Summary

  • Iron Man’s early solo movies were crucial in establishing his character arc and setting the foundation for the entire MCU. They showed his evolution from a selfish genius to a hero willing to work with others.
  • The decision to have two Iron Man movies before The Avengers was significant because it emphasized Iron Man’s importance in the larger story. It allowed viewers to see the MCU grow and expand through Tony’s eyes.
  • Iron Man’s journey in his solo movies foreshadowed his role as a central figure in the Infinity Saga. The introduction of crucial characters like Pepper, Rhodey, Black Widow, and Nick Fury further solidified his significance in the MCU.


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Iron Man is the most iconic Avenger in the MCU, and Robert Downey Jr. has given insight into one of the biggest early differences between him and his fellow heroes before The Avengers. With the massive popularity that the MCU has amassed across the span of its nearly two decade run, it can be difficult to believe that much of its popularity hinged on one of its first movies. When the first Iron Man movie was released, much about it was considered a risk of sorts – from both Robert Downey Jr’s casting, and the decision to choose a character that general audiences would be less familiar with than the likes of Spider-Man or Captain America. If Tony Stark had not succeeded in capturing viewers’ hearts, it’s very likely MCU as it is known today would not exist.

It’s understandable, then, that the MCU timeline spends a lot of time with Iron Man, developing him from a selfish, wealthy genius to the savior of the universe, and a figure whose importance can still be felt long after his death. Far before this, though, Tony stood out from his fellow Avengers even early on, in part because Iron Man was the only hero to lead two solo movies before teaming up in 2012’s The Avengers. The other members of the original six either got one solo movie, or, in the case of Black Widow and Hawkeye, were only introduced in their teammates’ movies. Helpfully, Robert Downey Jr. has previously explained why this choice is so important for his character.

Related: 10 Times Iron Man Proved He Was MCU’s Greatest Hero Even Without His Supersuits


RDJ Explained Why Iron Man & Iron Man 2 Had To Happen Before The Avengers

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark Surrounded by Iron Man Suits

In the book The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers, Downey Jr. shares what he believes in the significance of Iron Man having two solo movies before The Avengers:

“If you look at the evolution of Tony Stark in the two Iron Man films, he is growing toward being able to do something like The Avengers. The first film is his origin story, and he has an epiphany and redemption of sorts. The second film is about making space for others in his insular world and dealing with certain legacy issues.”

Downey Jr.’s comments perfectly explain the importance of both Iron Man’s early MCU story, and his decision to join the Avengers. Tony’s character arc in Iron Man is centered on him coming to terms with becoming a hero, whereas Iron Man 2 showed him how valuable working well with others is. Most of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, except for the Hulk, have experience being on teams before The Avengers, so they don’t need that character development the way Tony does.

Related: Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Why Having Two Iron Man Movies Before The Avengers Helped The Infinity Saga’s Entire Story

Tony Stark's Iron Man wielding the six Infinity Stones during the Battle of Earth in Avengers Endgame

On a narrative level, Iron Man being the only one to lead two pre-Avengers solo movies works best, as it foreshadows just how important he would be for years to come. The Infinity Saga is, in many ways, Tony’s story – because it not only starts with him, it ends with him too. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 allow viewers to watch the MCU slowly grow and expand through Tony’s eyes, both through the introduction of characters that are both crucial for his story, like Pepper and Rhodey, and through the introduction of characters who go on to have paramount roles in the MCU at large, like Black Widow and Nick Fury.

Iron Man is written as the quintessential hero’s journey and, for the most part, can easily be watched as a standalone movie with no connections to any other movies. That is until its post-credit scene arrives, giving viewers their first glimpse of Nick Fury as he tries to recruit Tony for the Avengers. This was the first sign that Iron Man was about to become part of something much larger than he was, and Iron Man 2 carries out this idea, as Tony is confronted with the consequences of being a public hero, including the kinds of threats it attracts, with both movies working together to develop the iteration of Iron Man that is much loved to this day.

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