Robert Downey Jr. Is Now Speaking Up About Quentin Tarantino

By Sean Thiessen | Published

robert downey jr

Auteur directors have disparaged the “Marvelization” of Hollywood in recent years. Legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino levied his own criticism of Marvel films a couple weeks ago, and Robert Downey Jr. is the latest in a line of Marvel stars to clap back against the shade. During a discussion with Deadline about Sr., a documentary showcasing the Iron Man actor’s father, Robert Downey Jr. tried to quiet the debate around the legitimacy of franchise films.

Following suit with filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Tarantino stated in an interview that he believes franchise characters, such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, erode the concept of movie stars. In his view, audiences are more compelled by characters and franchises than they are by artists. What he calls the “Marvelization of Hollywood” creates a dangerous landscape where blockbusters box out other, arguably more valid, types of films.

When asked about Tarantino’s comments, Robert Downey Jr. offered a balanced response, admitting that he was part of the problem Tarantino points to, though he was not aware of it when filming Iron Man back in 2008. The actor went on to say that even blockbuster films can only be as good as the talent they employ on and off screen. Though he did not reference himself in this context, Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark proves his point.

He went on to denounce the polarization taking place in the culture, stating, “There’s enough room for everything.” He lauded blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, claiming the big movies make the way for smaller films like Armageddon Time, which opened this past fall to critical praise. True to the stance he preaches, Robert Downey Jr. did not leverage an attack on Tarantino, but emphasized community and respecting other’s tastes and professions.

iron man 3
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3.

Some of Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel co-stars did not respond quite so diplomatically to Tarantino’s Marvel criticism. Simu Liu, star of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, defied both Tarantino and Scorsese on Twitter. He expressed gratitude that these legendary filmmakers, brilliant as they are, weren’t the only ones behind the camera in Hollywood, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten the shot he did with Shang-Chi.

Tarantino’s longtime collaborator and simultaneous Marvel star Samuel L. Jackson fired back as well, reminding everyone that it takes an actor to play a role, even if that role is in a superhero movie. Jackson went on to reference the late Chadwick Boseman, who was launched into the spotlight by 2017’s Black Panther, calling Boseman an undeniable movie star. While his co-stars in the MCU may not be quite as even in their responses to criticism as Robert Downey Jr. is, the Marvel gang is making it clear that they are not willing to let their art be dismissed.

In his time after Marvel, Robert Downey Jr. continues to grow as an artist. The actor will appear in Christopher Nolan’s atomic epic Oppenheimer next year. His latest effort, Sr., chronicles the life of Robert Downey Sr., who was an iconic countercultural filmmaker in the 1960s and 70s. After a successful debut at the Telluride Film Festival in November, the film is now available to stream on Netflix.