The greater tapestry of the MCU is set up nicely, as we get hints of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history, of Howard Stark, of how the ARC reactor was built, and even a nice preview of Thor, plus some great set pieces and double acts, not to mention introducing the characters of Black Widow and War Machine. But the sum of its parts is much greater than its whole, as overall, this is a dumb movie. The great superhero movie rewatch looks at Iron Man 2.
The development of Stark’s relationship with Potts—his complete inability to actually talk to her (or anyone) like a person—is a delight, watching Rhodes try to balance the needs of duty versus his friendship with Stark is compelling (especially with Don Cheadle now in the role), and the whole movie is worth it to see Samuel L. Jackson be Fury for more than half a second, and it’s truly magnificent. In fact, S.H.I.E.L.D. is responsible for most of what’s great in the movie—besides Fury, you’ve got even more of Clark Gregg’s deadpan awesomeness as Coulson, and the triumphant debut of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who here establishes her role in the MCU as one of the few actual grown-ups, a role she will continue to fulfill in subsequent appearances.