Robert Downey Jr. explains why Marvel is so successful, connecting it to his tumultuous past before his career resurgence in 2008.
Robert Downey Jr. took time to explain why he thinks Marvel is so successful. While The Incredible Hulk was technically the start of the MCU, it was Downey's 2008 film Iron Man that ignited the flame that would become the franchise. The 2008 film was a runaway hit, thanks in part to Downey's performance as the charismatic, but flawed Stark Industries head, a performance that was informed by his own experiences prior to his taking on the role of Tony Stark.
Downey would go on to play Iron Man in nine Marvel films as the central figure of the Avengers. Downey became the anchor of the franchise opposite Chris Evans' Captain America. The MCU is now the most successful franchise of all time and it shows no signs of stopping - 2021 will be the studio's biggest year yet, as it gears up to release four movies and numerous television shows. Much of the franchise's success could be credited to Downey, but he sees it a little bit differently.
In an appearance on A Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Downey explained why he thinks the MCU is so successful. He reflects on his own time, prior to taking on the role of Iron Man, as a controversial public figure mired in scandal and relates his journey as an actor to the hero's journey within the MCU. Downey also thinks that the best of what he sees as American ideals are expressed in the films, starting with the idea that there is a possibility of redemption.
I believe that, despite current feedback, we happen to be in a very forgiving industry. You know, it’s pendulemic [sic]. I was really fortunate that I was pre-internet with much of my misbehavior, but I think I had a bit of a moral psychology and I always wanted to do the right thing, which doesn’t count for much. But then I took it on the chin, ya know… To build up and break down and then come back, it is in its own way, the hero’s journey. By the way, I can relate to Tony Stark a lot by the time I played him. A guy who needed to really be handed a dose of ouch.
The success of the MCU could be attributed to many things. Of course, the foundation was already there, with the extremely popular comic books that had been running for decades. Without a face to support the franchise, though, it could've been a huge misfire. Downey's role as Tony Stark singlehandedly helped the MCU become what it is today and his own real-life journey as a recovered addict, coupled with Tony Stark's similarly scandalous behavior, made good on the promise of the franchise.
Downey experienced a career resurgence after Iron Man and it's safe to say Tony Stark will remain his most iconic role. His own, very public hero's journey mirrored that of Tony Stark's - like Downey, Stark overcame his reputation to become a force for good in the MCU, going on to inspire a new generation of kids that would grow up with the Marvel films. The hero's journey at the center of the MCU resonates on more levels than one and that's all thanks to Downey.