I feel vindicated by the revelation that Iron Man went into production without a shooting script, if only because now I know the reason Robert Downey Jr. had so few quality lines is that he and director Jon Favreau were making up the dialogue as they went along. This approach works when you can endlessly re-shoot uninspired or botched takes on the cheap, i.e. when you're not filming a $200 million film on someone else's dime. Favreau delivered all that could be expected working under such constraints: a serviceable plot that relies heavily on the many charms of its actors and the explosiveness of its explosions. The lack of a shooting script accounts for the ideological incoherence of the film Spencer Ackerman noted shortly after its release. It is difficult for any film to have a singular vision in an age of studio-groomed auteurs and homogenizing test audiences, so one in which there is no script is bound to wander off the message it never had. No matter how much attention Downey Jr. and Favreau paid to the lines to be delivered on a given day, they had no written substrate on which to base their improvisations. There are no lines that resonate outside the immediate moment in the film because no one sat down and labored over the text in the manner required to create such resonance.
In short, the ideological incoherence of Iron Man can be attributed to the material conditions of its production. The same cannot be said of The Dark Knight. Its ideological incoherence is a function of its script ... as I will discuss at some length in a forthcoming post in which I demonstrate that the film is all about dogs.