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#048. Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. is one of those actors who has been on the screen for almost his entire life. And while much of his early work isn’t really remembered (he did manage to get an Oscar Nomination for playing Charlie Chaplin), his meteoric rise in recent years has come with the apt casting of two iconic roles. What is probably more impressive is that after battling drug addiction around the turn of the century, Robert Downey Jr. has cleaned up his act and has managed to get back on his feet as an actor. Even though the characters he tends to play really end up eating the scenery, like in A Scanner Darkly or Tropic Thunder (another Oscar nominated role), when the characters are supposed to be smug and elitist, magic happens. This week’s two films highlight two of Robert Downey Jr.’s most recent powerhouse performances.

The Avengers
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

When the time came for Marvel to make a live action version of their comic book superhero, Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was chosen by Director, Jon Favreau because there were a few parallels between the actor and character’s lives that Favreau wanted to tap into. What resulted was pure genius. Starring in another sequel two years later, Iron Man soon became the most popular Marvel superhero since Spider-Man. Two years after Iron Man 2, Downey Jr. reprised his role as Tony Stark / Iron Man in the superhero collaboration, The Avengers. As shown clearly on the theatrical poster, Iron Man is front and center due to the popularity of the franchise that he helped create.

After being told that he wouldn’t fit in well with a group of other superheroes, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is nevertheless drafted to become part of the Avengers initiative when the Norse trickster god, Loki (Tom Middleton) arrives on earth, ready to cause trouble. With the help of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and other operatives of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)), the threat of annihilation is eventually met head on. The unique traits of these superheroes cause much discord between them at the beginning, but soon they learn that they must put aside their differences in order to save the world. And if they can’t save it, you’d better believe they’d avenge it!

Sherlock Holmes
Year: 2009
Rating: PG-13
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

After the amazing success of Robert Downey Jr.’s role as Iron Man during the previous year, he was once again tapped to play another iconic character. This time, the smug superiority was successfully applied to Sherlock Holmes, the quintessential detective from the literary works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Just like the Iron Man franchise, Sherlock Holmes is in its own franchise as well. As a result, Robert Downey Jr. is now playing the lead in two successful franchises. While I’m sure that this means he can’t act in many other roles, due to the multitude of sequels these franchises demand, I’m also sure that he enjoys playing these roles, as his portrayals tend to be light and fun.

At the start of this film, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) have just finished up another case, resulting in the imprisonment, conviction, and hanging of Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong). And yet, the real mystery has just begun. When it appears as though Blackwell has risen from the dead, Holmes delves deeper into what was actually being planned. As more people are killed in mysterious ways, soon it becomes evident that the handful of incidents were merely triggers for a larger plot to adjust the political landscape of England. Can Holmes solve the mystery in time to save the day, or will he be a few steps behind in a battle of wits?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Robert Downey Jr. roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Avengers / Clark Gregg -> The Air I Breathe / Kevin Bacon)


One response to “#048. Robert Downey Jr.

  1. Pingback: End of Act One | Cinema Connections

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