Throughout Marvel’s cinematic universe, one of the more constant facts is that Iron Man has been a mainstay, and thanks to Tony Stark we’ve been able to see a lot of our favourite heroes brought to life on the big screen. Without the success of Iron Man in 2008, we wouldn’t have been led to the events of Infinity War, and we wouldn’t have ever dreamed of seeing such a colossal event gross at 1.3 billion dollars. This scope has grown and grown to an unfathomable degree, so let’s wind back a little and focus on the character that allowed this success to blossom. You were taught to respect your elders, right?
In terms of the comic books alone, Iron Man was very much a B grade hero in popularity, when Spider-Man saving New York and Wolverine leading the X-Men were the main attractions that Marvel had to offer. Making this movie was a gamble, and felt like a potential final shot at Marvel comic book to big screen adaptation after the critical lambasting of the two Fantastic Four movies in the 2000’s, and the subpar response to X-Men: The Last Stand. And, as you know, the gamble paid off, as it not only reinstated comic book heroes as appealing but also allowed Robert Downey Jr’s steps back into the limelight to take place.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR. BRINGS STARK’S SHIELDED WEAKNESSES MARVELLOUSLY TO LIGHT
Downey Jr’s performance of the role has been compared to Tony Stark stepping straight off the pages of his comics, and the representation of the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist was brought to us with suave charm and subtle depth, displaying a man whose troubles are not to be touched upon. This weakness is shown in Iron Man 3 especially, as Stark suffers not only with PTSD, but with the idea of the PTSD itself, making him feel, for lack of a better term, normal. Stark’s ego doesn’t allow him to accept his condition, leaving him to insist on carrying on with facing danger without allowing himself any time to recover. This stubbornness is integral to the character, and Robert Downey Jr. brings Stark’s shielded weaknesses marvellously to light.
Throughout the course of all of his MCU appearances, we watch Stark develop from a charming and arrogant philanthropist into a father figure, a strong leader and a figure of mental strength. He shows his rawest emotions at the end of Infinity War in complete shock over the loss of his peers, and watching him stare down his own hand in anticipation (and arguably, in hope) of his own demise displays a fragility that could never be seen in the Tony Stark we first saw in 2008. Stark may often be blunt and big-headed, but he is at the forefront of the Avengers team as in many cases he is the most relatable to the audience. He is secretly fragile, emotional, caring and committed, and in the moments that these elements arise inside him, the audience can feel that too thanks to RDJ’s character-inhabiting performances.
We could never predict the direction the character will take (or will be forced to take) in Avengers 4, because underneath his polished exterior, he is incredibly emotionally volatile. His presumed rage at Thanos for his actions in Infinity War will likely come to boil, and since Downey Jr’s contract comes to an end in his next appearance, it may well cost him his life. There is only so much we can predict, but there is a lot we already know- as a leader of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark has made his imprint on cinema as a whole, and will likely be the most heartfelt departure from our screens. But thankfully, his character development has made his long stay in cinema a welcome one, and throughout his appearances he has proved to the world that superhero movies were (and still are) much more than a passing fad.