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MCU Retrospective: Iron Man Set the Tone for the Entire Franchise

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008)

The great thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that we all started in the same place. When Tony Stark first made his appearance, many of us had the thought “Yeah, of course, Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. That makes sense,” because the casting was absolutely perfect. But there is another level to the first Iron Man movie that, in retrospect, brilliantly set up the entire MCU.

Tony Stark has a distinct feel to himself that bleeds into his movie, making it unmistakably an Iron Man movie. At the time, that wasn’t something we knew would be distinctly related to Tony Stark until we got more movies out of the MCU. Forgetting that The Incredible Hulk existed, each solo film has a sense of tone that is unique to whatever hero we’re seeing. Sure, an argument could be made that Captain America: Civil War felt more like a movie about the Avengers because they were all there, but it still had the heart of a Captain America movie.

Maybe it’s because Marvel took on the tactic of specific directors and screenwriters bringing specific characters to life, but it just seems like each character can completely exist in their own worlds but still work cohesively in a group film. It also gives them free rein to flow within each other’s movies and not feel as if they are mischaracterized because they’re each such distinct beings that they’re filled out despite not being the focus.

I attribute that all to the first Iron Man, because without it, we wouldn’t have the Tony Stark we know and love so well.

Maybe this praise belongs to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige for being able to manipulate so many characters and never really having them feel like an afterthought (unless their name is Natasha Romanoff, but that’s a whole different story). With the Iron Man trilogy, the Captain America trilogy, the Thor trilogy, and the new addition of Captain Marvel, each were distinctly part of their own series but didn’t feel like they weren’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a pretty incredible feat.

(image: Marvel Entertainment)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.