The film that started it all... kind of.
Jon Favreau's Iron Man was really the moment where Marvel revealed to the world their mad intentions of putting together crossover mega-movie The Avengers. As we all know, they pulled it off remarkably but it could have all gone pear-shaped super early. I mean, with the likes of Captain America and Thor it wasn't going to be a walk in the park to make each character and their far-fetched stories plausible, let alone cram everybody into one movie. But Iron Man showed early on that you can make a silly superhero flick without screwing it up, creating a movie that, even to this day, is simply a lot of fun.
Robert Downey Jr is genius billionaire douchebag Tony Stark, who is made to face the reality of his misguided work directly and henceforth grow a conscience. The entire movie is one big build-up to the creation of that badass armored suit with some cool action scenes and a last-minute villain thrown in for good measure. Because it's one thing bringing the hero to life convincingly but we wanna see the dude kick ass.
This is a movie after all.
Downey Jr, it turns out, is the perfect choice for Stark, his charming, fast-talking, sarcastic persona fitting in 100% with the character. He's funny, douchy, clever, with a good (if metal) heart: he's the Iron Man fanboys and girls wanted and deserved. Gwyneth Paltrow is his assistant/love interest Pepper Potts and, besides pulling off one silly-ass name, she turns out to be a really good character and manages to avoid being just another damsel in distress. After all, Stark would hire someone smart and reliable. Our bad guy, besides those dudes who kidnap Stark early on, is played by Jeff Bridges and... being Jeff Bridges, he's awesome: intimidating, weirdly cool (cigar + big robot x baldness = lolz!) and a genuine threat.
Everyone does a great job.
The film has its flaws but they're mostly nitpicks.
The pace of the film is a bit all-over-the-place. It starts off pretty darn slow then gets really light and playful without anything too drastic or interesting going on in the middle and finally it goes full-speed ahead right at the end. It leaves you wanting more and kinda makes you wish the first half of the film had been a bit more hyper. That said, each part of the film works in its own right and the pace changes aren't too distracting. The whole cave thing in the first act is pretty out there I must admit, like THAT would ever happen. I know Stark is smart but... come on. Did no one see him building an automaton?!
More definitely could have been done with the plot, as it stands it's all pretty light: bad things happen, big hero montage, bad things happen, big fight, the end. You never feel like anything huge is really at stake or in real danger. It's a character introduction that never strives for anything bigger or deeper instead focusing on paving the way for a cool, fun franchise. And that it does very well.
The visual effects work perfectly, the whole thing looks great, the AC/DC-inspired score is appropriately rocky, great characters, smart, funny script, what more can I say? It's a good movie: pure mindless popcorn entertainment and a worthy interpretation of the Marvel character.