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The Russo’s Reflect on Iron Man Being the “Heart and Soul” of the MCU

robert downey jr infinity war
Marvel Studios

Ten years ago the future of franchise films changed forever when Marvel released Iron Man, a movie that sparked a cinematic superhero journey and gave fans the MCU’s fearless leader Tony Stark, played by the quippy and brilliant Robert Downey Jr.

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Since then Downey has appeared in eight other Marvel films, including solo films and crossovers, with one more on the way in Avengers 4. He has put his footprint on pretty much every hero the MCU has introduced and in a way is solely responsible for the continued success of the franchise. It all started with him and the journey that Tony Stark has embarked on over the past decade is nothing short of extraordinary.

“I think, in a lot of ways, he is the heart and soul of the Marvel universe,” Infinity War co-director Joe Russo said during a video interview with Wired. “He’s a fascinating character, a character that we love because he is imminently flawed and we like characters that are challenging and express their humanity and I think Tony Stark does that as well as any of the characters. He started off as a narcissistic alcoholic and grew into a hero which, I think, makes him imminently relatable and signifies what the Marvel universe stands for, which is character first and the heroes are defined through the choices that they make.”

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One of the other aspects about Tony Stark that makes him so unique and beloved in the MCU is the fact that his powers stem from his own intelligence. He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or created in a lab, he became Iron Man using what he had and his powers are often unmatched. Similar to Iron Man’s footprint, Stark Industries has found a way to impact a lot of the other characters, including Spider-Man’s latest Iron Spider Suit.

“Tony Stark’s powers are fascinating because they basically come from his mind, they come from his scientific knowledge, his brilliance, his intelligence, and his aspirations. It allows you to track a journey in the character and watch him evolve and better himself through the use of these powers. He has one of the most exciting power sets of any of the characters,” Anthony Russo added.

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Much like Tony is a mentor and colleague to various heroes in the films, Downey Jr. fills the same role off camera.

“It’s low-hanging fruit to say Downey. He’s such a wonderful guy and is so talented, so experienced, and so supportive. He’s always been in my corner and I’ve always felt supported by him. He really brings everybody into the group and makes sure everyone feels welcome, especially on this last one,” Chris Evans said at a convention earlier this year.

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Tony Stark managed to survive Thanos’ snap in Infinity War that wiped out half of humanity, so while his future with the MCU is still unclear, fans will get to see him fighting alongside the original Avengers in next May’s Avengers 4. 

Do you agree that Tony is the heart and soul of the MCU?

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Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I'm probably too similar to Nick Miller in real life, I do hope to one day write my own "Pepperwood Chronicles'.