Summer doesn’t technically start until June 21st, but according to Hollywood, it starts today, with the release of the first potential blockbuster of the season, Iron Man 3.

Considering the sheer number of blockbusters released each summer (and this one is looking stacked), you may want to think hard on which ones are actually worth your dollars. It’s not always easy to distinguish the movies wherein things Get Blowed Up Real Good from the ones where Things Get Blown Up Really Well (i.e. Michael Bay‘s idiotic Transformers movies vs. Christopher Nolan‘s more thoughtful Batman films).

So, with that in mind, I’m pleased to report that yes, Iron Man 3 is worth the investment. Here’s why.

1. It’s a huge step up from the abysmal Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was terrible. Just awful. It’s by far the worst Marvel movie and a top contender for Worst. Comic-Book Movie. Ever. (Right up there with Daredevil, Jonah Hex, and, ugh, Spider-Man 3.) What it lacked was a sensible plot, an interesting villain, and well, any semblance of a coherent story.

Iron Man 3 shatters its predecessor. It boasts a sensible plot, a couple of intriguing-if-not-fully-realized villains (Ben Kingsley as the mysterious terrorist known as The Mandarin and Guy Pearce as the equally enigmatic scientist Aldrich Killian), and a very coherent—not to mention exciting—story.Taking place after the events of The Avengers, the film finds Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) suffering from PTSD. He spends sleepless nights tinkering in his garage on new Iron Man suits until The Mandarin, who’s been on a random-bombing spree, strikes close to home. Tony suits up to take on the Bin Laden-like baddie, but soon finds himself at the end of his wits—and weapons. The plot also involves an army of fire-breathing superhumans, which is pretty sweet.

2. Shane Black puts his stamp on it

Black, whose only previous directorial credit was the excellent comedy crime film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has been working the Hollywood circuit for a while; you might remember him as the successful screenwriter of ’80s and ’90s action films like the first two Lethal Weapon movies, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. He’s got a distinct writing and directing style—one that, in Iron Man 3, is apparent, and welcome.

Black manages to broaden the comic-book-movie formula by molding the plot into a detective story that finds Tony Stark spending half of the film investigating The Mandarin’s enigmatic past. The wobbly-but-explosive third act works in some unexpected twists, but it manages to land on its feet by pairing Stark with his trusted buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) against The Mandarin and his superhuman cronies in a final battle that feels a lot like Lethal Weapon.

3. It’s actually funny

Though Tony Stark always gets his share of plum one-liners, Black’s trademark humor in Iron Man 3 is especially biting. Example: Stark befriends an 11-year-old kid who, in one scene, sentimentally explains how his dad up and left his family. Stark’s response: “Dads leave. No need to be such a pussy about it.”

4. Ben Kingsley = awesome

Without giving too much away, Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin is terrific. The role showcases the range of his talents—-though it will probably stoke the ire of Iron Man fanboys sure to resent the character’s departure from The Mandarin of the comic books.

5. Shit blows up—-and well!

Because that’s all we really want out of our summer blockbusters, isn’t it?