Going to a sneak preview is a thing that… well, okay, I’ve done it pretty damn recently, but I haven’t been to an advance preview for a blockbuster that everyone in the world is going to see, at least not in a while. However, I have an awesome friend named Kara who has that skill where she knows every single person on the planet, and can therefore get into clubs or crowded restaurants sans reservation, that kind of thing. As a result, she received an astonishing number of passes to Iron Man last night. Enough to fill more than an entire middle row with people that she knows (many of them people I know as well, and not incidentally including me). And this is just not an unusual event around her. So, yay Kara!
And then, on top of being surrounded by awesome, there was the whole ‘crowd of people who all love this idea too’ that I’ve mentioned liking from time to time. The energy of a theater full of real fans, in a big event movie like this, is something I really dig. (Even though, sometimes, I felt a little like our row was appreciating everything on a more visceral level than the rest of the crowd. I don’t know if this is factual or just proximity to what I could hear best, and if it is true, I don’t how much to blame on the huge press section just below us in the middle.) The downside of crowds is that, even in shorts and a t-shirt, I was dying of heat by the final act. Too many people and lack of air-conditioning spells consequences, my friends. But they did sell me a milkshake, so that was pleasant.
The careful readers among you may be noticing that I haven’t said very much about the actual movie yet. There’s a good reason for this, which is that I don’t wish to set anyone’s expectations at an unfortunate level. Realize that my Iron Man experience essentially consists of the first couple of years of him in the comics, plus the first many years of his time with the Avengers, and whatever odds and ends I’ve heard about his doings in the Civil War thing that just happened, but my feeling is that the latter has no real bearing on anything for these purposes. But, with the amount of Iron Man experience I have, I’m prepared to say that this is the best Marvel movie that wasn’t Spider-Man.
Contributing factors to this claim include the awesomeness of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, more special effects than you can shake a pointed stick at, the tastefully understated but always clear and heartfelt interactions between Tony and his friends (which casts a wider net than you may initially think), the ease with which origin story and Iron Man versus a bad guy were shoehorned into the same two hours, and I’ll have to reiterate how great Robert Downey Jr. was. Even though I’m only familiar with the 1960s versions of the characters, it’s instantly apparent that at least Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were meant to grow into these two characters when adjusted for modernity. There’s no way to ask for more than pitch perfect characterization in a comic book adaptation; if you have that, the rest is guaranteed to work, says me. And this? Did.
 Later, you’re going to realize that this is hilarious.