Robert Downey Jr defined the superhero genre with his portrayal of Iron Man in the past decade. While there are speculations about his successor, Wakanda’s Princess Shuri seems to be the chosen one to take up RDJ’s ‘arrogant genius’ comic vibe in the MCU.
To say that Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr and Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man is the same thing. The boundaries between the character and the actor are long blurred. Playing a comic book superhero and competing with readers’ imaginations is the worst side-effect of the business, Jared Leto and Ben Affleck can tell you a thing or two about it.
But RDJ is clearly on the other side of the spectrum. He made, ‘I am Iron Man,’ inevitable!
The inception of the Iron Man
Back in 2008, Downey Jr needed Iron Man as much as Iron Man needed him. Marvel needed the movie to be a blockbuster, else, financial woes would have made them lose all of their characters. On the other hand, a ‘recovering from life’ RDJ needed a movie to prove his mettle to Hollywood once again!
Director Jon Favreau who helmed the first Iron Man movie was convinced that Downey Jr was the actor best suited for the role. However, the Marvel bosses weren’t. Favreau told Texas Radio in an interview”
By studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line-up with Robert in all the good and bad ways. And the story of Iron Man was really the story of Robert’s career.Iron Man (2008) Director Jon Favreau
To play the genius, philanthropist, playboy with such high stakes wasn’t easy. But during the audition, RDJ owned Iron Man as well as Tony Stark!
Watch: Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man Audition – “smart enough, funny enough“
Together Marvel Studios and RDJ managed to launch a franchise that gave the world the superheroes it deserved. His casting director felt as if was RDJ was born to be Iron Man. The arrogance combined with the brilliance and the showmanship – you see the lines blurring yet?
While there is an aesthetic distance that actors maintain with their characters. Downey Jr, knowingly unknowingly lived in the skin of the character for 10 long years. He, in the mass consciousness, will always be Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
Watch: RDJ Being Tony Stark
In the past decade, Tony Stark has become the God of nerds! Between building the first Iron Armour from scrap in a cave and the nanotech suit Mark L or Mark 50 – the sophistication of his inventions made him a tech pioneer everyone aspires to be. He just wanted ‘peace’ but Tony made his mistakes along the way. Making him only more relatable!
Further, the wit RDJ brings to the character is beyond comparison. For example, in Avengers (2012), whenever you’ll see Tony snacking on screen, know that it wasn’t in the script. Downey Jr was notorious to hide snacks on set and bring them up in the shots so that other actors have to improvise. Every attempt of the production team to find the hidden snacks went in vain.
To spiral a franchise on your shoulders isn’t a small feat. For years, RDJ shouldered the franchise on his own – being a part of an ensemble cast or while playing a mentor – much like what comic book Iron Man did for the Avengers.
But there’s more to it. The Humor!
Be it giving the Avengers their nicknames or playing the sarcastic bad cop – Tony Stark was on top of everything for three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But not anymore.
Enter The Prodigy
The saga that started with Iron Man (2008) culminated with Avengers: Endgame in 2019. It also saw the demise of the Iron Man, leaving behind a void in the Avenger ranks that can never be completely filled.
Nevertheless, there has been a lot of anticipation and speculation about who could be the next Iron Man. But not many discuss the person who would help Marvel retain that flavour of arrogant genius wit in the MCU. In fact, Marvel too should honestly be more concerned about that rather than finding another person to career the Iron Man legacy in a suit. And not to brag about it, but we have an idea as to the future comic masterclass in MCU phase 4.
Bring in the best Disney Princess of all time… Shuri!
Played wonderfully by actor Letitia Wright, the 18-year-old Wakandan princess has everything that MCU needs to keep the ‘funny enough’ on the screen after Iron Man’s exit. To start with, she is a ‘princess’ with Wakanda’s wealth at her dispense. Secondly, she is the brightest mind in the MCU right now and the reason behind Wakanda’s incredible technology. A brain the Avengers could use moving forward.
For the first three MCU phases, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were the MCU’s go-to geniuses. If they can’t solve your problems, you better start praying to gods like Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. For all we know, Tony Stark made time travel possible in just one night in Endgame!
But in MCU, Shuri is already miles ahead of both of them. She has the ability to innovate the rarest substance on the planet, Vibranium. She also helped to get the mind stone out of Vision’s head till the time her lab was attacked. And on a side note, she helped Bucky Barnes erase HYDRA’s WW II brainwashing.
Watch: Iron Man Vs Shuri: Who is Smarter in the MCU?
If that isn’t enough proof of her intelligence, Letitia Wright’s acting makes her actions even sassier. She displays an elastic, game-for-anything, kind of energy with brilliant comic timing and dialogue delivery that does justice to the much-intended lighter tone that Marvel scripts need between and amid all the action. Her vivacious, playful grins even crack up the otherwise overly serious brother King T’Challa aka Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther.
All of this and more makes Letitia Wright’s Shuri the fierce and feisty Disney princess that MCU needs to keep up the tone set by Robert Downey Jr for over a decade! And rest assured she can make Iron Man proud as she sees no reason to be humble about her brilliance!