What does the end of the world look like in the Marvel Universe? Judging by The Avengers, it is one spirit-breaking catastrophe after another. First a demi-god with a magic cube declares war on earth; then alien shock troops and monstrous leviathans invade New York; then it gets worse as a U.S. nuclear warhead is fired at Manhattan. It builds up to a crescendo the most unthinkable disaster of all (especially if you’re a Marvel Studios executive): The moment Robert Downey Jr.flies up, up and away from Earth, maybe never to return.
Yes, Downey and his Tony Stark character have considerable magnetic appeal and it’s difficult to imagine Marvel asking the 47-year-old to do anything less anytime soon. (In fact, there’s a lot of chatter that Marvel may send Stark back to the far ends of the cosmos as a cast member in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy.) Downey, like his clanging alter ego, has been machine-like the past five years. Set aside his summer Marvel job and it’s still impressive: two Sherlock Holmes films; an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder; an evocative performance in The Soloist; and the comedy hit Due Date (which he once told me he views as “one of the most privately joyful experiences in history”). I caught up with Downey for a lengthy phone interview recently and we’ll be running installments right here all this week. We started with Part 1 yesterday, here’s Part 2.