A superhero movie where you don't get to see the superhero as much as you get to see the man underneath? One with incredible special effects, but these are kept to a bare minimum? If you think that such a movie won't work, watch Iron Man.
Iron Man doesn't stray too far from formula of depicting the rise of a superhero - there is the rich playboy, the mandatory angst, the perfunctory side kick and love interest, the scheming villain etc., etc. The primary reason Iron Man rises above the clutter is the choice of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the genius weapons manufacturer who has a change of heart when captured by Afghan rebels and brought back from the brink of death with an electromagnet that protects, well, his heart.
Iron Man is like Batman in the sense that he has no intrinsic/natural superpowers, but Tony Stark is no Bruce Wayne, and Robert Downey Jr. never lets you forget that. He plays Tony Stark with an unabashed bad boy edge - even post his rebirth-of-sorts in a dark cave in Afghanistan, he never fully loses that naughty/haughty gleam in his eye. Make no mistake, Tony Stark immensely enjoys the blue blood that runs in his veins. There is some angst - the loss of his father, an unconsummated love interest - but nothing so deep rooted as to drive him to be a caped crusader. Stark's driving force behind Iron Man is personal - he has done harm and his ego wont let him sit back and allow that.
Though the special effects are phenomenal, they are kept to a minimum here (more likely in the sequel). Iron Man focuses on the birth pangs of the superhero, the hits and misses that lead Stark to perfection (the villain, played by a menacing Jeff Bridges, gets it right on first trial though!). This is a movie that is more human than superhuman, and like I said before, Robert Downey Jr. is perfect for the part. He is an immensely likeable screen presence with eyes that go from bad boy to puppy dog within seconds. My first reaction when I heard that he's been cast for the role was that he didn't fit my description of a superhero (neither did Christian Bale when he was roped in as Batman, for that matter), but now I can't think of anybody else who could have pulled it off better.
Gwenyth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) is completely wasted, so is Jeff Bridges. With that bald head and beard, he looks like a cardboard villain, and its to his credit that he lends some spark to an otherwise bland role. Fan reviews tell me that Terrence Howard will become Iron Man's sidekick, so we can expect more out of him in the next movie.
Verdict: See post title.