Summary

  • RDJ believes his time as Iron Man was some of the best acting of his career, but it’s overlooked due to being in genre movies.
  • Superhero performances often don’t get the respect they deserve, despite the talent and hard work involved.
  • While superhero movies receive nominations and recognition, they still face an unfair reputation in the film industry.


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Robert Downey Jr., who portrayed Iron Man for over a decade in the MCU, recently shared that he believes his time as Tony Stark was some of the best acting of his career but is overlooked due to being in genre movies. Iron Man (2008) kick-started the MCU Timeline, propelled by Downey Jr.’s now-iconic performance. Given the character’s status as a dominating figure in pop culture, it’s disappointing but understandable that he feels superhero performances don’t get the respect they sometimes deserve.

Recently, Downey Jr. spoke on the Literally! With Rob Lowe podcast, where he reflected on his experience with the movies of the MCU. Particularly, it was an interesting, challenging, and exciting experience branching out into other movies after spending several years almost exclusively playing Tony Stark. He explains:

“I felt so exposed after being in the cocoon of Marvel where I think I did some of the best work I will ever do, but it went a little bit unnoticed because of the genre.”

Given the superhero movie genre’s general reputation, Downey Jr.’s claim makes sense. In movies regularly dominated by spectacle, it can be easy to appreciate the work and talent that goes into portraying superheroes and villains.

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Are Superhero Movie Performances Really Overlooked?

The claim that RDJ makes about the level of recognition for his work in the MCU is an interesting one because it suggests that the history of comic books being viewed as ‘lowbrow’ writing persists today in the film industry. Unfortunately, it seems that, despite critical acclaim and fan enthusiasm, this may hold true when it comes to awards, which would certainly be a metric factoring into RDJ’s assessment. As of now, only 10 Marvel and DC films have ever won an Oscar, which is astonishingly low given their output over the last few decades.

Angela Basset was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Queen Romanda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor for Joker (2019).

The list of nominations is much higher, with 39 superhero movies and shorts up for contention at the Academy Awards, suggesting that the films are being recognized even if they don’t win. Granted, several of these are technical category nominations, but it seems that the sentiment about the quality of the superhero genre is one of the more prominent ones. On the other hand, plenty of Hollywood talent has publicly criticized superhero movies, so there’s some truth to the genre’s unfair reputation. Regardless, RDJ’s performance as Iron Man remains iconic, regardless of awards – or the lack thereof.

Source: Literally! With Rob Lowe

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