Yup, I've already got tickets for a 3:30 show. I'm gonna sneak out of work early tomorrow afternoon and try to beat the brunt of the opening-day rush. In short, I'm fucking stoked. And I'm stoked to be stoked.
I hate to admit how jaded I've become about going to the theater to see movies. But really, I have an excuse of sorts: My grandmother, rest her soul, managed a movie theater (first in Englewood, Florida and then a few miles north in Venice; yes, Florida steals all its town names from California) back when I was a kid. From ages 4 to 12, I spent thousands of hours in her little strip-mall two-screener watching hundreds of movies dozens of times, as well as playing tabletop Defender, jawing stale Milk Duds, and picking up trash from the aisles between screenings–a chore my third-grade self loved, as it meant finding at least a buck or two in loose change that had fallen out of people's pockets.
Sadly, that constant and mundane familiarity with movie theaters permanently dimmed a lot of their magic for me. But that's not to say I didn't experience some fundamentally formative moments there. I remember seeing Episodes IV-VI on initial release in my grandma's theaters–I was 5 when A New Hope came out, holy shit, what a mindblower–as well as other science-fiction flicks of the era like Saturn 3, Outland, and, of course, Blade Runner. Big-screen SF really grabbed me at a tender age: I loved the eye-boggling spectacle, the elaborate machines, the majesty of outer space, the epic heroes. Oh, yeah, and the badass fucking ROBOTS.
Weirdly enough, my childhood love of SF robots is how I found out there was no Santa Claus. Before the Christmas of '80, I had been begging, begging my mom for a model kit of the evil red robot Maximillian from the Disney clunker The Black Hole, which had come out the previous year to enthusiastic reviews from yours truly. On Christmas Eve, I walked by the open door of my mom's room and saw the model, still in its box, peering out from her closet. (Honest, mom, I wasn't peeking!) I went to bed that night with visions of the murderous Maximillian dancing in my head. The next morning under the Christmas tree, however, I unwrapped ol' Max–and the tag said "From Santa," not "From Mom." Ouch. Maximillian, you not only butchered Anthony Perkins with your whirring saw blades–you butchered my innocence.
So yeah, Maximillian is a pretty iconic image lurking around inside the back of my skull. Is it any wonder Iron Man strikes a similar chord?
Like Iron Man, Maximillian is inhabited (at least at the end of The Black Hole) by a human consciousness–that of the robot's evil creator, Dr. Reinhardt–if not by an actual human being like Tony Stark. And they both, naturally, kick ass, even if Iron Man isn't technically a robot at all. I always admired the humanity of the Iron Man character in the comics–his self-made origin, his tragic flaws, his relatively complex psyche layered with cockiness and self-loathing–but the thought of watching him explode into life in the theater tomorrow just gets my heart racing like I'm 8 years old all over again. Granted, there are plenty of other reasons I'm stoked to see the film: Robert Downey, Jr. looks smartassedly fantastic in it; the Iron Man design they whipped up is perfectly, uh, suited for the big screen; and it's exactly the Marvel palate-cleanser I need after the huge letdowns that were Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3. I'll let my far more knowledgeable A.V. Club colleagues debate the death of the summer blockbuster–all I know is, 24 hours from now I'll be giddily forking over my 10-dollar ticket to personally witness the 2008 blockbuster season kick off in all its sleek, mechanistic, shit-kicking, red-and-gold-armored glory.