The Charming Hero
IRON Man is Robert Downey Jr. The man has style, charm and the kind of cool you simply can’t buy (not even on eBay). Yes, I did almost purchase his mojo.
Just as well, because without him this movie could have been a straight-to-DVD contender. Downey provides some much-needed warmth and wit to what was potentially one of Marvel Comics’ most boring characters.
When I was a kid growing up in Canada and Belgium I read what was then considered as an excessive amount of comics. Of them, however, I only ever kept a handful of Iron Man.
Why? Because he’s actually quite dull. Imagine a cross between Bill Gates and Richard Branson – nerd meets entrepreneur. And like Batman, Iron Man doesn’t even have any real super powers.
Congratulations then to the casting director who secured the services of Mr Downey Jr.
In Iron Man he plays the role of Tony Stark, the design brains behind Stark Industries – the world’s largest arms manufacturer. Stark is entirely comfortable flogging weapons to the US army until he’s captured while in Afghanistan, there to discover that his terrorist captors are also using his weapons. Forced to make a deadly missile or face death, Stark instead builds an iron robotic suit which he uses to escape and get back to America.
Rather than turn him into an instant superhero who rescues old ladies from cement-mixers, we follow Stark as he experiments with the suit. This is by far the most fun part of the movie.
Not surprising then that Iron Man is already a big summer blockbuster. It’s made oodles of money in both America and the UK. The action is exciting if lacking the spectacular set pieces which make for coffee-point discussions the next day, but Downey Jr’s personality is what really makes this worth a watch.
As far as tackling the shady world of arms dealing goes, this is no Lord of War (Nicholas Cage’s 2005 effort) where the complex motives of all the characters are properly explored. In Iron Man, rather unsubtly, the Afghan terrorists are Spitting Image versions of ‘evil Arabs’. In fact, the real bad guy, played by Jeff Daniels, could be Alan Sugar if things on The Apprentice ever went really sour – hard as nails and slightly mental.
Of course, the fundamental hypocrisy inherent in arms dealing is that it’s fine to sell to the government and its friends but less so if it’s to ‘the enemy’. If the lives being lost aren’t our own people (and even then it’s only ‘collateral damage’) then it’s a viable profit-making industry. And as long as money is being made off war then there will always be war.
For a closer look at this weirdly corrupt world you could do worse than watching the Sundance Award-winning documentary, Why we Fight, which exposes the greedy bond between the government and arms manufacturers.
That said, Iron Man is yet another example (albeit in a Hollywood sort of way) of someone trying to be just in today’s world. Just like Downey Jr’s character, the audience is presented with a challenge – if the scales fell from your eyes and you suddenly realised that what you did caused harm to other people, would you try to do something about it?