By Jim Beard
Iron Man, Marvel Comics' Golden Avenger, will be launching a new venture, soaring across movie screens in Marvel Entertainment's upcoming 2008 film. But who is this armored hero and who is the actor chosen to portray him? What do the two have in common? Robert Downey Jr. takes on the role of Tony Stark--Iron Man--and with both sporting multi-faceted personalities, audiences could be treated to one of the most layered and nuanced superhero films of all time.
Anthony Stark, called Tony by his friends, is a genius. Possessing one of the most creative and forward-thinking minds on the planet, his inventions are marvels of ingenuity and functionality. Primarily known for munitions and armaments, Stark has used his family fortune to build a life of comfort and freedom, yet has worked harder than any other billionaire before or after him. Years ago on an ill-fated expedition amidst a war on foreign soil, all his millions weren't enough to save
him from falling into the trap of a ruthless warlord--a trap that lodged a deadly piece of shrapnel deep in Stark's heart. This dire and painful situation led directly to the inventor's design and creation of one of the most unique suits of armor the world had ever seen. Donning the armor, Stark deftly vanquished the warlord and returned to the U.S., his former life behind him and a new life--one born from necessity--ahead of him.
As Iron Man, Stark has crafted a career as a force for good and a symbol of justice. The wondrous suit of armor grants him almost unlimited power in the form of near-invulnerability, minutely precise weapon systems, unparalleled cybernetics, titanic strength, and the ability to survive in unlivable atmospheres. Stark was one of the first heroes of the Modern Age of Marvels, and together with other like-minded champions, founded the mighty Avengers. All of this power, all of this strength, is in direct contrast though with Stark's own personal physicality and demons. Living the life of a playboy millionaire has taken its toll on the industrialist, leading directly to serious bouts of alcoholism and business failure. Stark's damaged heart was a constant concern to him in the earlier days of his being Iron Man, and even after transplants and miracle cures, the most sensitive human organ of all has vexed Stark for several years. On top of this, his drinking problem has at various times cost him his company, his wealth, and his closest friends and lovers.
Recent events have changed Tony Stark forever. Over the course of the first six issues of the most recent IRON MAN series, writer Warren Ellis gave the Golden Avenger the ultimate upgrade. In a desperate battle for his life against a powerful foe, Stark fused his body with the armor's circuitry and systems, creating the perfect synthesis of man and machine. With intense response time and the techno-organic power coursing through his veins, now more than ever before, Stark truly is Iron Man.
Tony Stark has accepted all challenges and challengers in his tumultuous life and risen above it like a phoenix from the ashes. His leadership and driving spirit has inspired admiration in the heroes of the Marvel Universe and his genius has bettered the world. His foes have been many and varied, ranging from the Oriental mastermind Mandarin (ruthless antagonist of the upcoming film) to power-mad time-travelers. Beyond all that, Stark is a man who possesses his own clear sense of right and wrong and his own vision of what technology and philanthropy can do to change human destiny.
Robert Downey Jr., cast as the "cool exec with the heart of steel", brings much to the role. Born in Greenwich Village, NYC, the talented actor of film, television, stage and even music, was perhaps born to play Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man.
Fluent in all areas of acting, including drama and comedy, Downey has impressed audiences by revealing a wide spectrum of talents and faces. He has celluloid in his blood and first acted at the tender age of five, in a movie of his father's. Robert Downey Sr., an infamous underground filmmaker, cast his son as a puppy. Cutting his acting and improvisational teeth on "Saturday Night Live" and films such as "The Pick-up Artist" and "Less Than Zero," Downey quickly gained the experience he needed to take on Hollywood full-time. One of the pinnacles of his career was his portrayal of legendary actor Charlie Chaplin in "Chaplin," a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Pop culture fans may also fondly remember Downey from his appearances in television's "Ally McBeal," wherein he played attorney Larry Paul. Though his personal life has had many ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, Downey has proved to be highly adept at reviving, refreshing and recreating himself, earning the admiration of his many fans and followers.
Downey's many screen roles are well-suited to the complex character of Tony Stark, Iron Man. He has shown he can play creative geniuses, as he did in "Chaplin," as well as conflicted professionals, such as in "Restoration," His own inner demons may also lead him to the insights he'll need to the often tragic figure of Tony Stark to life., Iron Man's roller coaster existence of technological triumphs and crashing defeats are a good reflection of Downey's own career and the actor's versatility in the craft should earn him a warm spot in the hearts of comic book and movie fans everywhere.
What will the Iron Man feature film bring us, in terms of story and action? We're sure to see the damaged, suffering Tony Stark, the man who built his empire and mended his beleaguered body from the ground up. Ellis's "Extremis"
storyarc could be a good foundation for an updated origin for the hero, illuminating Tony's need to make himself the ultimate champion. Conversely, we'll also most likely get a front-row seat to the industrialist's brush with alcoholism and his losses in love and life from the classic "Demon in a Bottle"
run, events that could distract him from his battle with the evil Mandarin. Perhaps audiences will see a close friend of Tony's attempt to enter the struggle disguised as Iron Man, as both Happy Hogan and James Rhodes have done in the comics.
Whatever storylines and events we may see in the finished Iron Man project, we can be sure that the story of the Golden Avenger on screen will be exciting, thrilling and in the end, inspiring.
Keep your eyes on Marvel.com as we'll be updating this article more details become available. And be on the lookout for more Iron Man character spotlights, including James Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Mandarin and more!
Don't forget to check out the Marvel.com Iron Man hub
for stories about new cast members, such as Gwyneth Paltrow
, Jeff Bridges
and Terrence Howard
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