‘Iron Man’: A Dissenting View on Robert Downey Jr.

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount

The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man isn't just a grotesque affront to Iron Man fans. After all, who care about Iron Man fans? They're a minority even among comic-book geeks. No, having an effeminate roué like Robert Downey Jr. play Tony Stark is actually the most subversive thing that's ever been done in a comic-book movie — and not in a good way. Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist who wears the Iron Man suit, is among the most virile of all superhero alter egos; if not for his bum ticker, he would make Bruce Wayne look like a milquetoast. Instead, the casting of Downey makes us fear the movie presents an ironic, effete weakling hidden inside the suit — the very image of "man, half dead in his accoutrements." Like Darth Vader, whose fearsome mask hides a pale and puckered scalp, RDJ as Tony Stark is a secret shame, a supercilious weakling hidden inside a suit that every scene of the movie will pronounce to be a fraud. If we were in a forgiving mood, we'd suggest that director Jon Favreau was making a point about the Zeitgeist, or the weakness of modern man, but that doesn't matter: The iron glove should never contain a velvet hand. —Josh Ozersky