Iron Man is a 2008 American shi-fi comedy superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, it is the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Directed by Jon Favreau from a screenplay by the writing teams of Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, the film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark alongside Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, and Gwyneth Paltrow. In the film, following his escape from captivity by a terrorist group, world famous industrialist and master engineer Tony Stark builds a mechanized suit of armor and becomes the superhero Iron Man.
A film featuring the character was in development at Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and New Line Cinema at various times since 1990, before Marvel Studios reacquired the rights in 2006. Marvel put the project in production as its first self-financed film, with Paramount Pictures distributing. Favreau signed on as director in April 2006, and faced opposition from Marvel when trying to cast Downey in the title role; the actor was signed in September. Filming took place from March to June 2007, primarily in California to differentiate the film from numerous other superhero stories that are set in New York City-esque environments. During filming, the actors were free to create their own dialogue because pre-production was focused on the story and action. Rubber and metal versions of the armor, created by Stan Winston's company, were mixed with computer-generated imagery to create the title character.
Iron Man premiered in Sydney on April 14, 2008, and was released in the United States on May 2, as the first film in Phase One of the MCU. It grossed over $585 million on its $140 million budget, becoming the eighth-highest grossing film of 2008. The film was praised by critics, especially for Downey's performance. It was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the ten best films of 2008 and received two nominations at the 81st Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Two sequels have been released: Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013). A television series titled Ironheart, based on the comic series of the same name, and a spin-off series centering on War Machine titled Armor Wars are currently in development for Disney+ with unspecified airing dates.
Tony Stark, who has inherited the defense contractor Stark Industries from his late father Howard Stark, is in war-torn Afghanistan with his friend and military liaison, Lieutenant colonel James Rhodes, to demonstrate the new "Jericho" missile. After the demonstration, the convoy is ambushed and Stark is critically wounded by a missile used by the attackers: one of his company's own. He is captured and imprisoned in a cave by a terrorist group called the Ten Rings. Yinsen, a fellow captive doctor, implants an electromagnet into Stark's chest to keep the shrapnel shards that wounded him from reaching his heart and killing him. Ten Rings leader Raza offers Stark freedom in exchange for building a Jericho missile for the group, but he and Yinsen know that Raza will not keep his word.
Stark and Yinsen secretly build a small, powerful electric generator called an arc reactor to power Stark's electromagnet and a prototype suit of powered armor to aid in their escape. Although they keep the suit hidden almost to completion, the Ten Rings discover their hostages' intentions and attack the workshop. Yinsen sacrifices himself to divert them while the suit powers up. The armored Stark battles his way out of the cave to find the dying Yinsen, then burns the Ten Rings' weapons in anger and flies away, crashing in the desert and destroying the suit. After being rescued by Rhodes, Stark returns home and announces that his company will cease manufacturing weapons. Obadiah Stane, his father's old partner and the company's manager, advises Stark that this may ruin Stark Industries and his father's legacy. In his home workshop, Stark builds a sleeker, more powerful version of his improvised armor suit as well as a more powerful arc reactor for it and his chest. Personal assistant Pepper Potts places the original reactor inside a small glass showcase. Though Stane requests details, a suspicious Stark decides to keep his work to himself.
At a charity event held by Stark Industries, reporter Christine Everhart informs Stark that his company's weapons were recently delivered to the Ten Rings and are being used to attack Yinsen's home village, Gulmira. Stark dons his new armor and flies to Afghanistan, where he saves the villagers. While flying home, Stark is attacked by two F-22 Raptors. He reveals his secret identity to Rhodes over the phone in an attempt to end the attack. Meanwhile, the Ten Rings gather the pieces of Stark's prototype suit and meet with Stane, who has been trafficking arms to the Ten Rings and has staged a coup to replace Stark as Stark Industries' CEO by hiring the Ten Rings to kill him. He subdues Raza and has the rest of the group killed. Stane has a massive new suit reverse engineered from the wreckage. Seeking to track his company's illegal shipments, Stark sends Potts to hack into its database. She discovers that Stane hired the Ten Rings to kill Stark, but the group reneged when they realized they had a direct route to Stark's weapons. Potts meets with Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., an intelligence agency, to inform him of Stane's activities.
Stane's scientists cannot duplicate Stark's miniaturized arc reactor, so Stane ambushes Stark at his home and steals the one from his chest. Stark manages to get to his original reactor to replace it before dying. Potts and several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to arrest Stane, but he dons his suit and attacks them. Stark fights Stane but is outmatched without his new reactor to run his suit at full capacity. The fight carries Stark and Stane to the top of the Stark Industries building, and Stark instructs Potts to overload the large arc reactor powering the building. This unleashes a massive electrical surge that causes Stane and his armor to fall into the exploding reactor, killing him. The next day, at a press conference, Stark publicly admits to being the superhero the press has dubbed "Iron Man".
In a post-credits scene, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury visits Stark at home, telling him that Iron Man is not "the only superhero in the world", and explaining that he wants to discuss the "Avenger Initiative".
- Robert Downey Jr. as Anthony "Tony" Stark/Iron Man, an industrialist, genius inventor, and consummate playboy, he is CEO of Stark Industries and chief weapons manufacturer for the U.S. military.
- Terrence Howard as Lt. Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes, a friend of Stark's and the liaison between Stark Industries and the United States Air Force in the department of acquisitions, specifically weapons development.
- Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark's business second-in-command, mentor, and friend, who turns on him to take over the company, eventually building a giant exosuit to fight Stark.
- Shaun Toub as Yinsen, Stark's fellow captive, who grafts an electromagnet to Stark's chest "to keep the shrapnel shell shards that wounded him from reaching his heart and killing him" and helps Stark build the first Iron Man suit.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts, Stark's personal assistant and budding love interest.
Additionally, Faran Tahir appears as Raza, the leader of the Ten Rings; Paul Bettany voices J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark's personal A.I. system; Leslie Bibb portrays Christine Everhart, a reporter for Vanity Fair; and Clark Gregg appears as Phil Coulson, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Will Lyman provides the voice-over during the opening award ceremony. Director Jon Favreau plays Harold "Happy" Hogan, Stark's bodyguard and chauffeur, and Samuel L. Jackson makes a cameo appearance as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., in a post-credits scene. Jackson's face was previously used as the model for the Ultimate Marvel imprint version of Nick Fury. Other cameos in the film include Stan Lee as himself, being mistaken for Hugh Hefner by Stark at a party; Peter Billingsley as William Ginter Riva, a scientist who works for Stane; Tom Morello, who provided guitar music for the film, as a terrorist guard; and Jim Cramer as himself. Ghostface Killah, who often adopted Iron Man's name as an alias, had a cameo in a scene where Stark stays in Dubai, but the scene was cut for pacing reasons.
Iron Man earned $319 million in the United States and Canada and $266.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $585.8 million.
In its opening weekend, Iron Man grossed $98.6 million in 4,105 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking first at the box office, giving it the eleventh biggest-opening weekend at the time, ninth-widest release in terms of theaters, and the third highest-grossing opening weekend of 2008 behind Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight. It grossed $35.2 million on its first day, giving it the thirteenth biggest-opening day at the time. Iron Man had the second-best premiere for a non-sequel, behind Spider-Man, and the fourth biggest-opening for a superhero film. It was also the number one film in the U.S. and Canada in its second weekend, grossing $51.2 million, giving it the twelfth-best second weekend and the fifth-best for a non-sequel. On June 19, 2008, it became that year's first film to pass the $300 million mark for the domestic box office.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 94% approval rating with an average score of 7.71/10 based on 279 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Powered by Robert Downey Jr.'s vibrant charm, Iron Man turbo-charges the superhero genre with a deft intelligence and infectious sense of fun." On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 79 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, one Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award, and eight Saturn Awards, winning a total of three Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director (Jon Favreau), and Best Actor (Robert Downey Jr.)
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