Always a pleasure to watch his acting abilities, Robert Downey Jr. stars as the man with the iron heart in a role that doesn't fit the traditional comics character so much as the comics character is made to fit Downey Jr. Portrayed as the genius playboy, Tony Stark, the star does great. Portrayed as the genius playboy as a smart ass with the confidence of a genius sometimes unaware of his rare limitations, Downey Jr. does even better.
The supporting cast provides some meat as well. Gwyneth Paltrow as "Pepper" Potts, Tony's ever supportive assistant, brings just enough to the screen to show her feelings for the often oblivious Tony and audiences are made to worry for her safety later in the film. Jeff Bridges, as Obadiah Stane, convincingly plays Tony's business associate primarily concerned with Stark Industries business interests. Terrence Howard, who I've not seen in any other films, brought what I thought was a subdued portrayal of Jim Rhodes (subdued as compared to my expectations), so it will be interesting to see how the character develops over the next two films. Of course all the women that Tony has his eye on are beautiful, following true with the early issues of the Marvel Comics series.
The story starts off at a good pace going straight to the origin and action of that moment, but then does that flashback thing for a good while, and could be shortened. Stark starts off as an unlikable jerk, doing little to evoke sympathy (for most people I'd imagine) for himself, especially regarding the added ironic twist to his origin (I can't recall the irony from the original origin, but perhaps in revamped continuity?). While the location of his origin has been updated from Vietnam to Afghanistan, this does not matter, because the origin can occur in any time and place where American companies are acting as "merchants of death," making Iron Man's origin a timeless possibility.
Following the flashback the pace and humor pick up only to have the action slow for a bit as Tony refines the armor building process, which is very humorous at times, even if that humor is sometimes very predictable. Audience reaction was very favorable.
I wish I cared more for the safety of the characters towards the end of the film, when the story draws towards the inevitable battle and conclusion. On this director Jon Favreau (comedic actor in Swingers and Daredevil) does a decent job, but despite the fact that we all know the hero will live, the suspense surely could have been intensified. This might be comparing apples to oranges, but the suspense during the conclusion to Batman Begins was greater, likely due to the deep emotional resonance of the final battle, because of the relationships established between characters earlier in the story. For me, this would have brought Iron Man together for me at the end and scored higher points. All the special effects in the world don't mean anything these days, if the story doesn't have heart.
The special effects are good and not overpowering. When Iron Man is on screen he is generally believable and the flight scenes, especially with the fighter jets, are pretty damn awesome and convincing.
What got the remainder of the audience really excited was the scene that follows the credits. If you don't stick around for this, you're a complete tool. If you're a Marvel Comics fan and you don't stick around for this, no matter how badly you've got to have a piss, you should never be allowed to read comics again.
I'd give Iron Man maybe a 7 or 8 out of 10. Not great, but certainly good enough to go see once or twice.
View the trailer at Apple.com/Trailers.