Before Disney owned Marvel the cinematic saga that will bring us May’s The Avengers began. After the credits of 2008’s Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson took the screen for the first time as Nick Fury Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and let us know that there were other heroes. And not only were there heroes, but he was working on something called the Avengers Initiative. Needless to say as a superhero fan I kind of stopped breathing for a few moments in 2008!
Iron Man introduces Marvel superhero Iron Man to the big screen. It provides the story of how industrialist Tony Stark, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr., saved himself from terrorists by creating the Iron Man armor. A changed man after surviving this attempt on his life, Stark turns away from his trade, weapons, and strikes out to improve the world. He is challenged professionally and personally by his mentor (or nemesis) Obadiah Stane who wishes to control Stark’s technology for his own benefit.
Now to be honest, before Iron Man I was not a big fan of Tony Stark. He always lived in the shadows to me of another millionaire superhero, DC’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. And Stark has a ton of personality flaws that just did not resonate to me. So as a kid if an X-Men book was laying next to an Iron Man book, X-men always won. And that is true today with the print version of Iron Man. But Downey Jr. is brilliant in this film and has crafted my favorite version of Tony Stark. I have also been one of the rare fans to like Iron Man 2 more than the original. This has been based on two facts; the sequel is a very Mousey Movie that every Disney fan can enjoy. And honestly it doesn’t make me have to think as much! But with The Avengers on its way I am rewatching every movie in the Avengers Initiative, and this pre-Disney influenced flick turns out to have obvious and hidden Mousey Moments:
· Digital Heroes: Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, the film’s villain. Bridges was already the star of a cult Disney live action flick as Kevin Flynn in 1982’s Tron, and Clu. He reprised those roles in 2010’s Tron: Legacy playing both hero (Flynn) and villain (Clu 2). Part of my criticism of the sequel has been Bridges’ portray of Flynn as he seems to be a tech savvy version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. So as Stane I feel he is bringing something new to his career resume, a money and power loving evil industrialist, a character I imagine is very different than Bridges’ real personality. But that is only because I am convinced that Bridges really is The Dude.
· Hobby Time: Walt Disney enjoyed hands on hobbies. Disney’s love of hobby trains and miniatures helped inspire him to create Disneyland. He built the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in his background as a 1/8th scale train on a half mile track. Much of the Carolwood line was built by Walt Disney himself with the help of Legend Roger E. Broggie. This love of trains led to Walt’s park being encircled by one. Additionally, Disney collected miniatures and hand built a number of detailed miniatures himself. At one point he toyed with the idea of putting his miniatures on the road as a traveling exhibit, a predecessor to his interest in theme park attractions. Tony Stark likes working with his hands too. Walt Disney may have had his barn, but Tony Stark has a garage full of tools where he can get his hands dirty being creative working on cars and building super powered suits of armor.
· House of the Future: For a decade starting in 1957, visitors to Disneyland could get a glimpse of future living at the Monsanto House of the Future. Now, I never visited this attraction but in my mind Tony Stark lives in the House of the Future. He is super rich and has pretty much any effort saving device you can think of in his mansion. The dude has robots in his garage for heaven’s sake. The most impressive living innovation is JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany), the computer that manages the Stark household. JARVIS is so invaluable to Stark that he is connected to the Iron Man armor as an onboard artificial intelligence and advisor.
· Double Duty: Jon Favreau directs both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. And he also appears as Stark’s chauffer/body guard Happy Hogan. Favreau passed on directing the future Iron Man 3 selecting instead to helm Magic Kingdom a future release that provides Disney fans a Kingdom Keepers or Night at the Museum style after dark in the park adventure. Favreau has shown himself to be a big Disney fan boy, making me excited that this film will be led by one of us.
· Night on the Town: After returning from his kidnapping, Stark makes his first major public appearance at the Disney Concert Hall! Okay, I about feel over when I heard it. Stark is hosting his third annual benefit for firefighters at this Los Angeles’ venue. And honestly its one of my favorite sites in the film for two reason. First, look for the Stan Lee cameo at the Disney Concert Hall. Second, Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D meets Stark for the first time at the fundraiser.
For me Iron Man was an unexpected Mousey Movie. I thought I would actually have to force the connections to declare it Mousey. Instead I found more Disney references and connections that I have even shared here. And it really makes me happy that the first movie in the Avengers Initiative can stand proudly next to its Mousey sequel.