Dog and Cat

Does whatever an iron can.
Presses cuffs, flattens clothes.
Creases pants, just like those.
Look out!
Here comes the Ironman!

Actually, Ironman, as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr., does absolutely none of those things (he has a personal assistant who performs such functions, as well as, in one of the funniest lines of the movie, “Takes out the trash.”).

What he does do is carouse and carom wildly about the screen; trade witty barbs with assistants, friends, and robots alike; rebuild camshafts with toothbrushes; crack jokes; bed incredibly beautiful women; and basically demonstrate what a thoroughly interesting character brilliant, cool, and badass Tony Stark is.

Oh, and what he also does is blow shit up.

Ironman has gotten a lot of press and deserves every word of it. It’s a terrifically balanced movie, a great origin story about a man coming to terms with his own actions and realizing he has done some bad things but finding in himself redemption to do better. Batman saw his parents killed and, mentally, broke; Superman is just an overgrown Eagle Scout on ‘roids, and Spiderman struggles with everyman troubles while fighting rather outlandish villains.

Ironman is the first superhero movie we can believe in. For the first hour, its main villains are Middle Eastern terrorists, which is, provided, about as cliche as you get, but then it pulls a fast one, because Stark realizes that these terrorists are using the weapons he built. The whole movie is rooted in this world in ways I’ve rarely seen any movie deal with its problems, and I found it an even better meditation on the current, troubled world we live in than, say, Syriana. Sure, both movies had different tones and set to accomplish different things, but I’d argue that Ironman, for all its blow-shit-up/summer-blockbuster status, actually explored those themes more effectively than the more serious but also more ponderous and, let’s face it, more dull Syriana.

I geeked out all over the place throughout (one joke I saw coming; its repetition surprised me enough to make me giggle). There’s a silly cameo of Stan Lee as Hugh Hefner, but otherwise, it’s that rare beast: a socially and personally conscious action movie. Sure, it’s a dude with a make-uped goatee in a red-and-gold titanium alloy suit, but it works, and mainly because Downey, Jr. makes it work. This man is having a well deserved and well earned career renaissance, and it’s terrific, because all the press he ever got about being a ‘bad boy’ and passing in and out of rehab let a lot of people forget the fact that he’s one of the greatest actors ever. He doesn’t have the classic looks or personality one imagines of a leading man, but he has a rare intensity and charm that lends itself to carrying a movie (see: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).

The trailers included previews of both The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight, but, having seen them, I’m not sure either of them will become more than what they are. Sure, they look entertaining, and I’ll catch both (and Heath Ledger’s Joker so far seems brilliant), but they look like they’re going to be superhero movies, and Ironman, somehow, felt like more than that in the best possible way.

The trailer for Hancock sure looks interesting, though.