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Road to Avengers Endgame: Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man is the sassy soul of MCU; a recap of his journey

As Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man gets ready to reprise his role in the Avengers Endgame -- perhaps for the last time -- here is a recap of his journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

hollywood Updated: Apr 21, 2019 11:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Avengers Endgame,Tony Stark,Iron Man
The first time Robert Downey Jr donned the suit was in 2008’s Iron Man.

The year was 2008 when Marvel’s flagship superhero landed at a theatre near us . “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” by his own admission, Tony Stark’s Iron Man premiered the same year as The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton.

The first will establish a universe that has earned $18 billion till date with Avengers: Endgame as the 22nd film in the franchise, the second film sank without trace.

Avengers: Endgame might be the last time that Stark dons the red-and-gold suit, so ahead of that, here’s looking at Downey Jr’s phenomenal journey as Marvel Cinematic Universe’s backbone.

How it all started

In 2008, Robert Downey Jr was an actor with a drug problem, who had just delivered a bomb, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. However, director Jon Favreau was ready to bet on him. As he had himself detailed in later interviews, “Everybody knew he (Downey Jr) was talented… Certainly by studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line-up with Robert in all the good and bad ways. And the story of Iron Man was really the story of Robert’s career.” Marvel came around and hired the actor as Iron Man in what was going to be first of many right decisions.

Also read: Avengers Endgame leaked footage is real, Russo Brothers react with letter urging fans not to spoil the film

Iron Man

Downey Jr has accepted that he was “very pushy” to snag the Iron Man role. “I took a meeting at Marvel. And then I was very pushy, to be honest, which is not really in my nature. But I just had a sneaking suspicion that I had nothing to lose. I decided to take it more seriously than I’d ever taken anything. I felt confident, and then I was told that the meeting went well but I wouldn’t put too much on it, it’s probably not going to go your way. I refused to let go of it,” he said later. The film went on to do blockbuster business, making future Marvel movies a certainty.

Behind all the cool CGI and shiny suits, Iron Man truly is the story of a man finding his true purpose, a self-obsessed playboy transforming himself as a man on a mission without losing any of his sass or narcissism.

Iron Man 2

The second Iron Man failed to live up to the hype, but not the box office expectations and Robert Downey Jr’s charm had a lot to do with it. The actor cranked up the megalomania as he walks perilously close to death in this one. The arc reactor embedded in his chest was poisoning his blood and the only way to survive was to find a new element – so, he decides to throw a party and ends up losing his suits.

Talking about the film later, Downey Jr accepted it was ‘disappointing’.

“The first one changed everything for me and with the second ‘Iron Man’ there were certain aspects that were dissatisfying and disappointing to me but at least they lit me right.... [The first one] was a meditation on responsibility and an exploration of how a small group of people can take a two-dimensional idea and, if the winds are right, create something that makes people say, ‘That was my favorite movie of the year.’”

The Avengers

Iron Man, along with his super friends, took on an army of aliens led by the ever-smirking Loki. The film was the first true sampling of the scale that Marvel could achieve without losing any of the wit or heart. Talking about the film later, Downey Jr spoke about the conversations that the superhero spectacle inspired, “We also wanted to get to a point where kids would be having that conversation when they left the theatre. We wanted people to be having conversations about genetic enhancements, and what does this mean, and is terrorism media driven or whatever – without being political! So, I’m just very happy that those arguments are occurring.”

Iron Man 3

Iron Man may have saved Manhattan from giant alien reptiles but it leaves him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Iron Man 3 has a traumatized Tony Stark dealing with after-effects of too much violence. As the film that created controversy over the big twist around Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), the film raised questions about America’s place in the world and its policies.

“Again, what I really liked about this was that it was a post-Avengers world. So, we just asked the question: ‘Wouldn’t he be a little freaked out?’ And then that was part of the theme. Sir Ben [Kingsley] is right. We didn’t rest on our laurels. The trauma thing was, again, getting away from The Avengersbecause we can’t beat the spectacle of that so let’s ask what would it actually be like when we got back into Tony’s world,” Downey Jr said in an interview.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Perhaps an even more damning critique of our times was Avengers Age of Ultron, which questions the use of artificial intelligence. Stark experiments on the sly with AI to create a programme that will make Earth omnipotent. The programme goes rogue, bent on destroying the ones it was supposed to protect. “Every impulse to kill starts off as an impulse to change, to rail against, to challenge the authority,” Downey Jr said. “I think because Tony’s solution is what becomes the problem, in a way, that’s really kind of interesting.”

Captain America: Civil War

Ever the insurgent, Stark becomes a company man in this one as he takes on his former friends, led by Captain America. Talking about Team Cap going against Team Iron Man, Downey Jr said, “Ultimately what we didn’t want was a story that’s just a bunch of ideologue nonsense going back and forth because it’s like, ‘Why are you guys talking? We like it when you’re doing witty stuff or when you’re in a weird position or when you’re really hurting or when you’re fighting’. Just as a fan of these movies, I wouldn’t want to see anything irreparable happen, but I also like it when seemingly irreparable thing occur and men and women find a way to move past it.”

Spider-Man Homecoming

As the mentor of Peter Parker, Tony Stark is finally pitted as the father figure – making his loss so much more terrible in Avengers Infinity War. “This turned out so well. It all comes down to what [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin [Feige] said, ‘You have to see the movie and love it.’ And I saw the movie – I’m in it a little bit – and I honestly loved it,” the actor said.

Avengers: Infinity War

Tony Stark leads a faction of Avengers to Titan in search of Thanos. As those he loves turn to dust around him, we know his fight is far from over. Whether he will find his way back to Earth in Avengers Endgame – director Joe Russo has claimed some of the footage shown in the trailers may not find a place in the film – is yet to be seen. However, this seems like the last time he will be donning the suit. “I want to hang the jersey before it gets embarrassing,” by Robert Downey Jr’s own admission.

First Published: Apr 21, 2019 11:31 IST