starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow
screenplay by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
directed by Jon Favreau
by Walter Chaw Iron Man is garden-variety pop heroism/wish-fulfillment that, marinated in Robert Downey Jr.'s effortless insouciant sauce, speaks volumes about the psychology of our nation at this disgusted, exhausted moment in our history. The plot's only casualties save its grand fiend are nameless Afghanis: terrorists on the one side, collateral damage on the other--few of them receiving the nobility of an individual death. Even the chief Al-Qaeda baddie is blown-up discreetly in the wings after a white guy first dazzles him with technology, then paralyzes him with the same. (Call it awe and shock.) The film's politics are easy and its racism similarly cavalier: Better dead than red (er, brown); when historians look back at this era in popular culture, it won't be terribly difficult to pick out that which forms the backbone of contemporary "Why We Fight" propaganda. What recommends the picture are sterling performances by Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow as Iron Man's Girl Friday, Jeff Bridges as the mentor-cum-baddie, and wonderful, reserved, dignified Shaun Toub in a too-brief cameo as the sole voice of moral "otherness." What's unfortunate about the flick is that it takes an awful long time to get to the good stuff, and that good stuff--almost entirely CGI-rendered--falls curiously flat. Not quite boring, Iron Man just seems sprung. There's no forward momentum, no impetus, no real gravity. With all that firepower at its fingertips, it has no idea where to point itself.