- Robert Downey Jr. accurately predicted Iron Man’s character development from the beginning, with the character experiencing humbling moments and addressing personal challenges.
- Iron Man’s journey humanizes the MCU hero and serves as inspiration for future protagonists, allowing for character evolution and growth.
- Iron Man’s legacy and timeless heroism still hold up as a reference for crafting grounded and relatable characters in the MCU.
Robert Downey Jr. once accidentally predicted Iron Man’s entire character arc way back in the early years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The acclaimed actor’s career went through a major renaissance after he took on the role of the millionaire arms trader-turned-superhero Tony Stark for 2008’s Iron Man. With a large share of the early Marvel movies revolving around Tony Stark, Downey became synonymous with the franchise. Ever since Avengers: Endgame concluded his Marvel run in 2019, the actor has successfully branched out to more serious roles like Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer. But that doesn’t mean that his superhero role was any less intense.
Despite his superhero transformation in the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark was still brash and overconfident, as can be seen when he reveals his alter ego to the media. But it was the future Iron Man movies that humbled him further as he dealt with both physical and mental challenges. Iron Man 2 even offered a brief nod to the gritty comic storyline “Devil In A Bottle” by exploring Stark’s alcoholism. Iron Man 3 similarly addressed his PTSD after the events of The Avengers. Even without knowing about the tragic events that would shape his character, the actor seemed to have prophesized the future of Iron Man.
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Robert Downey Jr. Foreshadowed Iron Man’s Entire MCU Arc In 2008
While Marvel didn’t want to cast Robert Downey Jr. initially, Iron Man endured as one of the most well-received comic book casting decisions in modern cinema. But even back in 2008, when few expected the behemoth the MCU would become, the actor had an inkling of the emotional depth that Tony Stark would evoke. This is evident from his 2008 interview with BlackTree TV , where he broke down why he felt his character was so different from other superheroes of the time. Read his full quote below:
“To me, Iron Man is so different from a lot of the other movies of this type is because he doesn’t just go, you know, ‘and up and away’ and he takes off, there’s a learning curve to everything – everything is based in humanity and the function of trial and error, and anything worth doing is worth doing very very poorly until you figure out how to get it right.”
Downey’s words have only aged better with time, even if he’s no longer involved with the MCU.
In talking about what makes Iron Man more human than other heroes, the actor rightly acknowledged how the character is prone to mistakes and functions according to a “trial and error” model. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Stark hoped to bless society with sentient Artificial Intelligence like Ultron, only for the AI to go rogue and cause significant fatalities in Sokovia. Iron Man’s worst decisions in the MCU are subsequently followed by a chance at redemption. His self-improvement is apparent in how he turned into a responsible mentor for Spider-Man and even sacrificed himself to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
Why Iron Man’s MCU Arc Is So Important To The Franchise Even 15 Years Later
Iron Man’s arc is what humanizes the quintessential MCU hero. And even if the franchise’s breakout character might not return, future protagonists can always reinterpret the path paved by Iron Man’s 11-year-long journey. As the MCU introduces a new generation of heroes with Ms Marvel, Ironheart, and Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), they can always look back at Iron Man’s legacy for inspiration. Even franchise stalwarts like Nick Fury and Loki have been going through morally conflicting moments in recent MCU shows, following Tony’s lead of always treating failure as a necessary opportunity for growth.
From assembling a prototype armor in a terrorist hideout to battling his inner demons to even going to war against his own fellow Avengers, Iron Man ranks among the MCU characters that have changed the most since Phase 1. So, if a narcissistic playboy can become one of Earth’s selfless heroes, the scope for character evolution is aplenty in the MCU, even if the franchise has stepped out of Iron Man’s shadow from numerous multiverse-altering storylines. But if an MCU movie or show needs notes on crafting more grounded and humanized characters, Iron Man still holds up with its timeless hero.