'Iron Man' turns 10: What critics thought of Robert Downey Jr.'s Marvel debut

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Iron Man makes his debut (Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first – and to some best – movie, Iron Man, was unveiled to the world 10 years ago today.

Helmed by Jon Favreau, it introduced Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, as well as ushering in a series of stories that would make up one of the most successful sagas in movie history.

Finding the playboy genius Stark pitted against Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane, it was a brash and ballsy way to kick things off, the MCU as we know it now still a glint in producer Kevin Feige’s eye.

Read more: Every MCU film ranked

And the critics – largely – loved it, though with the odd caveat.

The movie still holds a 94% ‘fresh’ rating on reviews aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, thanks to the glowing notices it received, widely praising Downey Jr. in the lead.

The Radio Times wrote: “In an exemplary piece of casting, Downey Jr gives a powerhouse performance, adding depth and believability to his character as both self-indulgent waster and do-gooder superhero.”

(Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount)

Total Film called it ‘buoyant, bright, a constant breeze’ though adding that ‘it hovers somewhere on the superhero-adap spectrum between the good and the great’.

The Evening Standard said: “There’s a satisfyingly climactic CGI battle, but Downey Jr tops it in the witty denouement with pure acting skill.”

The Independent praised the movie’s somewhat patent subtext too.

“Iron Man manages to be both a lot of fun, and quite possibly the most effective commentary on the war on terror that Hollywood has produced so far — not the best argued or the most committed, but the one that most people will see, and think about,” it wrote.

The legendary Roger Ebert, now sadly no longer with us, gave it a full four out of four.

“At the end of the day it’s Robert Downey Jr. who powers the lift-off separating this from most other superhero movies,” he wrote.


Not everyone was a fan, however.

Christopher Tookey in the Daily Mail slated it, berating its ‘rusty old plot’.

“Director Jon Favreau tries to enliven the story with comic elements, but the plot trudges along a well-trodden path to a weary conclusion,” he wrote.

As is, it sits at number 15 of the 19 Marvel movies made so far, bringing in what could now be considered to be a relatively modest $585 million at the box office, worldwide.

Had it been panned, who knows how things may have turned out, but as is, the MCU has gone on to make a staggering $15 billion in a decade.

And more than a little thanks for that goes to Tony Stark (and a bit to Black Sabbath as well).

Avengers: Infinity War is out now across the UK.

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