But comments made by like-minded friends, and reviews at the conservative film blog LIBERTAS made me reconsider this position. And I'm adult enough to admit that (1) not knowing anything about Iron Man didn't make an iota of difference, (2) Downey Jr. was fantastic as Tony Stark, and (3) well, at least it wasn't Cameron Diaz.
I'm not going to talk about Iron Man's superior special effects or the way that (near?)-futuristic technology is effortlessly incorporated into the storyline, because I'm not sure I'm technically qualified to do anything other than admire those aspects from an ignorant observer's point of view. A lot of superhero movies are set in this nebulous quasi real-world where all sorts of nifty, yet to be invented gadgets are at the main character's fingertips, provided he has the money or resources. In most cases the world is so much like ours in other respects that we're willing to overlook the fact that touch-activated three-dimensional models and household-running AIs with a sense of humor are still, well, science fiction.
Rather, what really struck me about the movie was how different it was from other movies of its ilk, namely Superman and Spiderman.
Tony Stark does not sit around being "emo" about the terrible things that have happened to him. He does not have touching heart-to-hearts with his grandma or his best pal or even his long-suffering assistant (Paltrow) about the great responsibility that has been entrusted to him. He does not cry.
He DOES think things through (to the extent that any action hero can). He DOES try to do the right thing (after an eye-opening experience in a cave in Afghanistan, at least). He DOES blow shit up.
He is rich and brilliant but in many ways more an 'everyman' than Superman or the X-Men or the *wince* Fantastic Four, because he has no supernatural powers aside from his own intellect -- in some ways comparable to Batman. But Bruce Wayne, even though I love him, still falls under the category of dark and mysterious brooder forever wondering if he's doing the right thing.
Stark, after he returns to the States having seen the ends to which his weapons are being put, does not waffle or angst about what he must do. He just works, hard. He offers a hand in cooperation to old friends but, when rebuffed, doesn't wallow in rejection or despair -- he just plows ahead and does what he knows needs to be done. He does not hide behind a false identity, pining for a 'normal life'.
Now, I'm not issuing a blanket condemnation against all superheroes or comic book legends who struggle with their choices, or keep their identities secret, or even cry. Even Peter Parker's emo tendencies might have been palatable if the dialog in the Spiderman movies had actually made any sense). But Tony Stark, Iron Man, was a refreshing change from the norm. He's a wiseass, he's a genius, he loves his country, he fights bad guys in a big metal suit, and he's unapologetic about all of it.
And I liked it.