The season of Summer blockbuster action flicks is upon us, and the first one will probably prove to be one of the best of the lot.
Iron Man is quite likely the original mecha story from which the entire genre descends. (The original comic book was created by Stan Lee in 1963–though Lee may have been influenced by Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers which was published in 1959.)
The film’s most notable feature is Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark. He is not your typical run-of-the-mill tormented, angst-ridden superhero. Stark starts out as a wise-cracking, irresponsible playboy (though a brilliant inventor), and that’s pretty much how he ends up too, though he does develop something of a social conscience after being held prisoner by Afghan terrorists. Downey manages to make a potentially unlikeable character seem sympathetic, as well as devilishly charming.
The other big star is the computer-generated gadgetry. Like all mecha shows this is largely about gadget porn, but it is gadget porn done right. The gadgets look cool and fun and at least vaguely plausible. I tend to have trouble with mecha shows because too often the technology is painfully, self-evidently absurd. This movie manages to pull it off. It’s a wild, fun ride, and no fair applying the refrigerator test.