Avengers: Endgame is Robert Downey Jr.'s (and Marvel's) best shot at winning an acting Oscar. This isn't to say that any other name on the MCU's impressive roster of talent isn't deserving, but his odds aren't just taking into account his performance; they play into his entire overarching narrative, both on and off the screen.
When Robert Downey Jr. joined the MCU, it was a make-or-break moment - not just for Marvel's on-screen future, but for Downey Jr.'s career. He was the title character in Iron Man, portraying a key member of the Avengers who is hardly a textbook hero. He's an inventor, but a narcissist; a philanthropist, but a war profiteer. He was the unlikeliest of heroes who, underneath all of his armor and cynicism, was a man desperately, though unknowingly at times, trying to give his life purpose. As this self-made hero born purely out of circumstance, Tony saw the worst in himself, the best in others, and the possibility of righting his wrongs for the greater good, notwithstanding his ego. So, when he finally removes all ties to said ego at the end of Avengers: Endgame, sacrificing himself to save the universe, he closed the book on his story, but cemented his legacy.
Now, even though Iron Man is part of Marvel Studios' past, there's still one final way to honor RDJ's decade-long performance. He can win an Oscar. And, considering Downey is no stranger to the Academy, having already received two Oscar nominations for Best Actor in Leading Role and Best Actor in Supporting Role for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, respectively, Avengers: Endgame could be his ticket to a win.
Before Downey joined the MCU, his personal life wasn't so far off from Tony's. When he was climbing in his career, some personal demons had gotten the best of him, making it all too easy to lose everything he'd worked so hard to acquire. Then, with the cards stacked against him, he beat the odds and had a comeback, redefining his image and defying expectations. It's the kind of success story that makes for a great movie; and, in Downey's case, art imitated life about as much as life imitated art - aside from a few fancy gadgets and cosmic stones.
Downey may not seem like he'd be the dark horse during awards season on account of his notoriety, but his win wouldn't just be for his role in Avengers: Endgame. It'd be for the MCU as a whole. It'd date back to 2008, when a tenacious actor and a budding franchise took a chance on each other. And, when it comes to comeback stories - something the Academy is hardly averse to - this is it. The Academy doesn't exactly have a reputation for honoring franchises solely because they've come to an end (they hinted at this with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but didn't follow through), but there may be an exception with Downey. If nothing else, his nomination (and possible win) alone could be the way the Academy honors the first ten-odd years of one of Hollywood's most impressive accomplishments.
The Academy hasn't always been anti-fantasy, but it's no secret that certain genres tend to get the cold shoulder come Oscar night. That said, last year's Best Picture nomination for Black Panther proved that they were open to lifting this veil, breaking the Big Five Oscar seal for superheroes. So, given that Downey's already gotten love from the Academy twice before, delivered a consistently unblemished performance for over a decade, and was given the chance to push Tony Stark's fiery highs and defeated lows to new limits for his swan song, nominating him - and even giving him the gold - would be the safest, but also most deserving, way for the Academy to tip their hat to Marvel, the Avengers, and the end of an era.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019