Over the last decade, we’ve seen many superheroes on screen. From Batman to Superman to Spider-Man, theaters have been filled with people eagerly awaiting the latest comic book movies. But no character has made a name for himself in the last decade like Tony Stark. Before 2008, if you asked 1000 people on the street who Iron Man was, very few would be able to answer you. Now, Iron Man and Tony Stark are two of the most popular superheroes in all of fiction. As a character and as an icon, he has come a long way.
Right at release in May of 2008, Tony Stark’s character and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance was something that fans adored. He’s an arrogant, fame-hungry billionaire who only cares for himself and his company. A role like that is tough to pull off, but Robert Downey Jr.’s performance completely sells it.
By the time 2012’s The Avengers hit theaters, Iron Man was loved by everyone. He was almost as popular as Batman, Spider-Man and Superman, if not already on par with them. This was the true beginning of Iron Man’s rise from obscurity to global fame.
Iron Man 3 took Tony Stark in a different direction. It didn’t feature the famous suit of armor much at all, but instead focused on the effect that the events of The Avengers had on Tony. Stark now has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has constant anxiety attacks when reminded of the fateful day in New York City. Iron Man 3 was a game-changer for the character, and showed audiences that there was a lot more to this cocky and arrogant billionaire that we were all growing to love. He still cracked his one-liners and fought evil, but it’s clear that saving the world took its toll.
Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War are the movies where Iron Man’s character became divisive for fans. Tony made Ultron as a result of seeing a vision where The Avengers die. This, of course, caused global destruction and led to the creation of The Sokovia Accords.
On top of going into space and nearly dying, receiving PTSD, experiencing constant nightmares, and indirectly causing the deaths of millions after trying to save your friends, Tony has to fight his closest allies in Civil War. On top of the stress Stark experiences from the civil war, Tony finds out the truth behind his parent’s death, and is beaten and left by Captain America, who saves the man who killed Howard and Maria Stark.
Now, Iron Man’s story continues in Spider-Man Homecoming, and instead of being in the forefront, Tony is helping out Peter Parker, and making sure he doesn’t make the same mistakes that he did. Iron Man’s inclusion in the film hasn’t sat well with most fans, but even if his inclusion feels unnecessary, it’s out of his character to abandon Peter, a 15 year old who’s still getting the hang of being a superhero.
Tony Stark’s character arc is an underrated one in the world of comic book movies. We’ve seen his compassion and his mistakes, and we’ve seen him grow as a human being. I think I speak for all of us when I say, we are excited to see where the character goes next.