Marvel’s True Champion

2008’s Iron Man changed the way non comic book fans saw the superhero film genre and established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a box office powerhouse. The hit movie did an excellent job of blending comedy, drama and fantastical elements. It didn’t take itself too seriously and at the same time it never turned into camp.

Marvel Studios "Iron Man 3" Panel - Comic-Con International 2012

There were many things the film got right, but its biggest accomplishment was casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark. His performance helped the project balance humor and pathos perfectly. That stability allowed moviegoers who may not be into “superhero” centric material to enjoy the project. The actor was so charismatic and likeable in the role that the big budget spectacle in the film took a back seat to his performance. The first release for the Marvel Cinematic Universe allowed Downey to reestablish his credibility as an acting talent after his public battles with substance abuse. Iron Man had been around for a long time in the comic book universe but Downey propelled the obscure hero to Spider-Man level popularity. He seemed born to play the hero in a way Hollywood had not seen since Christopher Reeve portrayed Superman in the 1970s. The character will probably forever be identified with Downey Jr. and his iconic work.

Iron Man was a major reason why comic book movies have become such a large part of popular culture. Downey’s performance elevated the film and the role of the superhero in cinema to arguably its greatest height. He inspired other big name actors to take on parts as superheroes and brought a level of integrity to the genre that has allowed Marvel Films to flourish. It’s hard to imagine the Marvel Universe and its film saga being able to have the impact it has had without Robert Downey Jr.

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