But let me set something straight: I don't think is as bad of a film as you've probably heard. I won't swat off the fact that the film, as others noted, goes practically nowhere during the beginning half, but then again, it's really a bit of a setup. Tony Stark, played again by Robert Downey, Jr. in what may be his career-defining role for many, guards his superhero suit and says the U.S. government can't get in on it. There's a somewhat bizarre scene towards the opening of the film where comedian Garry Shandling plays a Senator Stern who's desperately trying to convince Stark to hand it over and where Stark employs flagrant behavior and strange ways of eluding him.
This scene also introduces Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell in what has been called by many an excellent performance, which I'll second. Hammer is a rich guy who really, really, really doesn't like "Anthony Stark," as he calls him. He dislikes him so much that he's built an entire fleet of "Hammer Drones," with the help of a person to be named later. What Rockwell does is cash in on his regular screen persona and adds the right touches of menace to pull it off. His fleet of bodyguards/men play off of him in a really good way as well. His part, among others written by Justin Theroux, is, as others said, superb, especially in the "Ex-Wife bullet" monologue that many have mentioned. He has a hilarious quip about "Ulysses."
Let me swing back to the "person to be named later," who is who we see throughout the beginning and opening credits in his native Moscow. This is Ivan Vanko, who's beloved father passes as the film opens and who has a real dislike as well for Stark. This is enough to make a similar suit, which is not in fact plagiarism, as Stark's father apparently was associated with Vanko's in some way. He becomes one severe case of Whiplash, what with his (as said before) "whips of electricity" that he uses. Mickey Rourke was criticized by Anthony Lane of the New Yorker for his accent, and although Lane often makes over nitpicks of the American mainstream, he does draw his Russianness out a little here when talking to Hammer, who gives him a chance to help him become even richer (as a supplier to the U.S. as opposed to Stark, who refuses).
There is one good performance given by Samuel L. Jackson to, as he makes another "Kill Bill: Vol. 2"-type "appearance" (as people have said) as Nick Fury, who tries to give Stark a tip from the Avengers, of which he is the director. Don Cheadle is a very good replacement of Terrence Howard, who I'm very sure can't deliver with the same emotional power as Cheadle (to add to the fact that Cheadle can perform the same sort of acting that Howard pulled off before). And also, there are minor roles by both Scarlet Johansson as Natalie Rushman, who flirts and kicks the crap out of people when she needs to (apparently she's Black Widow) and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, to whom Stark hands over Stark Industries to while he's being Iron Man, which apparently now is a full-time job. Note also, as others have, "how Jon Favreau places himself into the action" as Happy, Stark's "bodyguard" who has a lot of difficulty taking out just one goon.
Structurally, you could say that there is something to be desired. I felt for large portions "What is this about?," but that got taken care of. The ending was, as Ebert would say, "a standard finale," and also, as my friend said, "complex," and I would agree. But to say I didn't enjoy it would be lying. I would disagree with those who complained that the film had (as many have said) "too many villains and too many subplots" (I think it was People magazine who directly said this, but it was reiterated by many others, including the Playlist) as if that was (entirely) a bad thing. I think this could have cobbled the film a little bit, but it really helped it out, too. A coda: Tony Stark has one of the most beautiful houses in the history of cinema, and a real tragedy is seeing what he misguidedly does to it throughout the film. B