I know next to nothing about Robert Downey Jr. as a person. However, if the personality that comes through in his movies is any indication, it would be safe to say that Iron Man is the sort of superhero movie you would get if you wanted Robert Downey Jr. to play the superhero.
He plays Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy arms manufacturer who has a crisis of conscience when he learns first-hand that he cannot control who gets those weapons. After being captured by (presumably) the Taliban and asked to build one of his missiles for them, he uses the resources at hand to build himself a body armor and break out of captivity. He comes back to the US, announces that his company will no longer manufacture armaments and concentrates his energies on refining his body armour design. But of course things can’t be that simple, so you get a good hour of machinations, double crosses and things going bang in spectacular fashion.
If I do have a quibble, it is this: Stark plays a superhero whose powers are not ingrained. In other words, he holds an advantage over normal human beings by wearing a suit that can help him fly, stop bullets and fire all sorts of projectiles. Anyone who gets the suit gets those powers, and this is precisely the problem he has to deal with in the climax. Now, if the reason why he became Iron Man was his realization that weapons do not have a conscience, then how does this represent progress? Surely a man with Tony Stark’s intelligence can see that?
However, this is a minor quibble if what you are looking for is entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. is in top form as Tony Stark. When his assistant walks in on him wearing his armor and is utterly shocked by what she sees, his response is, “Let’s face it, this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.” And you realize that, despite the fact that you haven’t seen too much of his decadent playboy life, that is exactly what you were thinking yourself.
The supporting cast is of the sufficient-but-not-spectacular category. Gwyneth Paltrow (who looks delicious by the way), Terence Howard and Jeff Birdges have little to do here, and they do it charmingly enough. The special effects are quite nice, and I was especially impressed by the holographic interface Stark uses to design his stuff. And the fact that he speaks to his computer — I thought I was the only one.
Overall, this is the sort of movie that you will love when you’re watching it. I don’t expect it to shake up any Top Ten Superhero Movie lists, but I’m not complaining.