The truth it, it's not a bad film, but that's about it. A brief run down of the plot will give you billionaire playboy genius Tony Stark is kidnapped in Afghanistan, takes shrapnel in his heart, and then, rigged up to a car battery, does his impression of Ned Kelly, before returning to America to announce that weapons manufacturing is bad, Stark Enterprises will stop this, and then proceeds to create an Iron Man suit to go and beat up bad guys. The film hints, for a moment, at a dialogue between America's relationship with weapons makers and supplying the world, but it's a hint made by the subject matter, and not the film, and any dialogue that could be established is dropped for cardboard villains and a man in a red and gold suit smacking them around. Which is fine, of course; but the moment someone tells you that this film has subtext, you're to beat them pipe. And outside that kind of statement, Iron Man does very little wrong: Downey is well cast as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges does his best with the role of the villain that lacks reasoning--why after thirty years decide to kill Stark?--and Gwyneth Paltrow is in a role that seems to be beneath her, an admittance I find strange, given that I've never been a fan of her. Oh, and there's another insufferable cameo by Stan Lee, which I'd really just wish they'd stop doing.
So, what's the problem, then?
There's no passion in this film. There's nothing about it that says, "Iron Man had to be made." There's no love, no defiance, no need, which is something that I found with Batman Begins, and almost every other superhero film I've seen--in fact, perhaps every one, but I'm sure there's been one or two when I haven't thought that. For some of those films, however, what does it matter? No passion in X-Men 3? Good: it was shit from beginning to end. No passion in the Punisher? Heh. Yeah, could anyone make sense of that? But Iron Man, with its good actors and its sometimes interesting director? Why are they here. Why aren't they making a film that they feel something about, which they are engaged with, and which will translate, then, across the screen and to a viewing pleasure for me? Perhaps it's an odd complaint to make, but I don't want to see Downey as Tony Stark, or Jon Favreau directing such a film. Okay, granted, only Made is a difference for him, and it's not that much of a change, given that he apparently directed Zathura: A Space Adventure, but still, the man can make a decent film, and shows some ability, and this is my point. The script was mostly rubbish in terms of dialogue and plot, but so many are--but there's Bridges, doing his best while smoking a cigar, and all I can think is, 'Why are you here, man? You're too good for this."
I ask this, because there is a sense to the film of boredom, of everything being done by the numbers from everyone, and it being a thing you do for cash, to pass the time, to reach another point and because of that, the film feels like a waste.
Consider this: there is a point in the film when Tony Stark, brilliant, with an army of scientists and billions in cash, says that it is time to change, time to stop making weapons to fund other projects, to stop with weapons that kill and damage and take accountability, and Iron Man is akin to that statement. It hurts no one, true, but the argument is that such a film allows for tiny, interesting, engaging films to be made, or some such thing; but as much as making weapons in the film is a waste of talent and resources, despite their successful outcomes, this film is also a waste of its resources. In the time that this film was made, the people involved could have gotten together, gone with a project that meant something to them, and infused it with such passion and love that it, successful or not, it would have been a thousand times more engaging than this hollow, but polished affair that keeps a franchise alive.
That's what I think, but y'know, perhaps, just perhaps, I'm jaded and cynical, and perhaps the film just wasn't for me. Plenty of others are masturbating over it and maybe you ought listen to them.