Iron Man

Movie: Directed by Jon Favreau.

Inciting Event: During a demonstration of his new Jericho missile in Afghanistan, Tony is captured by terrorists. He discovers they have been using Stark Industries weapons.

The structure is interesting here, since technically Tony’s capture is both the Hook–in the opening scene’s flashforward–and the Inciting Event halfway through the First Act. It’s also a great example of how to use a flashforward. It doesn’t end up feeling like gimmick for the simple reason that it 100% fulfills all its promises of danger and suffering. In short, it doesn’t lie to the audience.

First Plot Point: Tony and his fellow captive Yinser finish building the Mach I Iron Man suit. They use it to escape the terrorists. Yinser sacrifices himself for Tony in the process–challenging Tony with his dying words not to waste the rest of his life.

The structure throughout this movie is so tight it turns on a dime. It does so not only through perfect pacing and timing, but also because the major plot points like this one pull double and sometimes even triple duty. Here, not only do we have Tony escaping the terrorists, but he does it by, in essence, becoming Iron Man. Even better, Yinser’s challenge makes the rest of the movie’s conflict absolutely personal to Tony, beyond just his personal trauma and his culpability in selling dirty weapons.

Since this is a complex movie with a lot of working parts (Tony’s personal problems, Tony’s fight with the terrorists, Tony’s origin story in becoming Iron Man, and Tony’s fight with his mentor and business partner Obadiah Stane), it wouldn’t have worked had its plot points not been so tight and complex.

First Pinch Point: Tony returns from Afghanistan and turns the plot by calling a press conference and announcing that Stark Industries will no longer produce and sell weapons. He experiences immediate pushback from Stane–setting Stane up as an antagonist–when Stane insists Tony’s plan is professional suicide.

Midpoint: Tony finishes building his Mach II suit prototype and goes for his first test flight. He nearly crashes when his suit ices up, but he makes it back. This is the major turning point halfway through the story. Now, he is Iron Man.

Second Pinch Point: Tony learns his weapons have been used to destroy another Afghan village–despite his demands that the company stop selling them. When he tries to get information from Obadiah, he learns Obadiah has locked him out of the board and has been working against him all along. This prompts Tony to take his suit to Afghanistan and rescue villagers from the same terrorists who originally captured him.

Third Plot Point: Stane, who has been building a suit of his own and is now revealed to have called in the hit on Tony in the beginning, realizes he can’t power his suit without the arc reactor Tony uses to keep the shrapnel from his wounded heart. Stane steals the arc reactor from Tony and leaves him to die. Tony manages to recover an old arc reactor.

Climax: Tony flies in for a final confrontation with Obadiah and his Iron Monger suit.

Climactic Moment: Tony has his assistant Pepper blow up the big arc reactor in the factory. Obadiah and the Iron Monger suit are destroyed.

Resolution: Tony tosses the speech prepared for him by SHIELD and announces to the press conference that he is Iron Man.

Notes: This is a brilliantly plotted movie. It had a ton of ground to cover, and it somehow manages to tie all its many disparate pieces together into a fast-paced story that weaves multiple subplots without shortchanging any of them.

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