Iron Man is a Hollywood superhero blockbuster and probably the first of a franchise, even though it already feels like the 64th. These movies are always, in their way, whopping piles of junk, but they can be hugely enjoyable whopping piles of junk. The first Superman with Christopher Reeve, Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man were all good, entertaining films, but is there anywhere left to go? The plots are now like old friends: a hero who is one thing by day and another by night; a svelte and lovely lady assistant who has no idea; an evil nemesis always intent on global domination (‘first, you; next, the world!’). But I can stay at home to see old friends. I don’t know if I want to go to the cinema for that.
This has a great line-up, as such films inevitably do, and stars Robert Downey Jnr as our Iron Man by night, although not at first. At first, he is Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy weapons industrialist who, on a sales trip to demonstrate a new missile to American forces in Afghanistan, is ambushed by a terrorist cell and dragged away to a cave full of pleasant, clean-shaven men who wish to provide him with aromatherapy sessions and maybe a shiatsu massage. Alas, no. They are dark and bearded, screech in foreign tongues a lot and are bad, through and through. I’m not sure to what extent anyone wants a super- hero to endorse American assumptions about the war on terror, but there you have it. (The original Marvel comic Iron Man foiled communist agents in the Sixties, so although this has been updated for modern times you may say the agenda hasn’t.)