Let’s face it, Iron Man was never one of the my favorite Marvel characters. Popularity wise he’s way behind Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine and even Captain America. He just seems to a character that just happens to be there.
Can you think of a really good Iron Man comic story? I couldn’t.
For the longest time, I just associated Iron Man as being one of the early Avengers and from the story where he realizes he is an alcoholic (Demon in a Bottle) and when he goes on a rampage against everyone who’s ripped of his armor designs (Armor Wars). And I guess, to a certain extent, the Iron Man cartoon series from the mid-1990s, but I primarily watched that do to being a Hawkeye fan boy.
Over the years, Iron Man was just another guy to me. He wasn’t a bad character; I just didn’t connect to him or think that he was that important. Iron Man was just a background guy in the Marvel Universe as far as I was concerned he was like Chekov from Star Trek, just not Russian and wearing robot armor.
When I heard that they were making a movie about Iron Man, I really didn’t expect too much. I figured it would be as good as the Blade films, but hopefully better than Daredevil. Regardless, I would see it.
Then 2008 happened.
Sweet Christmas, was I wrong.
What made this different from anything I could have imagined was how awesome Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark. His take on the character made him a very quirky yet extremely likable man, much like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
RDJ’s portrayal was complex. In the first movie, he brings Tony to live and you really see how much the character grows from being extremely self-centered and really didn’t care that his family fortune was made on the suffering of others.
When said weaponry was turned against him and nearly claim his life, Stark came to the grim realizations about what it actually means to be in the business of war. His life and company then took a shift, using their resources to help humanity instead of providing tools to destroy it.
All the while, Stark is true to himself—he still aggrandizes himself, as evident in his various press conference and Stark Expo scenes in the sequel. Don’t forget the fact that he was so hot to trot about revealing his status as Iron Man to the world.
In the sequel, they made him even more endearing, as themes of his own mortality and self-doubt plagued him during the film. When he finally overcomes them, you feel relieved just as much as Stark is.
In spite of the character’s huge ego, RDJ made Stark an immensely likable guy. So what if he’s a bit cocky? Ultimately, his heart is in the right place and he would be a great friend. That’s not because he’ insanely rich, but because he would do anything to help you.
So thank you Robert Downey Jr.; you made Iron Man cool.