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Iron Man Dos: 1 Iron Man = good, so 200 Iron Mans = better, yes? No.

2010/06/13

I might be getting late to the party here, but I’ve been busy….we commence:     

So, Iron Man was so spot-on a couple of years back there, another go around should be a joyous romp in the skies on the way to The Avengers, yes?  Maybe not so much.  Look, let me preface this with the following:  I thought this was fun, and didn’t do any damage to the franchise, but considering Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, and perhaps most relevantly Iron Man exist in our recent history of comics-to-film conversions, I no longer think it’s wrong to expect a little more.  First, to the plot:     

IM2 picks up pretty much where the last one ended – with Tony Stark’s announcement on international television that he, indeed, is Iron Man.  And he’s here to protect America, and the world, and be a smart ass.  Yay!  Except somewhere in a dilapidated basement somewhere in Russia, or the Ukraine, or some such former Soviet bloc state, Mickey Rourke is sitting next to his dying father and he’s more ‘Nyet!’.      

 We fast-forward six months, or a year or three years – I wasn’t paying attention and it really doesn’t matter, and Tony Stark is in front of the Senate being grilled by Garry Shandling about how the government wants his Iron Man suit.  Tony’s all like  ‘You can’t have it’, and Shandling’s like ‘Give it to us, dick’, and Tony’s like ‘Suck it, Shandling.’  And Sam Rockwell is also there as Tony’s ‘smart robot scientist nemesis’ Justin Hammer, and he’s both trying to make Stark give Shandling the suit at the same time as he’s trying to show everybody that he’s already built a better one.  Also military guy Jim ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes is there, and tries to tell Shandling that Stark should be the only Iron Man, and to suck it up, but Shandling is all ‘read what you wrote in the fourth paragraph on page 52 of your report called ‘Tony Stark is Totally the Bestest Iron Man.  See?  You said the suit is cool and everyone should have one.  Now shut it, Rhodey, we’re not here to talk about facts.’   But then Tony uses his translucent iPhone and hacks a bunch of international spy satellites as well as the closed-circuit television system in the Senate and shows everybody that Hammer is a dumb douche and his robots blow up, and then flashes the Nixon victory signs and leaves all them dumb sonsabitches looking stupid.   All told, all this went down in about seven minutes onscreen.  And now you’re starting to see my issue with this outing.     

Much like Spiderman 3, Batman 2 to 4 (pre-Bale era) and that last X-Men cluster bomb, there is little to no restraint in the thing.  Here’s a brief list of co-existing plot threads:  Tony Stark is dying, because the element that makes his glowy blue electric superpower heart is poisoning his blood.  Ivan Vanko (Rourke) is a vodka-riddled Russian super-scientist with more tattoos then you’ll find on the aggregate population of an MMA fight audience who wants revenge because Tony’s dad screwed Ivan’s dad out of fame and fortune.  Tony is also turning over the whole Stark Industries endeavor to his administrative assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – who clearly demanded ‘something to do’ this time around), while also falling in love with her (ENOUGH with this already!  Costumed heroes don’t need ‘regular folk’ love interests.  They generally don’t have them if they’re that good at the job.)  Rhodey gets to be War Machine (aka ‘Silver Iron Man with Gun Mount’).  Hammer is building a bunch of giant Iron Mans, but he’s stupid, so Vanko gets to come in and build them instead.  Tony gets a new admin assistant played by Scarlett Johansson, so she’s got more going on.  And Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is still trying to get Iron Man to join the Avengers, apparently between eating fistfuls of donuts and cracking jokes.     

There’s just way, way too much jammed in here.  First, I get that Marvel is trying to build to the Avengers movie – but what was an effective end note at the conclusion of the first one now becomes an annoying distraction to plot movement.  Side note:  Samuel L. best get his ass in a gym before that starts filming.  Nick Fury is not a fat guy, period.  Johansson’s eventual reveal as super-spy Black Widow is telegraphed, and while her fight scene is fun, it pretty much doesn’t belong in this movie.      

Robert Downey Jr. is awesome in this, again.  That almost goes without saying – it’s the perfect part for the guy, he’s incredibly watchable, and I kind of feel like the surrounding movie fails him.  Also, there seems to be an indication at the close of the film that maybe Downey won’t be playing Iron Man in The Avengers, and will maybe be featured in a cameo at best.  If that turns out to be the case, this whole effort is already a failure.     

Much like Batman Returns proved years ago, two villains=too hard to follow.  Rourke is awesome in this….and then he disappears for about 45 minutes in favor of douchery from Rockwell’s character.  Unneccessary. I love Rockwell’s performance, he’s a hoot to watch, but the character’s prominence in the second and third acts is wrong.  He’s not the villain, he’s a comic foil.  More Rourke would have been the better choice.  Then again, I feel that statement applies to all movies.     

Look, I’m not saying this is unwatchable by any means.  It’s just forgettable, and that’s almost a bigger crime.  I’m all for suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to comic properties, but clown-car storytelling is not acceptable.  It makes all the fantastic sit in the back seat.  And the finale is really disappointing – there’s no tension, it feels very rushed, and the action scene previous to it was way more effective at build-to-climax.  Instead it’s just Iron Man and War Machine blowing the hell out of a billion Iron Man collectible figurines.  There’s simply no tension.     

Finally, a note directly to director Jon Favreau:  You need structure.  You had it put on you for Iron Man, and the result was better than anyone could have expected.  Clearly this time around, you had leeway.  You know what you did with that leeway?  I mean, besides trying to make a 43 topping pizza taste good?  First, you gave yourself a fight scene.  That’s fine that you want to be in these, and playing roly-poly comic foil and Tony Stark’s man-bitch Happy Hogan seems a nice fit – pretty much the same character you played in Daredevil, but that’s fine.  Happy Hogan does not have a fight scene, let alone one that he wins.  Happy Hogan gets coffee and cowers.  That’s his job.  He is a fifth-wheel, and I shouldn’t notice him.  Your second crime:  going overboard on the classic rock soundtrack.  A little AC/DC is fine, and was used well the last time out, but this time it felt more like you didn’t have a plan as much as you had a fistful of cassettes you pulled out of your ’85 Fiero on the way into the studio.     

In summary, Iron Man 2 isn’t horrible, but it’s not great either, and it’s predecessor put the bar too high for that to be acceptable.  It’s a throwaway summer action flick; there’s worse, there’s better…but considering it’s been done better before by the same people, I’m greatly disappointed with just ‘average’. 4 out of 7

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One Comment leave one →
  1. jen permalink
    2010/06/16 7:08 pm

    i enjoyed the film because it was enjoyable. and i could watch robert downey jr eat soup and be happy. as stated previously biggest fault in the movie was not enough rourke. and i am still offended that rhodey’s character was played by terrance howard and is now cheadle. is the main requirement for the part just that he be black? i find that sort of offensive to both fine actors. (well, cheadle is just ok).

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