State of the Franchise: Iron Man

By Jason Barney

June 25, 2013

Next up: The Iron Junk!

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My first exposure to the superhero multi-verse was through 1970s and '80s comic books. Superman and Batman were the early attention grabbers and Mom and Dad purchased the figurines for me to play with. As the '70s faded away and the '80s introduced me to elementary school, my interest changed from getting a few comics here and there to collecting. I can remember holding the magazine-like format in my hands, being careful to not damage the glossy covers; giving each story multiple readings. I loved the comic book universes. The writing was fun, the characters had the superhuman powers every youngster dreamed of, and each month new stories blossomed on the pages in front of me.

As I got a little older, I watched the cartoons and movies. I wasn’t old enough to see Christopher Reeve's Superman in the theaters, but I still remember watching him fly across the television screen in my living room. Then my fandom expanded beyond the DC characters to Hulk, Spiderman, and Wolverine. My teenage years approached and I left the cartoons behind. I still embraced the stories on the printed page, the comics having a special place in my childhood.

Special effects technology increased and movies began to enter my entertainment consciousness. The inevitable question began to arise…would more of the comic book heroes of my youth make it onto the big screen? As I left high school, Michael Keaton’s Batman films were a bit of an answer, but how many hand drawn heroes would earn live action status?

That question was given added depth at the end of the 1990s when rumors about comic book movies started to circulate. In fact, I remember reading an article with the basic premise: can Marvel save Hollywood?




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In 2000 Marvel and 20th Century Fox launched the first of the X-Men films. In 2002 Sony/Columbia set the bar for success higher with the introduction of Tobey Maguire as Spiderman. Wildly successful comic book characters graced the big screen almost every year. The Hulk received two films. Even Daredevil made his way into theaters.

The most recent incarnation of the Marvel world came in 2008 when Paramount spent $140 million on a mid-level comic character, Iron Man. Some wondered if the effort was worth it, but the reception audiences gave the film became a watershed moment in the history of comic characters on screen. Iron Man shocked the box office world with an incredible opening weekend. It rewrote expectations.

The first Iron Man did more than create a franchise. It created several of them.

Five years and five Marvel movies later, Iron Man has become the definition of success. With Iron Man 3 crossing the $400 million domestic mark, it is appropriate to take a look at how far things have come.

Iron Man (2008) - 8/10

Maybe it is not the best superhero movie, but it is damned good. The writers chose a very current events-grounded story in which brilliant and wealthy playboy Tony Stark is exposed to the ravages of warfare and greed. Stark’s company made massive amounts of money as a defense contractor; investors had their pockets lined for decades. When Stark is betrayed by fate and wealthy interests, he gets an eye opening account as to the effectiveness of his own weapons. He survives the double cross, and in his escape the origins of Iron Man are explained.


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