Maybe this is how the world ends – not with a bang but a wheeze. Paranoia seems almost sensible under certain circumstances – a late-night stroll through a dark, deserted alley, perhaps – but what about riding the bus to work, where killers could be sitting beside us, polluting our space with their germs?
Tony Stark may be self-obsessed and troubled by mortal thoughts – rightly so, considering the mechanical heart that’s keeping him alive is slowly polluting his body with lethal toxins – but he’s no Bruce Wayne. As played by Robert Downey Jr., he combines a sly sense of humor with natural showmanship. He enjoys being a superhero, and soaks up the spotlight with a narcissist’s glee.
It’s refreshing. Stark has a dark side, well-watered with cocktails, but he is hardly morose. He is intoxicated by the adoration of his fans, and tickled by the trappings of fame and obscene wealth. And he’s not afraid to toot his own horn. As he brags to a less-than-smitten Senate committee, “I have successfully privatized world peace.”