It’s hard to believe, but we’re approaching ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where has the time gone? With Avengers: Infinity War set to round the first decade off in May, it’s easy to forget where things started. The next superhero team-up will arrive ten years after Iron Man raised the curtain and those humble origins almost feel like ancient history now. No one could truly have foreseen the phenomenal success that would follow, and Marvel Studios clearly aren’t done yet. The future slate looks as exciting as ever, as new characters are constantly being added from the immense Marvel roster and the possibilities for where things can go from here are virtually endless.
On the face of it, the continued success is attributable to numerous factors. Most important of these, however, is the huge cast that’s now been amassed – what’s not to like about that? Strong, inspirational heroes are being portrayed by charming and attractive people; could there ever be a greater winning combination? Impressive set pieces and large-scale battles are great for braindead viewing, but it’s crucial that we care enough about the characters to root for them. While not all of the casting decisions have been particularly inspired, the heroes that comprise The Avengers are all good enough that it doesn’t really matter.
One casting was perfect, however, and it was a crucial one. Getting Robert Downey Jr. in as Tony Stark for Iron Man was a stroke of genius, even if it does seem obvious now. RDJ has managed to carry not only the weight of his own character’s reputation, but also the heft of the MCU since day one. Both on and off-screen, he’s become the indoctrinated embodiment of progress in the franchise. His character has been at the centre of every story featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes thus far and has appeared in everything with the Avengers tag on it. And in the real world? RDJ’s conduct and candour in every press junket, interview or featurette has further ingratiated himself with the sizeable fanbase.
It’s true; the Marvel Cinematic Universe owes a heck of a lot to Robert Downey Jr. for getting it off the ground. As do many of the franchise’s stars. In fact, earlier today at Ace Comic-Con, Chris Evans was asked who his mentor was and unsurprisingly, named RDJ.
“It’s low-hanging fruit to say [Robert] Downey,” Evans stated when asked which co-star might resemble a mentor to him during his time in the Marvel Cinematic universe. “He’s such a wonderful guy and is so talented, so experienced, and so supportive.”
Continuing on, the Captain America star explained how great it is having Robert Downey Jr. on set.
“He’s always been in my corner and I’ve always felt supported by him. He really brings everybody in to the group and makes sure everyone feels welcome, especially on this last one. He open his arms and it sounds so cheesy, but he makes it a family and none of this would happen without him.”
Finally, he said that the actor is irreplaceable. Whereas roles like the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel can be recast, no one else can ever play Iron Man.
“No matter what it feels like for me, I try to imagine what it feels like for him, because he really did start this,” reflected Evans. “He really is so irreplaceable. Nobody can ever be Iron Man. It’s not a role like Superman or Batman that can kind of find different incarnations, no one can touch it.”
I think we can all agree with what Evans is saying here. In terms of irreplaceable actors, at least as far as comic book movies go, RDJ is right at the top. He’s without a doubt Marvel’s MVP and there isn’t anyone else out there who could ever bring Tony Stark to life like he does. And thankfully, no one else will ever have to.
It’s all but certain at this point that Iron Man will exit the MCU after Phase 3 and we don’t imagine the studio will attempt to recast. That’s not to say there won’t ever be another iteration of the character up on the big screen – Riri Williams became the new Iron Man in the comics, for instance – but once Robert Downey Jr. has made his exit, it won’t be Stark under that iconic suit anymore. That’s if Marvel even decides to keep the hero in the MCU.
Anyways, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, we can all look forward to RDJ’s next appearance on the big screen in Avengers: Infinity War, which will be here on May 4th.