Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Tony Stark’s superhero actions are entwined with his hallmarks of humanity. His powers are manmade, born of gearhead curiosity and mournful reflection on his past. Bravado boosts his broken soul, and only through remorse and guilt will he graduate into heroism.
In other words, the Marvel hero afforded a perfect opportunity for Robert Downey Jr. — as unlikely a blockbuster star as the womanizing, greedy arms dealer Stark was a hero. Seriously, had someone said in 2000 that Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke would star in one of 2010’s biggest films, they’d have been thrown in a rubber room.
After a Middle East ambush lands him in terrorist’s hands, Stark uses his wiles to escape and his resultant robotic creation as a method to bring good to the world.
Downey Jr.’s winning combination of conscience and craziness makes “Iron Man” as tight and thrilling in its characterization as in its high-flying action sequences (Stark’s flight test, an Afghanistan infiltration and a fighter-jet dogfight).
Director Jon Favreau displays the same wonderment and control over his visual effects as in “Zathura” and crafts slapstick grace notes from Stark’s robotic aides de camp.
Sure, the 100-calorie version of “Transformers” that passed for a finale felt fairly anticlimactic. Audiences who have seen one energy beam shot into the sky have certainly seen them all. Still, “Iron Man” remained a flawlessly paced origin story with smarts and soul — an ironclad accomplishment to which several sequels are welcomed.