The Evolution of Tony Stark
I’ve recently begun the massive undertaking of rewatching the Marvel Studios releases in preparation for Infinity War, and while I’m only three movies in, that’s still enough to make me take pause and recognize one of the coolest aspects of the MCU: the gradual evolution of Tony Stark.
When we first met Tony, he wass an asshole. Smug, self-centered, and all around superficial, Tony Stark was only interested in using his considerable intellect and skill at making money for himself. Throughout the course of Iron Man, we watch his character learn to become a better person, but even by the end of the first movie, you can’t really believe that he’ll play nice with the other members of the Avengers, or ever become a father figure to someone like Peter Parker.
But change he does, and one of the reasons why we buy into that change is because we’ve followed Tony Stark as he’s changed throughout not only his own movies, but the Avengers ones too. The weight of his decisions weigh heavily on Stark, and it’s a true testament to Robert Downey Jr as an actor that he’s able to pull off this character so well. That’s probably one of the reasons why it’s so much fun having him play off of the other characters. His devil may care attitude is still there, but it’s definitely tempered from experience and battle scars.
With the exception of Hugh Jackman, I don’t think there’s any other actor who’s been associated with a superhero role quite like RDJ has. Hell, I’d argue that he’s even more associated than Hugh Jackman, simply from the stories I’ve heard of other Marvel Studios actors who have met with him. Downey is the shepherd and spokesperson for the Marvel Studios brand, certainly, but he’s also serving a mentor role to the new hires, too. Actors from Chris Pratt to Tom Holland all have stories of talking with RDJ when they were first cast in their roles, and Downey even negotiated a higher raise for his fellow Avengers for the sequel films. That’s something that you don’t see all the time.
There’s a lot of speculation that Stark will be biting the bullet when he and his Avengers teammates take on Thanos next month, and while I won’t be surprised if he ends up meeting his maker, I feel like we’d be missing out on another evolution for the character: mentor. There’s a huge amount of potential in the character still, and while I’m sure it wouldn’t be cheap to re-up Downey’s contract, it would most certainly be worth it to do so.