The MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE Knockout: Round 1 IRON MAN - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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In which we pit all the MCU films against each other to find the ultimate winner.

With the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Phase 3 is done and dusted, the Infinity Saga is over and Marvel have released 23, largely, awesome superhero films. It's a heck of an achievement, an incredible output spanning 11 year. But which one of them is the best? We could rank all 23 in one go but where would the fun be in that? Instead this is the first of a series of articles where we pit all the films against each other to find out which release reigns supreme.

So here's how it's going to work. Each of the initial articles in round 1 will focus on one character or team, like Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man or The Guardians of the Galaxy, and we will look at all their solo Marvel Cinematic Universe films, with only the best release moving onto the next stage. Characters with only one solo movie outing, like Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange, get a pass through this round, but we won't go easy on them in round 2 as they will be pitted against each other, and if they don't match up to their opponent they're out of the running.

Today it's the turn of Iron Man, the MCU's original hero, and naturally spoilers are in abundance.

Never the biggest star among their comic output, Marvel took a heck of a gamble choosing Iron Man as their first independent feature. Admittedly, their biggest hitters were not available to them, Spider-Man was with Sony, The X-Men and Fantastic Four with Fox, but even so surely Captain America would have been a more sensible option to kick off what they hoped would be something very special?

Early test groups showed that the majority of people reportedly believed the character of Iron Man was a robot so Marvel clearly had their work cut out. The inspired casting of Robert Downey, Jr. in September 2006 by director Jon Favreau was, arguably, the single factor in changing the public's perception.

Favreau chose Downey, a fan of the comic, because he felt the actor's past made him an appropriate choice for the part, explaining
"The best and worst moments of Robert's life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That's Tony Stark."
That's Favreau talking in 2008, at the time of the first film's release, and he's absolutely spot-on. Just about anyone could be Iron Man (for instance, Don Cheadle could realistically be the new de-facto Iron Man now, and that would work), but RDJ is Tony Stark, which is why his passing in Avengers: Endgame hurt so much. But not everyone was onboard with the choice and Favreau faced opposition from Marvel in casting Downey, he did not take no for an answer, saying,
"It was my job as a director to show that it was the best choice creatively ... everybody knew he was talented [and] certainly by studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line-up with Robert in all the good and bad ways."
Indeed it did.

Incidentally, Downey earned $500,000 for the role in the first Iron Man film. Not many years later, he'd earn that sum for about every minute of screen time in his re-negotiated MCU contract!

So, which of the Iron Man films is the best and will move on to round 2 of this knockout contest?

There's a common belief that, when it come to the movies, quality diminishes with every subsequent sequel. I think the MCU has blown that train of thought out of the water, delivering staggering sequels like Infinity War and Endgame, and whilst the same isn't quite true when it comes to the Iron Man films I do personally prefer the third film to the second.

Iron Man 2 suffered due to the shoe-horning of elements needed to bring The Avengers to the screen. It's still a great watch and you feel that there must be an amazing director's cut in there somewhere, but after Favreau handed over to Shane Black for the third installment, the Lethal Weapon director guided the franchise back to greatness. And yeah, sue me, I actually really like what they did with The Mandarin.

So sitting in third place and definitely out of the running is Iron Man 2. Sorry Mickey Rourke.

Between the first and the third film, well it's gotta be the original. As I say, I do love the third, and the humanising of Tony Stark, with his post-invasion trauma, really helps you to understand the character more than in any other film, and set up the template for the Tony Stark who would pop up across all the other MCU films in Phase 3.

But the first Iron Man from 2008 is still the best. It's just a great adventure, a joyous origin story that, unlike most origin stories, actually came as a surprise to most as we just didn't all know the ins and outs of the character like we do with someone like Spider-Man etc. As it's the first film in the MCU it doesn't have the baggage of what's to come or having to set-up a later plot point, it just concentrated on delivering a damn good, entertaining movie. Anything else would be a bonus, and my what a bonus we got.

Iron Man changed everything. Not just the whole superhero genre but the entire movie industry. It's aged surprisingly well (far better than Thor or, surprisingly, The Avengers) and clearly makes it through to round 2 of our Marvel Cinematic Universe Knockout.

Next time it's the turn of The Guardians of the Galaxy.

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