Avengers: Endgame isn’t just making an ungodly amount of money; it’s also a critical fave. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the MCU epic has an outstanding 95%, based on 433 reviews. (As usual with comic book movies, the few dissenting critics are being viciously attacked online.) As such, it’s not completely insane to bust out some Oscar talk. That’s exactly what Joe Russo, one of the film’s two directors (along with brother Anthony), has done.
Speaking to The Washington Post, the filmmaker — whose previous credits include not only Avengers: Infinity War and the second and third Captain Americas, but also, let’s not forget, the 2005 Owen Wilson comedy You, Me and Dupree — singles out the MCU cast member who started it all: the one-time Derek Lutz himself, Robert Downey Jr.
“His cumulative body of work from these movies is staggering,” Russo told the Post. “If you look at the work over just even the last four [Marvel] films he’s done, it’s phenomenal. . . . He deserves an Oscar perhaps more than anyone in the last 40 years because of the way that he has motivated popular culture.”
Okay, the last sentence is arguably a bit much. But Russo’s not alone in thinking Downey should get the gold. Sam Adams, at no less a non-fanboy publication than Slate, made the case for Downey being Oscar-fêted back when Endgame was first released. Adams sees his performance as a bittersweet bookend to his initial, game-changing turn as Iron Man/Tony Stark back in the first MCU title, showing the toll from 10 years of being Iron Man. Also he just simply brings it.
Endgame’s first shots of Downey, emaciated by Tony’s exile in deep space, his eyes hollowed out by grief, bring home Infinity War’s terrible losses more poignantly than a million clouds of digital dust. The movie takes Tony to new depths of despair—losing half the universe will do that to a person—and it also gives him something new to fight for: a family, whose existence may be endangered by the plan to undo Thanos’ cataclysmic snap.
Adams concludes by saying, “although the Oscars seem stubbornly resistant to recognizing performances in superhero movies, you can be certain that Disney will give Downey a robust Best Actor campaign as a retirement gift (the campaign, at least, he deserves).”
Of course, let’s not forget that before Downey strapped on his first of many Iron Man suits, he was an acclaimed actor, earning his first Oscar nomination for 1992’s Chaplin, in which the future Tony Stark credibly passed for Charles freakin’ Chaplin. His second was for 2008’s Tropic Thunder, in which he played an overachieving Method actor who dons blackface to play a black soldier, which…well, probably doesn’t play so well 11 years later, despite Downey’s crackerjack timing.