Iron Man - 3.5 stars

As with so many others, I haven't been particularly looking forward to this movie. The trailers were okay and all, but really, the only piece of really good news I'd heard until a few weeks ago was that they'd cast Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. That was, indeed, inspired casting; but would it be enough to get over my general Marvel Universe malaise, or continued annoyance that nobody liked Ang Lee's Hulk, or my general indifference towards the character of Iron Man in the first place?

I guess so.

The good reviews started coming in a week or so ago; everyone that liked comics loved the movie, and almost everybody else liked it as well. Sure, it's a comic movie to the core - big bad guy show-down and all - but it was made in the style of a popcorn flick, and it did an excellent job of it. And so my hopes shot up to the stratosphere.

Were they fulfilled? Well, almost.

This is clearly the best Marvel movie to date. It's a fairly simple story, told well, with extremely good casting and, oddly, pretty good acting. The core character of Stark was well-done and well-adjusted to the modern day; and the technology level was acceptably higher than what we had now. The special effects were, unshockingly, top-notch (though I could have used a better sound system to hear the sound effects; I miss you, Lorraine Theatre!). Most interestingly to me, there was clear interest in connecting things to the Marvel Universe, if only lightly - we're about to hit an age of MU movies with mild cross-overs, it seems, and that's exactly what I want to see.

On the down-side... well, the villains are a bit generic, the cast seemed fairly generic, the soundtrack was not all that memorable, and, well, it's still a popcorn comic-book movie. But these didn't really bother me; it just meant that it was no Batman Begins (or probably The Dark Knight).

* 1/2 for this showing; probably * long-term.

And for the Gods' sakes, stay for the end of the credits! There's a scene there. Sure, it wont mean much to a lot of you non-Marvel folks, but... just watch it.