Review – Iron Man 2
It’s the morning after a midnight showing and I’m trying to really reflect on what I thought about Iron Man 2. And sadly some 8 hours after seeing the movie, I can’t say there’s much I can sit back and say “that was really cool when.” That’s not to say the movie is unenjoyable or bad in any way, it just doesn’t quite hold up to it’s predecessor. We’ve seen that comic book movie sequels can surpass and improve upon the original. Superman II, Spider-man 2 (though I can debate that one), the Dark Knight and X-Men 2 all took what made the first one enjoyable and improved on it, layering additional elements.
Director and actor Jon Favreau talked about how sequels tend to pile on numerous bad guys as they go on. But his philosophy was that the characters should only be included if they fit the story and have something to bring. The movie holds to that with the rather large cast sticking to their assigned roles. The sequel sees Tony Stark’s ego out of control (to a point he’s almost unlikeable) amid his revelation that he’s Iron Man and brought peace to the world, putting the military “out of business.” Of course the American government (or at least a few Senators) aren’t fans of such a weapon running around unchecked. Thus an alliance is formed between Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) to take down Stark and place Hammer Industries as the main supplier of military weapons. The cast also includes Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes (played by Terrence Howard in the first movie), Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Black Widow.
So how does the movie fare?
The good: The movie is entertaining. Unlike the first one which focused first on characters and then devolved into action, the second is all action. There’s enough small items for the comic geeks out there but overall the movie is enjoyable and understandable for everyone. The time flew by and in the end I left feeling the time was spent well. There’s some fun performances most notably by Downey, Rourke and Rockwell.
The bad: With the focus on action at times actors felt they were phoning it in, Samuel L. Jackson played Samuel L. Jackson with an eye patch, and Scarlett Johansson did what she needed to do, but the acting came off as comic booky. The inclusion of so many characters did exactly what Favreau wanted and each had their purpose and role. The problem is, each had their purpose and role. It was clear why each person was there and it seemed they were just that keys to the next part of the story.
For specifics on the good and bed check the extended coverage below. WARNING SPOILERS!
But lets get down to what matters, the movie is going to do well. I fully expect it to have one of the highest opening weekends ever (if not taking the record) and will top well over $400 million, so in the end, what do I know?
Direction: Directed by John Favreau when it comes to the people interacting and some of the action, it was done quite well, much like the first. Anytime the action sped up such as the end chase scene between Iron Man and the robots or Black Widow fighting the action was choppy, blurry and hard to follow. It’s clear that’s where his ability draws the line. He clearly knows how to get good performances out of actors and frames each of their moments quite well.
Acting: Downey, Rockwell and Rourke all stand out and chew up each scene they’re in. Paltrow and Cheadle are both perfect in their parts. Johansson comes off as stiff in her role (and the character as a whole isn’t needed) and finally Samuel L. Jackson plays, well, himself, with an eye patch.
Plot: The plot of the movie is where I have the most issues but it’s the distractions that are the problem. The conflict between Hammer and Stark and the Government and Stark are fine (though I’d of liked to see more grumbling from the military about this and collusion between them and Hammer). The problem is the side stories. Stark is suffering from poisoning caused by the reactor in his chest, this is solved in two seconds by Nick Fury. Somehow we have to believe Stark is one of the smartest people out there and missed this treatment? Next is his creation of a new element, which we’re told is impossible. He achieves that in five minutes. And finally there’s a scene of Stark drinking (which really should of been the route to go) that may rival Spider-man 3’s dance scene as one of the most unnecessary and idiotic in recent memory.
Overall: The first movie I’d give a solid A or A-, it was entertaining with great acting and the focus was on characters instead of the action. Stark had an ego, but he came off as someone we still wanted to hang out with. Here we’re given a rather unlikeable Stark who’s problem isn’t drinking like in the comic book (which I think is the route that should of been gone) but instead just pure ego. He’s down on himself, but still thinks too much of himself. You want to slap him at numerous times to get him to snap out of it. It’s irritating and not quite as fun. But in the end I have to ask myself, was I entertained? And I was. And the audience was too judging by their reaction. The movie is a bridge, not just to the a guaranteed third movie, but an entire franchise of movies set in the Marvel universe and that’s painfully obvious. Hopefully by the time 2012 comes and all of the planned movies have been released (Thor, Captain America, Avengers) we’ll see the bigger picture and exactly how this ties in, and in the end appreciate it more.