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"The truth is...I am Iron Man."
May 2, 2014 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Six years ago, the comic book adaptation Iron Man premiered in US theaters, kickstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 364 days is the premiere of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the MCU's eleventh completed film. To wallow in mild nostalgia, here's the original theatrical Iron Man trailer, plus Robert Downey Jr.'s screen test for the role. For another little blast from the past, this CNN Money article from May 2007 recounts Marvel's financial woes and checks out those ambitious Hollywood plans with a cautious eye.

Not enough? Have a few fanvids, made with love: Machine, Hey Ho, and Handlebars (direct download). And for no good reason at all, RDJ Advises Chris Evans On His Life Choices - the Tumblr tag (NSFW).

Many links poached from /r/marvelstudios. Happy birthday, MCU!
posted by nicebookrack (62 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was still May 2 when I started this!! AARGH. Oh, well. Look, adorable Disney Infinity Avengers!
posted by nicebookrack at 10:16 PM on May 2


That Sony and Fox own Spider-Man and X-Men and have been botching both franchises so horribly can only be seen as Jack Kirby's ghost's revenge.
posted by mediareport at 10:23 PM on May 2 [5 favorites]


Sorry but I think you posted the wrong link, that is Tony Stark's screen test for the role of RDJ.
posted by elizardbits at 10:51 PM on May 2 [19 favorites]


"THE RDJ AND I ARE ONE."
posted by nicebookrack at 10:56 PM on May 2


i would like to be one with him iykwim
posted by elizardbits at 11:04 PM on May 2 [12 favorites]


i really, really enjoyed Winter Soldier.

it is an interesting film, with a not-so subtle subtext that is handled deftly and seemed quite directly to support the wikileaks event. also? it kicks ass. it reminded me of the 1st Iron Man film, which was surprisingly complex both politically and emotionally, and which also... kicked some serious ass.

Guardians of the Galaxy seems more in line with the Thors, which i also liked a heck of a lot. bonus: RACCOON!

and i find the interlocking storylines between a major film release and the TV serial to be fascinating - an interesting experiment in storytelling that is actually, finally, clicking.

so yeah - i am enjoying this universe they call Marvel.
posted by lapolla at 11:21 PM on May 2 [5 favorites]


All the actors who've played Howard Stark must channel RDJ's Screentest Tony, who sounds like he's talking through his teeth clenched on a cigar. Film Tony's voice is basically indistinguishable from that of RDJ, who at some point went, "Fuck it, I am Tony Stark."
posted by nicebookrack at 11:25 PM on May 2


My pet theory is that RDJ now spends his days off reading engineering textbooks and as soon as he figures out that arc reactor thing he's going to be set.
posted by Sequence at 11:39 PM on May 2 [10 favorites]


Look, adorable Disney Infinity Avengers!

Oh man, I am never playing that game, but I need a Natasha Romanov figure. Because that is way too adorable.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:10 AM on May 3


Jeff Bridges and RDJ rehearse a Stane/Stark showdown.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:20 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


The RDJ screen test reminds me so much of Hugh Laruie's screen test for "House": Both have so much smart-ass charisma to burn.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:02 AM on May 3 [4 favorites]


mediareport: "That Sony and Fox own Spider-Man and X-Men and have been botching both franchises so horribly can only be seen as Jack Kirby's ghost's revenge."

The Amazing Spiderman franchise totally baffles me since we had Raimi's series a decade ago and the new ones don't really seem to add much.
posted by octothorpe at 4:20 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


This thread might appreciate Black Panther slapping some sense into Tony Stark.
posted by almostmanda at 4:24 AM on May 3 [6 favorites]


Count me in as someone also baffled by the new "rebooted"Spider-Man. I mean, I get that Hollywood is thinking anything ten years old and over is old news, but there really isn't a reason to have new S-M movies, no matter how much I like Andrew Garfield. All the reviews I've read of either one were not positive.
posted by Kitteh at 5:29 AM on May 3


The Amazing Spiderman franchise totally baffles me since we had Raimi's series a decade ago and the new ones don't really seem to add much.

Completely not joking here: what they add is Sony's ability to keep to the rights to the character in their pocket. It's my understanding that if they don't keep producing more films at a certain rate, the entire Spider-Man character set's movie rights revert back to Marvel.

People in comic forums like to speculate on getting Sony to negotiate some sort of agreement with Marvel that would allow Spidey to show up in the MCU, enough speculating that the Sony execs have had to comment on the possibility. But MY daydream is that the character reverts to Marvel and then Tobey Maguire shows up playing Parker in some Avengers film down the road.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:31 AM on May 3 [8 favorites]


The Amazing Spiderman franchise totally baffles me since we had Raimi's series a decade ago and the new ones don't really seem to add much.

The first one added 752 million things to Sony.
posted by Etrigan at 5:32 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


I actually like the Amazing Spiderman franchise for one thing -

Sally Field

Finally, we have an Aunt May that you can believe helped raise up Peter Parker to be the guy that he is. Not a doddering old dear that can't understand why all this sticky stuff is in Peter's clothing, but a woman who is just as strong, just as fierce, and just as powerful as Uncle Ben.

With great power comes great responsibility, and it's not just Uncle Ben who believes that - it's Aunt May with her steelworker's t-shirt and her "I know something is going on, but I want you to know that no matter what, I still love you and will fight for you" attitude.

And Sally Field nails it.

or, at least, she did in the first one. if she's suddenly a doddering old lady in the second, I am going to be bringing the pain.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:08 AM on May 3 [11 favorites]


I liked the first Iron Man movie just fine, but my favourite memory of it is the rumble of discontent that swept through the audience when the trailer for The Love Guru ended.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:21 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


or, at least, she did in the first one. if she's suddenly a doddering old lady in the second, I am going to be bringing the pain.

I just saw the second one last night. She is my favorite part of it.

My second-favorite part was my popcorn which was really right on the ball with the saltiness level.

Sigh.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:45 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Worth noting that Sally Field's Aunt May is just the movie version of Brian Michael Bendis' terrific rethinking of May and Ben in Ultimate Spider-Man.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:48 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


The Spider-Man movies (and too many others) suffer from the "If one villain is good, then more villains is better" syndrome. The Marvel Universe movies as far as I can recall have avoided that formula.
posted by idb at 7:38 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Every time I see that screen test floating around the internet, I wonder how Sasha Alexander and Sharif Atkins feel about not actually getting to be in the movie.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:49 AM on May 3


The Spider-Man movies (and too many others) suffer from the "If one villain is good, then more villains is better" syndrome. The Marvel Universe movies as far as I can recall have avoided that formula.

They haven't avoided it so much as they've realized how to do a proper Little Bad/Big Bad progression.
posted by Etrigan at 7:57 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


Add me to the list of people who found the reboot of Spider-Man to be superfluous. If you need to change actors and/or directors to continue the series, fine, but there's no need to retell Spidey's origin story yet again.

It's not an exact comparison, but, for example, the producers of the James Bond films have not seen the need to revisit Bond's early years and tell us all about how he joined the British secret service every time a new actor takes up the role. (See also: Sherlock Holmes.)

I wish that after they recast Spider-Man, they had just picked up more or less where the McGuire/Raimi version left off, and concentrated on telling an entertaining superhero story.

And, circling back to the primary topic of the thread here, it'll be interesting to see what the Marvel movie universe does with Iron Man once RDJ is done playing the part. Will they go back to the beginning, with yet another Tony Stark building a crude suit of armor to escape being held prisoner during yet another war to be named later, etc, etc? Or can they assume that everyone knows Ol' Shellhead by now, and just drop another actor into the suit and keep going?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 7:59 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


Four of Sony/Columbia's top five grossing films of all time are about Spider-Man.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:00 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


This is weird for me cause I have this distinct memory of talking about the trailer back when I was at my old job, putting on stage shows in a cafe on Sunday afternoon, it was before they redecorated, a year before they would close and the owner should move back to Berlin, a year before our event had no real home and had to do unheated warehouse parties. Six years? Feels like a freaking lifetime ago, and for some reason the McU has been hanging around in the background of those six years, from providing me with a real life Marvel writing credit, to giving me something to look foward to in the summer, to bonding experiences, to radical lifestyle changes to my first long form prose experiment being MCU based. It's just, embarrassing how much big popular superhero movies got woven into daily life , like six years? That short? I feel like I've known RDJ's Stark FOREVER.
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on May 3 [3 favorites]


Hard to remember that Downey, Jr was almost unhireable just a few years before the first Iron Man because he was so screwed up. Woody Allen wanted him for Melinda and Melinda but couldn't get bonding insurance for the movie if Downey was in it.
posted by octothorpe at 8:48 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


The meta casting of RDJ as Tony Stark was so delicious when it worked. The only way you could match it would be Batman played by a tragic orphan who dedicated his life since childhood into training as the world's greatest actor.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:52 AM on May 3 [8 favorites]


The only way you could match it would be Batman played by a tragic orphan who dedicated his life since childhood into training as the world's greatest actor.

CALCULON BATMAN IS BEST BATMAN
posted by Etrigan at 11:07 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]


It always amazes me that Jon Favreau tends to get completely forgotten whenever people start praising Marvel's cinematic universe and the grand vision behind it all. He deserve a big chunk of the credit for building the world and establishing the tone, not to mention hiring the right actors, and creating characters that have gone on to become pillars of the the Marvel movie world.

Personally I think D.C. is missing a huge opportunity by not throwing him the keys to their characters and saying, 'can you help us?' I mean it's not like they've done such a bang-up job with their last couple Superman movies, or GL, or the failed Wonder Woman series. (Sure Arrow turned into something better than the sum of its parts, but I don't hold out the same hope for the Flash). But then again, I don't see any good reason for not giving Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett a few million and telling them to go to town and produce a movie with their favourite Tier 2 hero and just seeing what results from that.
posted by sardonyx at 11:21 AM on May 3 [9 favorites]


Random small things that make the original Iron Man still so great:

- They basically improvised most of the dialogue and staging.

- RDJ and Gwyneth Paltrow turn what could've been a tired boss/secretary cliche affair (everyone in comics in the 60s had secretaries in love with them) into this crackling playful Tracy-Hepburn flirtation-banter based on snark, mutual respect, and talking very quickly over each other. It's old-school Hollywood smolder without old-school creepy. "Mr. Stark." "Miss Potts."

- Agent Coulson! Mr. Boring Suit!

- JARVIS the disembodied British AI who just shows up snarking (and never goes evil), and we immediately accept him as a character and no big deal, because that's how Tony Stark rolls. Bonus: Dummy the loyal robot-arm puppy who exists to prove Tony Stark has a heart.

- Tony is so likably human despite being a genius billionaire playboy escapist fantasy. Being tortured made him a woobie, but my original theater audience went 100% on Tony's side at the point when his test armor volleyball-spikes him into a wall and his robot blasts him with a fire extinguisher.

- Obadiah Stane rarely shows up in lists of great comic movie supervillains because he's so believably smiling and non-cackling, and it's easy to miss how thoroughly he manipulates everyone, characters and audience. Oh, we're in Afghanistan, this is a movie about evil brown terrorists, right? NOPE.

- At the end Tony says "I am Iron Man" and all the reporters leap to their feet screaming, except Christine Everhart (Vanity Fair), who had 100% already Called It. Bonus: superhero movie with no secret identities.

- When Tony is being waterboarded in Afganistan and again when he's passing out after being blown up with Stane, you (he) can hear Pepper's voice calling "Tony!" very faintly. He's been in love with her a long time.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:49 AM on May 3 [20 favorites]


"Hard to remember that Downey, Jr was almost unhireable just a few years before the first Iron Man"

Hard to remember, also, that until Blade's release in 1998, Howard The Duck was actually Marvel's least embarrassing movie. Also on the roster then were 1977's Spider-Man (a TV pilot re-cut for cinema release), 1989's The Punisher ("some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen"), 1990's Captain America ("shapeless blob of a plot") and 1994's Roger Corman take on The Fantastic Four ("derisory camp and feebly performed").

It's the extent of the turnaround that's really remarkable - that and the fact that Marvel's creation of a single cinematic universe is exactly the same masterstroke which helped its comics overtake DC's back in the 1960s.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:49 AM on May 3 [5 favorites]


At the end Tony says "I am Iron Man" and all the reporters leap to their feet screaming, except Christine Everhart (Vanity Fair), who had 100% already Called It. Bonus: superhero movie with no secret identities.

I think this is actually an underrated moment in terms of its effect on the MCU. By never really indulging in secret identity shenanigans, the MCU sidestepped a lot of the more boring superhero cliches (I'm keeping things from those I love! I must keep the secret to keep them safe, but not knowing makes them not safe, but if they know they'll hate me but blah blah blah, the burden of superherodom is such a great burden, etc.), and neatly kept the conflicts grounded in the characters rather than their circumstances. It was a great choice, and really contributes to the depth of the worldbuilding.

The first Iron Man was really great in a lot of ways and absolutely deserves all the credit it gets for giving the wildly successful MCU such a firm foundation. And RDJ just is Tony Stark. I don't think I'll ever accept another actor in his place, he so fully owns the role.
posted by yasaman at 12:35 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]


This is still the peak RDJ is Tony Stark moment. It's basically in character.
posted by The Whelk at 1:03 PM on May 3 [11 favorites]


I think a lot of credit has to go to the cabal of writers who keep the Marvel film universe in line--they've altered the origin stories and whatnot with an overarching plot in a way that (mostly) makes sense. There are a few missteps now and then--still not sure how Hulk seemd kinda boring. But on the whole, they've made a series of interconnected films work without some of the cornerstones of the Marvel universe. Because Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men show up EVERYWHERE in the comics and so far it's been fine without them.

The LEGO Marvel game also borrows heavily from the films. They don't have RDJ doing the voice, but they're trying really hard to adapt him to minifig form. (And I swear the voice is Bradford from XCOM: Enemy Within so it always freaks me out a little.) Speaking of which, the LEGO Marvel game may be the best of the lot.

What isn't quite so fine, though, is the lack of love for the Kirby estate and the other writers like Bill Mantlo who gave them the tools they need to make money hand over fist.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:27 PM on May 3


The impressive thing to me is how Marvel managed to build such a successful mega-franchise largely out of characters that most of us non-readers of comic books were at best dimly aware of. I knew about the Hulk from the '70s TV show but other than that knew nothing about Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow or Nick Fury. If you'd asked me about The Avengers ten years ago, I'd have thought that you were talking about Emma Peel and John Steed.
posted by octothorpe at 1:32 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Speaking of which, the LEGO Marvel game may be the best of the lot.

Random Side Quest Quest-giver: "Director Fury specifically told me to get these gosh-darned snakes off this gosh-darned Helicarrier. I may be paraphrasing slightly. Anyways, can you help me out?"

Seriously, I get more funny looks from my kids for laughing at things they don't find funny when they are playing this game than . . . usual.
posted by The Bellman at 2:10 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]


I love RJD as Iron Man/Tony Stark but I wish someone would write a great dramatic script that pairs him with Depp. Now. Before they get too old like Pacino and De Niro did. And it might lift Depp out of the grotesque cartoon he has become.
posted by Ber at 3:07 PM on May 3


This is still the peak RDJ is Tony Stark moment. It's basically in character.

I hadn't caught that before. OMG, that face he makes when he asks how much they love him.

It should be a commercial. "Being Iron Man is my anti-drug."
posted by Sequence at 5:05 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Joss Whedon Talks Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Kevin Feige Gives Ant-Man Tie-In Details
posted by homunculus at 5:43 PM on May 3


The amazing linked vids reminded of one of my other favorite fan-created things post-Iron Man: The Kids Aren't All Right, in which fanfiction author Sam Donne writes Christine Everhart's Vanity Fair article on Tony Stark. It's an extremely smart bit of writing that feels absolutely real, and intelligently engages with what would be the real world consequences of a real world Tony Stark. I highly recommend it, even to those who don't usually check out fanfiction.
posted by yasaman at 5:53 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


yasaman, I almost put "The Kids Aren't All Right" in the main post, but I knew once I started linking fanfic I'd never get the post up before midnight. (I still didn't...) "Kids" was jossed by Iron Man 2 but it's still an incredible piece of writing and metafiction. The Vanity Fair ads!

Aaaand now to start digging through my fic bookmarks again...!
posted by nicebookrack at 6:54 PM on May 3


Yeah someone linking to that fucking fic made me go "wow some fanfic can be really fucking awesome and deconstruct the whole character." which led to a reading binge which led to this fucking novella.

( the fan mail I get about that fic is my favorite feedback I have ever gotten about anything.)
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]


Disney spent 4 Billion Dollars to buy Marvel. The Avengers alone made 1.5 Billion worldwide. Disney got an amazing, amazing deal.

Here's an interesting article about the success of the MCU and Kevin Feige.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:15 PM on May 3


oh wait cap 2 also led to this
posted by The Whelk at 11:18 PM on May 3


Hard to remember that Downey, Jr was almost unhireable just a few years before the first Iron Man

Of course, what happened is The Miracle that Saved Robert Downey, Jr., aka Susan Levin Downey.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]


If Robert and Susan Downey ever break up it will be the first celebrity breakup to make me cry. So it won't happen KNOCK ON WOOD.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:43 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


He's had a big sack of fuck dumped on him, and I'm glad RDJ is back on top again.
posted by Evilspork at 5:53 AM on May 4


Etrigan: "The first one added 752 million things to Sony."

And the new movie made $92M this weekend in the US and a total of $370M globally so obviously Sony knows what they're doing and I know nothing about such things.
posted by octothorpe at 12:24 PM on May 4


Every one of those dollars is a nail in the coffin of Spidey ever getting together on the big screen with Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, or any of the X-Men.

*pours out vial of radioactive handwavium for my team-ups that'll never happen*
posted by mediareport at 12:51 PM on May 4


WEIRDLY, I think Spider-man would be a bad fit for the current MCU. His secret identity/money troubles have always been the most interesting thing about him, or at least the thing that separated him from the other superheros. Peter's real life is always teetering on the edge of collapse while his superhero life is usually going great. Tony could scoop out the change in his pockets and pay off his student loan debt, morage, and set up a retirement fund for Aunt May. It feels like it clashes too much.
posted by The Whelk at 1:03 PM on May 4


The first one added 752 million things to Sony.

And the new movie made $92M this weekend in the US and a total of $370M globally so obviously Sony knows what they're doing and I know nothing about such things.


I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that when looking for what a movie "adds," you have to further ask what it's supposed to add to. And in that equation, for major motion picture studios, "coffers" beats "story" every single time.
posted by Etrigan at 1:10 PM on May 4


I could kinda see Spidey working in the MCU without Tony throwing money at all his problems, if he swung more toward Ultimate Spidey (Peter or Miles)—very young, still in high school. Because the Avengers would have to be like "We have no knowledge of Spider-Man's identity and no legal ties to him, because going on official combat missions with a legal minor would be a terrible, very bad idea. If Spider-Man were a legal minor, which we absolutely have no proof of."

But they'd have to reboot Spidey again to do it (or introduce Miles), since the movies keep rushing him out of high school. Why?! He was a scrawny teen loser for, like, decades! That was Spidey's thing.

Anyway, I love Spidey, but I don't miss him in the Avengers. There are so many other would-be Avengers that could use more chances to shine (Falcon!!).

For the record, it kinda amuses me that in the MCU Tony Stark poses a plot problem by both being richer than God and a (secretly) really nice person. Post-Avengers all the writers must pretend he doesn't exist so the auto-solution to a problem isn't "Tony shows up and throws money at it until it goes away."
posted by nicebookrack at 2:57 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


And because I'm that kind of person I spend an awful amount of time figuring out how Tony's well intentioned monopoly on reconstruction would be horrible for EVERYINE invovled.

Also, yes Peter could fit into the MCU if he's still a teenager, then him being the only person with a Seekrit indenity makes sense ( well Bruce counts, but that's cause he works at it and, you know it's more than a mask.)

As much I love Peter ( and I do really, he occupies a very unique space in the Marvelcanon) he doesn't fit in the MCU, and having to dig deep cuts to get character has been paying off like gangbusters so far.
posted by The Whelk at 3:02 PM on May 4


yasaman: By never really indulging in secret identity shenanigans, the MCU sidestepped a lot of the more boring superhero cliches (I'm keeping things from those I love! I must keep the secret to keep them safe, but not knowing makes them not safe, but if they know they'll hate me but blah blah blah, the burden of superherodom is such a great burden, etc.), and neatly kept the conflicts grounded in the characters rather than their circumstances.

Whelk: yes Peter could fit into the MCU if he's still a teenager, then him being the only person with a Seekrit indenity makes sense ( well Bruce counts, but that's cause he works at it and, you know it's more than a mask.)

AFAIK the only masked/secret identitied superhero they've officially announced for the MCU is I think Daredevil in the Netflix Defenders series. (Ant Man is complicated by being two people.) Which is very interesting, and I wonder how they will play DD and the other masks.

Yeah, interesting ripple effects from Tony's "fuck it, I'M IRON MAN" announcement. Are secret identities for heroes less cool or acceptable than they used to be? Is it a part of the MCU's general "secrets are bad" aesthetic?

(In another universe Tony told the bodyguard lie at the press conference, and at every subsequent press gig Christine Everhart gives him the "I know you know I know" stare of hate. ♥ Christine ♥ )
posted by nicebookrack at 3:40 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Even I wasn't expecting them to do "WELP CAPTAIN AMERICA IS STEVE FROM BROOKLYN, YEP HO HE USED TO BE REAL LITTLE THEN WE MADE HIM ALL BIG, COME TO OUR BIG MUSEUM EXHBITION ABOUT HIM!"

I mean, it makes way more sense that in this universe they would treat it like that, but I'm so used to the delayed reveal storyline of superbros
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on May 4


Gary Sinise was the voice of Cap's Smithsonian exhibit! Did they have random extra casting money to throw around that day or something?
posted by nicebookrack at 3:51 PM on May 4


They Werid thing was I had JUST been to the ww2 museum in NoLA and it had the exact same layout type, display system, video booth thing.
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 PM on May 4


Also I know the timeline makes it impossible but I want a Black Widow joins SHEILD movie set in like 1985 in the Eastern Bloc with a wall to wall synth new wave pop songs about the cold war and nuclear destruction so we could see Natasha kick ass set to 99 Luftballons
posted by The Whelk at 4:57 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


That 1984 birthday could be bullshit-- maybe she altered her own files after she burned down the Red Room or something.

(Shhh let me have my headcanon.)
posted by dogheart at 3:56 AM on May 5


The Trouble With Wonder Woman
posted by homunculus at 11:14 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


THINGS CRASHING INTO OTHER THINGS: OR, MY SUPERHERO MOVIE PROBLEM
posted by octothorpe at 5:21 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


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