By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated July 30, 2020 at 04:54 PM EDT

Image Credit: Francois DuhamelAmid all the numbers crunched on the opening weekend of Iron Man 2 (the fifth highest opening ever, as calculated by the eighth tallest left-handed man in the accounting department!), one statistical talking point did catch my eye: IndieWire reports that Paramount is marveling “at how strong the film is playing with females.” According to a studio distribution executive, “You would expect such numbers from a film like Sex and the City 2.

Another way to put it is, you wouldn’t expect such numbers from a comic-book action-movie sequel. And yet the reason for the good distaff showing is evident, at least to this female: Iron Man 2 succeeds on the charm of its characters rather than on the ka-chunk, ka-chunk of its warfare and impersonal CG action sequences. And chicks like charm. Heck, everyone likes charm, real charm. Which is why Robert Downey Jr. is currently the master of his domain. It also helps that in Iron Man 2, Gwyneth Paltrow is spunky-charming, Sam Rockwell is smarmy-charming, Mickey Rourke is psycho-charming, Scarlett Johansson is slinky-charming, and Samuel L. Jackson is eyepatch-charming. The best of the movie is about humans, not machines — people who are well-rounded enough, even as comic-book characters, to be shot in 2-D and still pop from the screen. The worst of the movie is, well, all the noisy, rattling stuff.

In a review on NPR, my charming colleague Kenneth Turan noted that the rattling stuff is for the “fanboys.” By which I assume he means hopped-up comic-book purists and action-pic aficionados with intense opinions about what whiplashes of electricity ought to look like in the hands of the bad guy known as…Whiplash. I understand the desire to keep such an ardent segment of the movie-going population in the loop. But honestly, a really smart prognosticator of box office trends ought to be able to calculate that in the future, 3-D will feel like ho-hum and CG effects will look DOA unless a movie’s got verve, wit, moxie, and plays well with females.