of steel plates: Downey Jr. in Iron Man.
by Jon Favreau
and the living is easy. Fish are jumping, birds are singing
. . . and the multiplexes of America are packed with people
who want to see shit blown up good. And you know what? There’s
probably no higher praise (aside from the millions spent so
far on theater tickets) for Marvel’s Iron Man than
this: Director Jon Favreau and his army of special-effects
pros blow shit up good—real good.
There are battles in the desert, replete with spectacular
explosions; there are breathless, death-defying flights over
downtown Los Angeles; and there is a climactic battle between
flying men in giant-freaking-metal robot machines!
What more could a moviegoer want?
The story is simple: Jerk suffers for his past sins, decides
to reform, defeats the bad guy and begins an exciting career
as a metal-clad semi-robot superhero. This is a different
breed of super-enhanced cinematic thrill ride, though. There
were long, long stretches in Iron Man when I forgot
I was watching a superhero movie. There are a couple of reasons
for this, but the main one is the film’s acerbic star, Robert
For one thing, Downey takes his character, billionaire arms
dealer and scientific super-genius Tony Stark, seriously.
This is absolutely essential. Compare Alan Rickman’s entertainingly
scenery-chewing performance in the original Die Hard
with Jeremy Irons’ dreadfully hammy work in that film’s second
sequel. (Their characters, you may recall, were supposed to
be brothers.) Rickman took his cartoony villain seriously
with excellent results, while Irons disdained the material
and ended up being a weak nemesis for Bruce Willis. The lesson?
Just because the picture ain’t Hamlet doesn’t mean
you shouldn’t treat it with respect.
The “hero,” Stark, is an alcoholic playboy who needs his heart
broken before he manages to give a damn about someone else—but
he never loses his sense of humor. And Downey is hilarious.
(He can probably thank himself, as he reportedly rewrote most
of the dialogue.) Whether offhandedly describing an encounter
with a starfucking journalist (“I got caught doing a piece
for Vanity Fair”) or bantering with the robots in his
lab, he’s never at a loss for words.
Director Favreau (Elf, Swingers) has an equally
light touch, keeping potentially mawkish scenes (Iron Man
saves the poor people of Afghanistan, Iron Man saves a car
full of kiddies) straightforward. The supporting cast—Gwyneth
Paltrow as the secretary with a heart of gold, Terrence Howard
as the best friend, Jeff Bridges as the malevolent mentor—is
It’s Downey’s triumph, though. And that of all those special-effects
drones, of course.