Spoilers ahead for MCU-related content, in general.
With a slew of MCU films and television shows for our viewing pleasure over the last decade or so, it would only be logical to assume that the combined Marvel and Disney powerhouse has undoubtedly been consistent in its release of highly successful content, surely with more to follow.
Of course, the success of the franchise can most certainly be attributed to many factors, such as its singular overarching vision, competent storytelling, expert direction, stunning visuals, terrific casting, and so on.
If you credited the MCU’s success to any one point listed above, you would absolutely be right in your assessment.
However, amidst these fascinating points stated above, we are of the opinion that there is one defining factor that supersedes any of those previously mentioned; the risky, bold maneuver that established the foundation upon which the entirety of the MCU franchise would subsequently build itself on, Marvel’s greatest gamble: 2008’s Iron Man.
Prior to his debut on the silver screen, the character of Iron Man was never considered a widely-acclaimed superhero in the vast pantheon of the Marvel mythos. That is not to say that there was never any appeal towards the character, but in comparison to other more popular counterparts, such as Spider-Man or the X-Men, Tony Stark was most often relegated to the title of being a B-grade hero at best.
Knowing this, one can imagine the sheer confusion that engulfed most comic book enthusiasts at the announcement of an Iron Man film going into production, let alone the news about the risky casting of Robert Downey Jr. for the titular role, a choice that even Marvel refused point-blank on several occasions.
In fact, Marvel were so unenthused with the idea of RDJ being cast as Iron Man, that they only paid him an ostensible amount of $500,000 for the role. Even his co-star at the time, Terrence Howard, the original James Rhodes, was reportedly paid between $3.5mil - $4.5mil for his role.
Given the level of uncertainty, it was without a doubt that the first Iron Man was Marvel’s biggest gamble, and what an outcome it reaped.
Looking back, not only was it a monumental success for the studio, but it additionally paved the way for the entire MCU that we know and love today. Moreover, the film also reignited fans’ interest in the Iron Man character, making him the most successful MCU superhero to date, and making RDJ their most bankable star at the time; the gamble that paid off spectacularly.
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