Robert Downey, Jr. is the cornerstone on which the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is built. If Downey’s performance as Tony Stark doesn’t work, Iron Man doesn’t work. If Iron Man doesn’t work, then the MCU gets off to a very shaky start. His charismatic turn as the billionaire-turned-armored-superhero was the audience’s entry point to everything that was to follow.
It seemed strange for Marvel’s film empire to start with a character that had proven so problematic in the comics that gave him his origin. Tony Stark was hardly a shining beacon of popularity for the Marvel brand when the movie was released in 2008. His character had seen ups and many, many downs over the years. For many readers, Iron Man was primarily known as the hero with a drinking problem.
But all that changed once Downey— himself looking for a career redemption— took to the skies as Stark. The character’s wise-ass personality and impish lovability made him a perfect lead, and served as an invitation to an audience that there were plenty of great, fun characters in Marvel’s arsenal that hadn’t been seen on the big screen yet. Add in the smart direction by Jon Favreau, giving the entire enterprise its signature style, and Iron Man proves to be one of the most important blockbuster films of the past few decades.
Iron Man is available for streaming on Disney Plus.