"I'm here to talk to you about The Avengers initiative." And with those few ominous words, the superhero movie landscape changed forever.
Make no mistake, 2008's "Iron Man" is the one that started it all. It established Marvel Studios' unexpected but insightful taste in directors with Jon Favreau. It showed their excellent eye for casting through Robert Downey Jr and his all-star cast of supporting players. Just as importantly, it kicked off the idea of a shared universe in which leads from other big budget comic book movies could cross paths with each other seamlessly, just as they do every week in the comics themselves.
Somehow, that impossible fanboy pipe dream became a reality, and now we're staring in the face of "Marvel's The Avengers," arguably the most important superhero movie of all time... and it owes all of its thanks to a badly wounded playboy genius trapped in a cave with only his wits for armor.
"Iron Man" is the origin story of Tony Stark, an infamous cad and booze hound who just so happens to be one of the richest and most brilliant minds in the world. Stark, a weapons manufacturer, pays a visit to U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan to reveal new technology he's developed in the war against terror. There, he's ambushed and captured, injured so severely that an electromagnet must be implanted in his chest to prevent shrapnel from puncturing his heart.
In the clutches of a terrorist group called the Ten Rings, Tony has nothing but scrap metal and his mind as tools—a deadly combination in the end, as Tony's able to create a powerful arc reactor and accompanying suit of armor to aid him in his escape from enemy captivity. A few trials and tribulations later, Tony's developed an even more sophisticated version of the armor, turning himself into the crime-fighting superhero Iron Man—and turning an old friend into an enemy—in the process.
Of course, Iron Man isn't the first Marvel hero we've seen on screen. We've had plenty of time to get to know Wolverine and his X-Men, Spider-Man and his rogues gallery, even the—sigh—Fantastic Four had their time to "shine." But Iron Man represented something new, something different. Easter eggs aren't uncommon for comic book movies, but "Iron Man" set an all-new bar with the arrival of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, a literal spitting image of the character from the "Ultimate" comic books. His mere mention of the word "Avengers" set fans in a tizzy, leaving us wondering what exactly that tease might mean… and later this week, we'll find out exactly what he meant.
Looking at reviews, looking at tweets, all the early buzz points to "The Avengers" being the very best Marvel movie of them all. That's saying a lot. So before you and your friends assemble in theaters for Earth's mightiest superhero flick, why not pour one out—or at least snack on a Whopper—in honor of "Iron Man," the not-so-little Shellhead that started it all?
Call them "cult classics." "Guilty pleasures." "Comfort movies." We all have a mental rolodex of flicks that may not be terribly popular but, for one reason or another, they resonate in a very special way. Maybe you saw it at the right moment. Maybe you just see gold where everyone else sees feces. Whatever the case, these are the special favorites that you keep stashed away for sick days. These are some of ours. Tell us about your Sick Day Stash picks in the comments or on Twitter!