Bottom line, it was terrific.
Robert Downey Jr. was, as always, absolutely pitch-perfect as Iron Man. If every actor has a single role for which they were destined, this is his, as Robert Preston was Professor Harold Hill and Leonard Nimoy was Spock. His performance encapsulates Stark's mixture of cockiness and angst effortlessly. Ben Kingsley is terrific on screen as the Mandarin, who is one of Iron Man's chief foes in the comic books. This is a character for whom hatred of America is an end unto itself, and he really brings it on several levels. Many of the supporting players you're used to are back, and a few faces from the comic books that have been conspicuous in their absence finally have roles to play.
The big question for this film has to be, "What do you do after The Avengers?" Tony Stark has rubbed elbows with Norse Gods, aliens, flown through wormholes, and buddied up with the Hulk's alter ego. Where do you go from there?
Simple, you make it a smaller, more personal movie. You don't try to top it; that won't happen until The Avengers 2 hits screens in 2015 (in a duel to the death with Star Wars Episode VII), and would feel forced. You bring it back to Stark, and explore how he's been able to cope (or not to cope) with the experiences he had in New York. That was a deliberate choice on the part of the studio, and it worked expertly.
That's not to say there isn't peril aplenty, and lots of action, and blowing things up, and of course Tony Stark in the flying suit. The plot is well-conceived and full of excellent twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Suffice to say that one of the themes of this film is that appearances can be deceiving, and there are a number of excellent reversals and twists that you just won't see coming, even if you're looking for them.
As usual with a film like this, there's violence but not a lot of gore. There are sexy girls in bikinis, but no nudity or gratuitous vulgarity. I felt completely comfortable bringing my 12 year old daughter to this film, and she had a blast, as did my wife, who isn't what you'd call a comic book film fan (although she did like The Avengers, she continually ribs me for my love of the X-Men films).
Five stars out of five.
Also, please don't forget the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary Kickstarter going on right now! 900 monsters, suitable for most OSR-type games, all under one cover. Can you help get us to having an illustration for each and every one?