Just getting around to seeing this one. Downey's wry, eloquent Iron Man wry, seems like a less (obviously) inebriated version of his Sherlock Holmes.
I don't think I've ever seen a film where the Superhero took an hour just to become the title character. It's also unique that Iron Man's first feats take place in the Middle East, making him a truly global hero. Although this movie is no more realistic than other comic book films, because Iron Man's power comes from a manmade suit and not the paranormal and because his initial enemies are ripped from the headlines and not the Marvel pages, he seems somehow less cartoonish than Superman, Batman and Spiderman.
When Tony Stark is captured while touring with troops, having him seized and hooded calls those Taliban beheading clips to closely to mind. Later he is waterboarded and, clearly the act is one of torture, not an interview technique. Upon his escape, this wealthy defense manufacturer realizes that he has prospered by supplying arms that are being used to kill Americans. Grounding the story in a plain Gulf War (I)/Haliburton context that makes allegory unnecessary.
Before the movie descends into a battle between machines (Stark's and a larger "Iron Man" inhabited by Jeff Bridges), it is distinguished by its talk and tone, more than its toys.
Of course Stark, an inventor and designer, has futuristic technology at his fingertips. But we get the most fun hearing him banter conversationally with his robots, who have obviously been programmed with his own dry wit. He treats them as part friend/part pet.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is his trusted assistant. Where friendship and trust exist, it seems immaterial whether they connect romantically and so their flirtation seems almost perfunctory, but never unpleasant. While being a womanizer is par for Stark's playboy course, I'm not sure why he also has to treat his conquests so shabbily, making it a point not to see or remember them after a dalliance. Pepper assists him with the ditching or, as she calls it, "taking out the trash." This seems especially harsh when the woman to whom the taunt was directed happened to be a conscientious, investigative reporter who pressured Tony into ending his company's wrongs. While the Brown graduate displayed little intelligence in sleeping with Stark, in doing so, she was hardly more trashy than he.
The little moments that gave me the most laughs were a tv clip with a histrionic Jim Cramer telling a Mad Money audience to dump Stark stock and Tony giving a quick hello to an elderly Hugh Hefner.
The movie ended on a befitting note of quirkiness, which both set up the sequel and emphasized Tony Stark's appealing blend of ego and ethos. He does the unexpected and publicly admits to being Iron Man because: (1) he was told not to, (2) he wanted the credit, and (3) he didn't want to lie. Not necessarily in that order.