Tag Archives: Robert Downey Jr

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 148 – Avengers: Endgame

A big one. The Marvel Cinematic Universe closes a chapter – kind of – with Endgame, a three-hour behemoth that concludes stories that have been told over 21 films in 11 years. It’s elegiac, both of its characters’ fates following the end of Infinity War, and of itself, offering a good deal of fan service to its vast, devoted audience, some members of which have grown up knowing nothing other than the MCU as the dominant mode of cinema. We take our time to discuss it in a two-part podcast.

The first part is, as usual, recorded upon our return from the cinema, the film still ringing in our ears. We saw it in a packed screening, the room filled with excited fans from whom the film elicited exactly the vocal and rich emotional responses that bring such occasions to life. Though three hours is a demanding duration by anyone’s standards, and could certainly be seen to speak to a certain self-importance, the film makes very good use of its time, particularly in the opening hour, in which we are given copious time to understand the ways in which the world has changed following Thanos’ fatal snap, and the remaining Avengers’ responses to it all. We discuss whether the Russo brothers, the film’s directors, offer much by way of creative visuals – to Mike, the film’s visual core is simply about scale, while José remarks that some of the compositions appealingly evoke comic book panels. Mike brings up the way the MCU overall has to some degree always been about competition between Iron Man and Captain America, and how Endgame concludes that both in the story and metatextually, giving Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans respectively their own emotional moments.

The second half, recorded three days later, largely builds on a roundtable article in the New York Times, in which five of their pop culture writers discuss both Endgame itself and the MCU’s impact on cinema culture over the last decade. It brings up a number of interesting subjects, particularly those that consider the MCU as a cinematic phenomenon rather than the specific content of the stories themselves.

So. It’s a big film and a big podcast to go with it. We found it worthwhile to take our time to think over some of the cultural issues the MCU raises, and as for arguing about this character or that scene, well, sometimes it’s fun to indulge.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Iron Man III (Shane Black, USA, 2013)

iron man 3

 

It’s got a few laughs; the set-pieces are very expert; Gwyneth Paltrow is as beautiful as ever and less annoying than usual; Robert Downey Jr’s humour is beginning to grate; I might be reading this into his performance, but he conveys that snappish superiority typical of recovering addicts; ‘if I’m in recovery, you’re not having your shit together is unacceptable; any problems you might have are small beans compared to mine; deal with them’. He is now exuding such a lack of empathy, one feels like waving some choice drugs under his nose  just to remind him of human frailty and restore some kindness, empathy, understanding of human weakness and cowardice, all the things we loved him for, all the things that made him a great actor, all the things he now seems to lack. He’s become master of mechanical flippancy with no heart: an irony machine. It’s like the iron suit has killed the soulful actor that used to lurk inside it and neutralized all he was once capable of expressing: I hated the sections in the small town; and I think the exchanges with the kid are sitcom-y and false. It’s a painless two hours; in financial terms, a blockbuster hit. But superhero films can offer so much more. And Robert Downey always used to offer so very much more than he does here: he’s an actor that seems to have lost touch with what it is to be human.

 

José Arroyo