In the pantheon of super heros, Iron Man is strictly C-list. Batman and Spider Man are the top of the heap, Superman is boring but gets a pass by being there first. Who else? Possibly Wolverine and the Hulk on a good day. Wonder Woman? Maybe. The Silver Surfer? If one was being charitable.
Beneath them are the second stringers: The Flash, Mr Fantastic, the rest of the X-Men. All good people to have on your side, but not your first phone call in the event of villain related shenanigans.
Lower still are the lame heros, unworthy of being called super. Daredevil and Electra, The Punisher, and Iron Man. Although they have their (deluded) fans, these characters are destined to see out their days fighting equally terrible bad guys in their own vapid and desperate movie franchises. Which makes the fact that Iron Man is a fantastic film all the stranger.
Tony Stark is a fantastically wealthy playboy engineering genius, but without the emo angst that makes Bruce Wanye no fun at parties. In fact, Stark is actually a bit of an asshole, and an arms dealer to boot. Circumstances conspire to compel him to change his mind about the arms dealer part, but he remains an asshole even after he invents a really cool suit. This is at least an interesting change from the usual self-sacrificing dullards that usually pollute our screens. The female characters don’t do anything, but they don’t in any of the other films either, so no change there.
All super hero movies take large amounts of time tediously establishing where the hero comes from and how they acquired their fabulous powers. Iron Man follows this mold, but takes the daring approach of actually making the origin story entertaining. The script is witty without resorting to stupid one-liners, and the special effects are great. Later one Iron Man settles down to become more of a standard goody vs baddy battle, but this is not drawn out and the film knows when to roll the credits, which is more than I can say for many hero movies.