Little did Aaron Sorkin suspect, when he wrote the lefty drama "A Few Good Men," that the only thing anyone would ever remember about it was Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessep speech, which Sorkin accidentally made more convincing than any liberal argument he ever offered: "Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. You want me on that wall — you need me on that wall. My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives."
Col. Jessup, shake hands with your 21st-century equivalent: Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark.
In "Iron Man 2," not only is Stark’s existence grotesque to a prosecutorial senator in Washington even as he protects American lives, but the movie shows how much we need Tony Stark on another crucial wall — the wall between private industry and statism. The movie is written by Justin Theroux, but ideologically it brings to mind a slightly older screenwriter — Ayn Rand.
"Iron Man" shows its mettle early on when Tony is hauled before Congress to face down a snotty senator (Garry Shandling) who demands that he surrender his rights to Iron Man technology. Tony jokes that he isn’t interested in "indentured servitude or prostitution," echoes Col. Jessup when he notes, "I’d love to leave my door open, but this ain’t Canada" and sternly informs the senator, "You want my private property. You can’t have it." He adds, "I’ve successfully privatized world peace ... what’s wrong with these assclowns?"
Stark is threatened by the only force on earth comparable to his — what Rand’s John Galt called "the unpredictable power of the arbitrary whims of hidden, ugly little bureaucrats."
"Iron Man 2" is thrillingly aware that today’s disputes about the role of government in business are as critical as Cold War arguments ever were. The film is to economics what "The Dark Knight" is to national security. . .
In "Iron Man 2," Tony Stark’s fiercely defended self-interest is very much in our interest, and it’s the lawmakers acting for "the common good" (or at least the good of whoever most commonly donates to their campaigns) who threaten peace. He vows to continue to "protect the world at the pleasure of — myself. And if there’s one thing you can count on me to do, it’s pleasure myself." Now there’s a fresh American movie hero for you: a little Jack Nicholson, a little John Galt, and a pinch of Howard Stern.