Robert Downey Jr. weighs in on the argument over superhero films. By playing Tony Stark in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008, the actor launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and continued to do so for 11 years, essentially taking on the role of the franchise’s face. That is, up until Avengers: Endgame, when he put an end to his run of comic book movies by giving his life to stop Thanos. Since his last Iron Man performance more than three years ago, Downey has been actively pursuing new career opportunities, trying out different roles, and even collaborating on projects with his wife, Susan Downey. However, he will always be linked to the MCU, so hearing his opinion on the ongoing debate about how superhero movies are affecting the film industry is intriguing.
While promoting his documentary, Sr., Downey gave his opinion on the comic book movie debate in an interview with Deadline. The actor chooses to promote unity rather than focus on the criticism leveled at the movies in which he once played a significant role. In response to Quentin Tarantino’s jab at Marvel Cinematic Universe actors, he argues that filmmaking is a team effort, and everyone involved is equally vital. Below is a complete quote from Downey:
“I think our opinions on these matters say a lot about us. I think that we are in a time and place that I unwittingly contributed to, where IP has taken precedence over principle and personality. But it’s a double-edged sword. A piece of IP is only as good as the human talent you get to represent it, and you can have some great IP even if it’s coming from an auteur or a national treasure of a writer-director, and if you don’t have the right kind of artist playing that role, you’ll never know how good it could have been.”
“I think that creatively it is a waste of time to be at war with ourselves. I think this is a time when everything is so much more fragmented now that I think you have this kind of bifurcation. Throwing stones one way or another… and I’ve had my reactions in the past when people said things that I felt were discrediting my integrity… I go, “You know what? Let’s just get over it. We’re all a community. There’s enough room for everything,” and thank God for Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water. That’s all I have to say. We need the big stuff to make room for films like Armageddon Time.”
“I’m not talking about trickle-down entertainment. I’m just saying that things are always changing and I’m at a place in my life where I’ve now gone back to back, working with Chris Nolan on what was an exceptionally transformational experience for me; having been in pre-production post and bringing Sr. to market; and the next thing I’m doing is a series with my Mrs. and the director Park Chan-wook, based on a Pulitzer book called The Sympathizer. It’s already a transformative, literally playing five different roles experience for me. So, I would just say, before we cast aspersions on each other — undergo your own renaissance and see if it doesn’t change your mind a little bit.”
“Reinvent yourself before you decide that somebody else doesn’t know what they’re doing or that something is keeping you from doing your best, or that something is better than something else. You know, we’re in this age now where Favreau said it best: We used to try to make waves in a lake, and now we’re just trying to catch people’s attention as things are moving by quickly in a stream. I think that’ll change again, but this is just where we’re at. And to accept it and be grateful that you get to participate is the right place to start.”
Why There Will Always Be A Superhero Movie Debate
Legendary director Martin Scorsese famously declared the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) to be “not cinema” in 2019, comparing the series’ blockbusters to enjoyable rollercoasters rather than engaging works of art. His criticism was supported by fellow Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola, and a number of other directors have since come forward to voice their own criticisms of both the Marvel Studios franchise and the overabundance of the superhero genre in general. People involved in these films have been compelled to address the ongoing conversation because it has sporadically continued over the last few years since then. Unfortunately, there is little chance that this debate will end soon. It might even get worse, if anything.
The superhero movie sandbox, which is expected to grow over the coming years, is the reason for this. With Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel Studios has just completed Phase 4. Phase 5 will begin in about two months with Ant-Man 3, which Kevin Feige has dubbed the pinnacle of the MCU. Beyond that, there is a confirmed film and television schedule for the franchise that will last through 2026, with additional projects to follow until 2032. With new co-CEOs James Gunn & Peter Safran, who also have long-term release plans for the franchise, the DC Universe is also getting things moving once more.
Overall, Downey’s last point is significant. While the MCU and comic book movies currently rule Hollywood, a time will come when things change and a different kind of story will connect with audiences more. The best that anyone can do up until that point is to ensure that there is room for all kinds of movies to exist because widening the gap between people will only make matters worse for everyone.