addiction and rehabilitation, Downey Jr. was considered one of the great promises of cinema between the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s, but when his problems with drugs and alcohol assailed him, the career of he seemed to finish. Graced by a second chance, thanks to the help and trust of some colleagues, Downey Jr ,. he returned to acting, after a long journey of rehabilitation, at the beginning of the new millennium in films such as Gothika, and Zodiac, reminding everyone of his incredible artistic skills.

During his audition for the role of Tony Stark , the actor made no secret of his passion for the character, but what convinced Favreau was a more intimate aspect of the character:

"The highest and lowest moments of Robert's existence were under his eyes of all. He had to find an intimate balance to overcome the obstacles that had ruined his career. And that was Tony Stark! "

The choice of Robert Downey Jr. was seen as too risky a bet, but Favreau did not intend to give in on this decision. For the director, the dramatic life of Downey Jr was a winning emotional key to give a credible human depth to the character, who in comics had gone through similar moments, as in the famous story arc of The Demon in the Bottle. Favreau's adamant belief ultimately prevailed, getting Robert Downey Jr. the ten-year role that would restore his career to Hollywood Olympus, ousting the likes of Timothy Oliphant, Rob Lowe, Clive Owen and Hugh. Jackman.

For his Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr not only relied on his personal experiences, but modeled the character on Elon Musk, who for the actor was an ideal Iron Man. RDJ's verve, as the friendly actor Tony Stark has been dubbed, he did not take long to manifest himself on the set, becoming an essential trait of the character. Since the last revision of the script had not yet been completed when filming began, Robert Downey Jr took the opportunity to improvise numerous lines and attribute to his character some quirks that he found amusing, helping to create a synergy between performer and character that has become one of the most recognizable traits of his long association with the Marvel hero. It is therefore no surprise that the famous scene in which Tony Stark reveals his secret identity to everyone was improvised by Robert Downey Jr, taking the crew by surprise, but revealing itself as a captivating emotional twist to the film's plot.

Creating the world of Iron Man

After deciding not to immediately show a historical villain of the character like the Mandarin, Favreau decided to totally change his approach, preferring to create a broad narrative context but not fully revealed in the first movie. From this idea, the Ten Rings were born, a presence that would become a constant of the MCU, and focusing on a more concrete threat closer to the character's adventures. Obadiah Stane was then identified as the antagonist, who would have faced Tony with his own armor, citing the Armor Wars run.

To make the armor, they used the master Stan Winston, who gave a touch of personality to each armor. For the Mark I, built by Tony to escape his captivity, the look was defined thinking in terms of recovery, considering how this first armor was functional to escape and a frontal attack. The approach for the realization of the Mark II was different, realizing thinking about the lines of the prototypes of experimental aircraft, and the Mark III, in the realization of which the designator Adi Granov also participated, author of the tables of the Extremis saga, source of inspiration for the third film dedicated to Testa di Latta. Stan Winston's work on Iron Man was integral to giving the character an initial definition of his armor, a work that has a bitter aftertaste, considering that Winston, a movie legend, died a month after the release of the movie. films in American theaters.

I am Iron Man

When it was released in theaters, Iron Man was not simply a winning bet, but it was a real phenomenon, which we can see again today at will on Disney +. Any doubts about having entrusted a risky actor like Robert Downey Jr. with a similar role evaporated when Tony Stark came to life on the screen, presenting himself as an eclectic but credible figure, with his inner dramas, enhanced by his evolution as a manufacturer from death to hero. Since this first appearance in the role of Tin Head, Downey Jr has created a singular synergy with his alter ego that has often pushed fans where one ended and the other began.

Hard to imagine today a Marvel Cineamtic Universe without Tony Stark. Above all, a Tony Stark different from that offered by Robert Downey Jr, who immediately became an integral part of the nascent Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in the post credit scene of the second film in the saga, Hulk, released two months after Iron Man. wearing the armor of the Golden Avenger, after having made the extreme sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, this bond that seemed indissoluble between actor and character has come to an end, between the despondency of the fans and the need for an actor to free himself from what he risked becoming a mask that obscured his creativity and skill. Ten years of coexistence, an important chapter for a career and a revolution in the entertainment world such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which finally came to a conclusion, when the hero and the actor, in one, they said goodbye to the audience in the same way they started this wonderful friendship, with three simple words:

“I am Iron Man”

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