From my former colleague at Marvel Comics, Glenn Greenberg (don't worry; no spoilers):
Saw it on Monday night. Here's my take, in a nutshell:
This is NOT the ultimate super hero movie ever made. I wouldn't even necessarily put it in the top 10. There are others that I prefer more.
I have some story problems with the second half, and some of Obadiah Stane's dialogue during the big battle towards the end gets a bit too hackneyed and "comic booky." Certain characters' motivations are a little unclear or muddled, and, in my opinion, the stakes aren't high enough when the movie really kicks into high gear.
Also, I felt that the film lacks a strong emotional core that was so present in SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, BATMAN BEGINS, and the first two SPIDER-MAN movies. It's not that Favreau and co. don't try--actually, some of the stuff between Stark and Pepper Potts is quite good. But I didn't feel myself get pulled emotionally into this film the way I did with the ones I mention above.
The soundtrack — consisting mostly of heavy metal music — is occasionally too loud and distracting. It drowns out some of the dialogue. Speaking of which, there are moments when Robert Downey Jr. is almost indecipherable, talking too fast and too manically to be understood (at least by me).
That said, the cast is wonderful. Downey is perfect as Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow is lovely and radiant and completely believable. Terrence Howard almost steals the movie. And Jeff Bridges brings a strength and a sense of gravitas that benefits the movie greatly. They're all taking their roles seriously, committing themselves to the characters and bringing a sense of realism and, just as importantly, RESPECT for the subject matter.
The special effects are fantastic. The humor works, for the most part. The in-jokes are very clever--and you really have to be sharp to get them all. I know I didn't!
It's not a GREAT movie. But it's a GOOD one. I didn't walk out with a sense of great elation and excitement like I did when I saw BATMAN BEGINS, or the first SPIDER-MAN, or X-MEN 2. But I also didn't walk out wanting to put my fist through a wall like I did when I saw X-MEN 3 or DAREDEVIL.