Avengers: Endgame hits theatres on April 26th, and excitement and speculation is ramping up as the cast hits the talk show circuit. (Though it’s doubtful they really need to promote the movie – it’s already broken records for advance ticket sales.) With this movie being touted as the end of “Phase 3” for Marvel Studios, and the launchpad for the planned five-year “Phase 4” expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, anticipation is at an all-time high.
As Marvel fans, we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the last decade with gradually introducing our kids to these stories; first watching at home, then as they got older, seeing them in theatres and witnessing them flip out with giddy excitement at character reveals and plot twists. But recently we realized: we’ve never watched all of them as a family, and certainly not in release order. And that’s left some gaps in their understanding of the relationships between all these heroes.
Thus, as a family, we pledged to embark upon an epic MCU rewatch before we see Endgame in the theatre, and answer the all-important question: should you watch these with your kids?
Iron Man (2008)
Hey, remember physical media? We discovered we actually own this movie on DVD and (thankfully) we still have a DVD player in semi-reasonable working order. (The movie is also available to rent on iTunes.) So to kick off our rewatch, we dusted off the disc, changed the batteries in the remote, and hit play.
Oh, 2008, such an innocent time! It’s hard to believe now that 11 years ago, the entire current Marvel Cinematic Universe was kicked off with this movie. This means that Robert Downey, Jr. has played Tony Stark/Iron Man in eight movies to date, if you include his brief appearances in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The movie opens with billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark demo’ing Stark Industries’ new line of sophisticated weapons to army officials in Afghanistan. On the way back to the airfield, his convoy is attacked by a terrorist group, and Tony is critically injured by one of his own bombs (ooh, ironical).
Tony awakens in a cave along with another captive, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), a doctor. Yinsen saved Tony’s life, and implanted a small electromagnet in his chest that’s powered by a car battery to keep the shrapnel in his body away from his heart, essentially keeping him alive. The terrorists claim they’ll set both Stark and Yinsen free if they construct a missile for them from the other weapons they’ve amassed, but instead Tony secretly makes a smaller, more efficient generator called an arc reactor to power both the electromagnet and a megasuit of armour.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember how this goes. Stark escapes, is rescued in the desert by his friend Rhodey (Terrence Howard), makes it home, declares at a press conference that Stark Industries will no longer make weapons, and creates a better Iron Man suit, using it to stop the terrorists from massacring Yinsen’s home village. His father’s business partner, Obediah Stane (Jeff Bridges), has been running Stark Industries and objects to Tony’s change of heart. He reverse-engineers his own suit based on the debris from Tony’s escape in the desert, and becomes the movie’s Big Bad.
As an origin story, the movie hits the mark. It helps that Tony Stark evolves as a person while he’s creating his super alter ago, but keeps the snark and attitude. The downside to this organic character development is that when watching at home, the middle of the movie – after the initial escape, and before the showdown with the final boss – can strike kids as slow and boring. Also, though very topical for its time (Afghanistan! terrorists!) there are more than a few dated references. Get ready to explain to your kids what MySpace was!
I’d also forgotten how dark Marvel could be before Infinity War. Everyone talks at length about how much lighter the MCU is than the DC universe, but in this movie we have a bloody onscreen death of a central character, and scenes of families and young children in peril.
So, should you watch it with your kids? Unless you’re a devoted Marvel completist, I’d say this one is missable. Tony Stark makes a new suit in almost every movie, so kids who met the character first with The Avengers already know him, and won’t really learn anything terribly new from his origins.
Bottom line: Watch it for yourself and bask in the mist of nostalgia, and let the kids wander in and out if they want.