If you had told me a year ago that we would kick off the summer movie season with Robert Downey Jr., Action Hero, I would not have believed you. I had a whole tangled paragraph that tried to be all deep about why this movie works, but it's late and my blood sugar is low, so: suffice it to say that RDJ pretty much is the movie, and does a fantastic job of keeping it light while also showing us a man driven to reverse a legacy of violence. Which is a deep and uppity way of saying that where once Tony Stark liked to blow shit up good, he now blows shit up for great justice. Good times.
(You know how everyone kept talking about how Cloverfield is A Monster Movie for Our Times, what with the 9/11 imagery and all? Iron Man is kind of a superhero movie For Our Times. Here we are in the last year of Bush's presidency, while his disapproval rating is at a record-breaking high and everyone is finally realizing, you know, the war over there is kind of a clusterfuck due to the machinations of old white men, and this character comes along and says, you know what? I contributed to this. I fed it and made it worse, and I profiteered. Good American soldiers and innocent civilians have died because of things I created. And you know what? I hate what I am and I've created, so I'm going to turn this around; I'm going to spend the rest of my life fixing my mistakes, or at the very least, atoning for them. So while we're sitting here at home feeling all conflicted about wanting to support our troops but wanting to get the hell out of this war that we kind of feel tricked into starting in the first place, Iron Man zooms over to the Middle East and blows up warlords and saves innocent people and then zooms home to deal with the biggest profiteer of all: his traitorous business partner, who has a remarkable talent for getting more and more evil every time he shows up onscreen. [The Dude! How could you?] Superheroes are an answer to something we feel anxious about as a society, I think, and I think that's part of the reason this movie is clicking with people. I mean, and also, it is awesome. But I think this is what people mean when they say something is "part of the zeitgeist"--its awesomeness blends seamlessly with the things that are already on people's minds.)
(Yeah, the original paragraph was even more tangled.)
I only had a couple of problems with the movie itself--for some reason, the final showdown just didn't seem to build to an effective climax, like Jon Favreau maybe doesn't quite know how to assemble an extended action sequence yet. It was just kind of... there, and I kept going, "Is this the end? Because it's kind of anticli... No, there's something else... is this it? No, wait..." I don't know, maybe I'd feel differently if I saw it again. That, and Terrence Howard was kind of useless. As my friend David pointed out, it's like, Rhodes will come to the rescue and put Tony's old heart back in! Oh, wait, Tony's got it under control. I know! Rhodes'll get in the prototype suit and... no, he'll just get in Tony's car and follow... no, he just goes to do army things. I know! He'll get in a plane and cover... no, he's just gonna tell everyone else to stay on the ground. Is there anything useful Rhodes is going to do? And the answer is... no, not really. On the other hand, Gwyneth Paltrow gets stuck with an unusually low amount of running and screaming in her role as The Girl, is largely un-annoying, and administers one of the great snaps of all time. I got slightly annoyed that the Tony/Pepper subplot went nowhere, but I guess they're saving that for the sequel. I mean on one hand, she's got a good point: he left her hanging, and she doesn't have to put up with that shit. On the other hand, he left her hanging because he found out that his partner was selling weapons to the enemy. He's hot, he's snarky, and he just saved the world; I vote we cut him some slack.
In conclusion: Would see again, will buy DVD.
Oh, and a word on the trailers: I was forced to endure The Love Guru, and yet THEY DID NOT SHOW THE NEW BATMAN TRAILER. WHAT? WHAT? WHAT IS THIS FUCKERY? I WANT AT LEAST TWO DOLLARS OF MY TICKET PRICE BACK. Oh, and we saw the Incredible Hulk trailer (which, unfortunately, has the same Villain Just Becomes a Bigger Version of the Hero schtick as Iron Man, only a day and a dollar too late), and after it was over, a small child behind us goes, "Didn't they already make that movie?" From the mouths of babes, y'all.