Years from now, when your great-grandchildren ask you how in the name of god so many American voters could have chosen George W. Bush to be the president (even in the stolen 2000 election, he still received tens of millions of votes) and supported the invasion of Iraq, don’t bother trying to explain the conversion story that was supposed to locate this self-indulgent rich-boy on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of us. Just show them Iron Man, the 2008 power trip that reruns Bush’s self-created myth in popular culture terms.
Like Bush, the movie version of the metal-clad superhero is a former party boy who suddenly awakes to his true role in life. That role involves repudiating the arms policies of his father (arming Middle Eastern guerillas, don’t you know) and deciding to stand for peace by going to war on dad’s former customers. Although the father of arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Iron Man’s true identity) is literally dead, he has left behind a surrogate in the form of a business associate (Jeff Bridges) who can conveniently embody all the bad paternal elements Tony’s dad can thus be presumed not to have had. This is not a million miles away from the way Bush II pays respect to Bush I while trashing his foreign policy.
Almost unbelievably, the filmmakers (who include a regiment of screenwriters plus a panel of overseers from Marvel) also include a weapon of mass destruction that has ended up in the hands of the “terrorists.” The movie tries to cleanse itself of perceived prejudice by revealing that the bad guys aren’t zealots but a multi-national, irreligious bunch of crooks, but it’s pretty clear who’s being portrayed; why else throw in a “good Muslim” to talk about the oneness of humanity?
The action, as such, is the usual video game stuff as hammered together by the usual legions of effects artists. As in most such cases, the many labor mightily to produce the trivial.
Director Jon Favreau throws in his two cents by depicting the unreconstructed Stark as quip-dealing, scotch-quaffing Rat Pack type. Robert Downey, Jr., as Stark, responds enthusiastically, alternating his familiar slouchy hipster persona with his equally worn poor, poor, pitiful butterfly mode. Whether the portrayal of Stark’s brand of cool is supposed to be dead-on or just parody is a mystery not worth solving.