Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the story of a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.
You know you're going to get a different kind of superhero when you cast Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role. And Iron Man is different, in welcome ways. Cleverly updated from Marvel Comics' longstanding series, Iron Man puts billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (that's Downey) in the path of some Middle Eastern terrorists; in a brilliantly paced section, Stark invents an indestructible suit that allows him to escape. If the rest of the movie never quit hits that precise rhythm again, it nevertheless offers plenty of pleasure, as the renewed Stark swears off his past as a weapons manufacturer, develops his new Iron Man suit, and puzzles both his business partner (Jeff Bridges in great form) and executive assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow). Director Jon Favreau geeks out in fun ways with the hardware, but never lets it overpower the movie, and there's always a goofy one-liner or a slapstick pratfall around to break the tension. As for Downey, he doesn't get to jitterbug around too much in his improv way, but he brings enough of his unpredictable personality to keep the thing fresh. And listen up, hardcore Marvel mavens: even if you know the Stan Lee cameo is coming, you won't be able to guess it until it's on the screen. It all builds to a splendid final scene, with a concluding line delivery by Downey that just feels absolutely right. --Robert Horton
Stills from Iron Man (Click for larger image)