Let’s get one thing straight right away: there is a scene after the credits of this movie. Stay for it.
Watching Iron Man is like catching Robert Downey Jr.’s eye at an expensive party. You (I am guessing, since I don’t wear either) fidget with your expensive dress nervously and try to ignore what has become a supremely uncomforable pair of heels as he cocks his head to the side. “I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once,” says RDJ, gazing intensely through your eyes, down your optic nerve to the end of your spinal column. “Let’s go fire my weapon.” Soon, in his hotel room, things are moving too fast to keep track of details, like how dumb that cool-at-the-time-sounding pickup line was (of which 50% was borrowed directly from the actual film, though it was not used as a pickup line), how much blow you did (let’s just say more than the big bad wolf vs. the brick house), and where everyone’s underwear is (gone forever). Sure there are explosions, and yeah he really knows what he’s doing to an exceptional degree. Do you care that none of it’s going to make a whole lot of sense the next morning and that ol’ Rob isn’t going to be calling you up for a repeat performance until maybe 2010? Answer that question and you’ll know how much you need to see Iron Man.
Taking care to reveal 80% less detail than is even in the preview, let’s briefly mock the outset of the plot. Billionaire genius weapons manufacturer and playboy Tony Stark (a mostly rehabilitated-looking Robert Downey Jr.) is captured by cavedwelling terrorists in Afghanistan where he was demonstrating a new superbomb which I frankly expected to be quite a bit cooler. Does it make any sense that weapons testing and demonstrations have been moved away from the now-dormant Nevada Test Site (which looks really cool from space, incidentally) and into another country that isn’t 100% free of the Taliban? If it gets us a superhero, sure, do what you need to do, writers.
The cavedwelling terrorists want their own superbomb, it seems, so they decide that the best way is to capture and piss off the superbomb designer, give him a fully stocked lab-cave, a stockpile of weapons, and moderate privacy, and leave him alone while hoping for the best. This is probably the stupidest thing a terrorist has done since some moron told his brother-in-law in vague, wink-wink terms to avoid Parliament in November of 1605. Look, kids: there is a reason why they make license plates instead of C4 in prison. Get the plans and manufacture the superbomb yourself next time, if you don’t want the weapons engineer you captured and supplied with weaponry parts to escape because he built himself some form of weapon: in this case, the first Iron Man suit.
In the theater, are you thinking about how stupid any of these plot points are? No you are not, because so many of the little things are done so well and no one cares about plot in a superhero movie anyway. The refreshing genuineness of relatively improvised dialogue in a big-budget action movie was a risk that paid off. Gwyneth Paltrow hits the absolute perfect combination of capable efficiency and helplessness that every good superhero requires in their budding love interest. Every main character has at least one Oscar nomination and it shows. And with this movie, Jon Favreau joins 2007 inductee Ben Affleck in the Quentin Tarantino Memorial Hall of Superior Directors that Should Never Act Again, Please.
But as you are heading to the theater excited and drooling, know that Iron Man is a First Superhero Movie, burdened with the need to spend 50% of its time and energy intoducing the superpower and doomed to save all its biggest, baddest ideas for a sequel. You can almost feel that the accelerator isn’t quite on the floor. This is why X-Men 2 was better than X-Men and Spider Man 2 was better than Spider Man. This is why The Dark Knight will be even better than Batman Begins. And, with the kind of foundation that Iron Man has laid, we’re in for one hell of a ride when the sequel comes out in late April, 2010. In the meantime, adjust expectations appropriately and see Iron Man on a big screen. Just try to keep track of your underwear.