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The Whirlwind Life And Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

The life and career of Robert Downey Jr. is more of a roller coaster than any movie he’s ever made. His well-documented legal and addiction troubles nearly derailed an acting career that was skyrocketing complete with an Oscar nomination, a season on SNL and being the lead alongside superstars like Mel Gibson all by the time he was 27. His decent into a life of addiction and prison time almost became more well known than any movie he had ever made. There are four movies that are the most pivotal movies in his life and career all for very different reasons. I’m going to break them down in chronological order and why they are so important in the life and career of Robert Downey Jr.

Before I lay out the list, there are a few films I should mention first that were also important films for Downey but not as game changing. The film Air America was one of the first where he was truly a marquee star. It was a buddy comedy with Mel Gibson who was hitting his peak of fame. The second film was Wonder Boys with Michael Douglas. This movie was one of the first where everyone thought he was really starting to turn the corner. His performance was highly praised, but he was still a few years away from sobriety and the fact that he wasn’t sober overshadowed his performance. Third and fourth came back to back with Tropic Thunder which earned him his second Academy Award nomination and he was the all the talk of the awards that night despite the fact that he didn’t come home with a statue. He was now famously 5 years sober and clearly at the top of his acting talents and showing how truly great he really was. The fourth was Sherlock Holmes which earned him the golden globe and provided the opportunity for his peers to celebrate him and his new life and serious commitment to his career. It was an emotional yet very deserved moment.

1. Less Than Zero (1987)

Less Than Zero was the first time he was billed with Jr. attached to his name and the beginning of some of the legendary party stories for RDJ. He has been quoted as saying this was the first time his drug and alcohol use spilled over into the production and not just during his downtime. Director Marek Kanievska told him and his costar Andrew McCarthy (who battled his own addiction problems) to go out and party to get into character. This direction probably wasn’t the reason his abuses took such a foothold but more than likely they sped things up. The film was panned by critics and even the author of the source material book of the same name. It has since gained more appreciation in the 30 years since its release, but its foreshadowing can’t be ignored.

2. Chaplin (1992)

RDJ blew the doors off his portrayal of the legendary screen icon and gave Downey his first Oscar nomination, and it was well earned. Despite all his faults, he was able to completely transform himself. It would also turn out to be one of the last films for a long time that wouldn’t be plagued by his own demons. Most critics and fans looked at Chaplin as the movie that showed what RDJ could have been.

3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

2003 is the year Downey got sober and finally stayed sober for which he credits his current wife and her support for him. Downey came to realize he couldn’t go anywhere other than prison or the grave and he has famously said that he is allergic to drugs and alcohol, he always breaks out into handcuffs. It would still be 2 years before he would make an impact and headline a major motion picture and prove to people he was more committed to his career than to ruining it. The buddy picture that was written and directed by the writer of the massive hit Lethal Weapon had RDJ star alongside Val Kilmer and proved to be a highly underrated movie and showed Downey’s comedic brilliance.

4. Iron Man (2008)

The superhero resurgence and current domination can be traced to one film, Iron Man. The juggernaut of Marvel Comics becoming kings of the box office is where it is because RDJ WAS Tony Stark. Every embodiment of that character is deep inside him, and he OWNED it. He had been sober for 5 years and was still busting his butt to prove to be people his commitment to acting. He became the biggest star in the world with this movie and solidified himself as 100 percent back in the game. It is wonderful to know that there is a whole generation of movie fans that will only know him at this point in his career. It is forever in his film contracts that he has to provide insurance for the films in the case he was ever to relapse, and his salary is held until the film is complete. He will always have to fight his demons and in a sense will always be paying for his past but thankfully all movie fans he convinced us all that he is back.

Captain America: Civil War Continues The Superhero Film Success

imageI have been pretty outspoken on my thoughts about comic book movies and superhero movies in general. I feel the genre is fairly saturated and is leading to a big lack of creativity in the industry. All that said, I still see them and more times than not, I end up enjoying them. I never read comics as a kid and don’t know any of the background stories with the characters and how they interact. I look at them strictly from a movie fan’s viewpoint. I will agree that the depth of story and characters is very well written and thought out. They have amazing universes, the way they intertwine and coexist. One thing that is undeniable is, they are big business and a true cash cow for the studios.

The latest of these films is the latest installment in the Marvel Universe, Captain America: Civil War. The third installment in the Captain America series, ties in with The Avengers, is essentially a new Avengers movie with a few missing members, but adds a couple new members that inevitably would be joining the crew.

When the winter soldier is suspected of a massive bombing on a UN imagehearing about The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D investigates. While the UN wants to regulate The Avengers and how they are used, this has them divided before the bombing ever happens. Post bombing divides them even further. When Captain America sets out to prove his old friend Bucky’s (the winter soldier’s) innocence, the divide grows deeper and forces harsh opinions, not just among the avengers but amongst fans as well. With Iron Man dead set against bringing Steve Rogers (Captain America) brought in to face justice for helping Bucky, a true war against both sides ensues. New allies are brought in on both sides, Spider-Man joining Iron Mans team and Ant-Man joining Rogers.

While the epic battle that ensues will never match up to the art of the original comic, it will never take away from the entertainment that emulates on the screen. Subdued from the unparalleled battle of the original Avengers, it is no less entertaining in its execution.

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016
Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)
Photo Credit: Film Frame
© Marvel 2016

The lines drawn are very difficult ones to choose sides from. This is, no question a commentary on modern situations with wars and what one considers right and wrong amongst political and military views. If there is one thing the superhero genre has done a masterful job at, it is making subtle suggestions on current political crises, and how people view them differently. They have no agenda but they show that each side has legitimate reasons for their views. They also show that no matter how much fighting is done, and possibly necessary fighting, it brings no end to the bigger problem.

It is the social commentary and the legend and story that draws the multitudes to the theater to enjoy these films on the big screen. No matter how many studios complain about profits and losses, there is no denying the amount of revenue that is generated by these films. I wish I could see the times of great new worlds and characters were created just for the screen, like the worlds of the original Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones. But I will continue to enjoy the superhero genre, but always hope for something more.

Trailer Trash: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

502f0f50-a4c9-11e3-bdef-18f186767e6dWhen the original Captain America came out I expected a disaster. Marvel hadn’t established themselves as big players and all I could picture was the god awful early 80’s/late 70’s version. But I’m happy to say it was one of the pleasant surprises in recent memory. It lent it self perfectly to Marvel’s grand vision of The Avengers.

I couldn’t be more excited to see what comes of its sequel. With high hopes after the success and greatness of the Thor sequel, I feel there is little doubt Marvel will drop the ball here.