If that's not an un-fuck-up-able concept, I don't know what is. But since Hollywood has a penchant for fucking up the un-fuck-up-able, it's a relief that Iron Man is pretty badass.
Superhero comics are infamous for their formulaic structure, and their film adaptations are starting to feel the same way: A bland origin story (Spider-Man, X-Men) sets up a better sequel (Spider-Man 2, X2), before everything devolves into lazy chaos (Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand). But Iron Man breaks this mold from the get-go—largely thanks to a sly, clever turn by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Iron Man's war profiteer turned superhero. Iron Man is an origin story, yeah, but thanks to Downey Jr., it's one with punch and verve.
Here's the deal: Billionaire playboy Stark invents high-tech weapons and sells them to the US Army. But when he's unexpectedly captured by the Taliba—er, some generic, eeeeevil Middle Easterners who just so happen to hide out in caves in Afghanistan—Stark builds himself an armored suit and escapes. Soon, he has the familiar realization that with great power comes great responsibility, and within no time, he's zooming around in his flying tank suit, making wiseass comments and beating up evildoers. What follows, more or less, is one of the most accurate film translations of a comic book: Light and fun and loud, Iron Man often feels just like the best, poppiest superhero comics.
Any quibbles are inherent in the mat-erial: As cool as the character of Iron Man is, his villains have always been fantastically stupid. (Some examples: The Mandarin, a vaguely racist Asian mastermind; Fin Fang Foom, a, um, magical green dragon; and Titanium Man, who... wait. Seriously? That's the best they could do? Titanium Man?) But superheroes need supervillains, so Iron Man's filmmakers grudgingly include Obadiah Stane, a nefarious colleague of Stark's who, whenever he puts on his own flying tank suit, calls himself (sigh) Iron Monger. (Stane's ridiculous character isn't helped by the fact that he's played by Jeff Bridges, who bellows out his lines and chows down on the scenery. He also rides a Segway, which makes him ridiculous times a billion, and whenever he talks, he sounds just like The Dude from The Big Lebowski.)
Luckily, Stane (or Iron Monger, or Iron Dude, or whatever) is a minor part of Iron Man: From its killer opening sequence to its fantastic last line, this is Tony Stark's picture. Downey Jr.'s given a solid supporting cast with Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow, while the script deftly blends action and humor, moving things briskly along, from Stark's conscience attack to the mandatory Stan Lee cameo.
With all of Iron Man's blockbuster-y action and sharp banter, only one thing's missing: Unlike in the comics, where Tony can't ever seem to put down the bottle, not once does he get drunk in Iron Man. (A fact that's doubly disappointing considering how authentic Downey Jr. would've made it feel.) "Gimme a scotch, I'm starving," Stark cracks at one point, and alas, that's the closest we get to seeing a drunk superhero swerve around in the sky or awkwardly drunk dial Captain America. Ah, well—you can't have everything. He'd better get soused in Iron Man 2, though.