Now this is my Transformers – an action extravaganza with all the visual goods, plenty of wit and even something of a conscience. With a combination of star power and serious dedication, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a weapons designer who tinkers and toys and one day builds a robotic armored suit. At first Stark is a hedonistic death merchant who reaps the benefits of a warring world. But while in Afghanistan to give a demonstration, he is captured by anti-American guerillas and experiences the suffering caused by his inventions first-hand. He escapes and returns to the United States a changed man – one who will use his latest stroke of genius, the robotic suit, to defend those caught in the world’s crossfire. The suit is a dazzling gadget – I’d take it over a robot that turns into a Camaro any day – and Downey and director Jon Favreau have a blast with its cinematic possibilities. Politically, Iron Man offers Stark as a compelling stand-in for the current, cracked American psyche. It’s all here: our willful naiveté, our ensuing guilt and our irrepressible need to still think of ourselves as the world’s savior. Even if it doesn’t always follow through on such implications, Iron Man should make anyone who went gaga over Transformers finally understand why those metal emperors wore no clothes.
Another blockbuster trilogy comes to a close