starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley
screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black
directed by Shane Black
by Walter Chaw I laughed once during Shane Black's Iron Man 3--an unfortunate milestone for me and Black's films, which I have found, without exception, pretty amusing. That one moment is a reference serial post-modernist and industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) makes to Michael Crichton's 1973 cult fantasia Westworld. The Tony Stark character is not just the cocksure pop-cultural embodiment of Roland Barthes's work on semiotics and myth: he'd be Barthes's greatest subject for analysis--the object that presumes a pop-cultural universal constant. The place where Black works, in other words, is that place where everyone's seen and read and heard everything they "should have" seen and read and heard. When Stark drops the Westworld bomb, then, we understand the implication that Stark is observing an evil henchman to not only appear to be robotic and indestructible, but maybe sexy and Yul Brynner-esque as well--maybe a female fantasy, maybe a "stupid sexy Flanders" homosexual fantasy. Certainly there's a recognition that dropping a reference like this is pleasurable in a way that structuralism would appreciate, but only for the nerd bourgeoisie. It's a moment meant to create a sense of exclusionary cloister in the midst of one of the most widely-dissembled entertainments in human history, and I liked that.