May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 (5/10/2010)

Lettergrade: C

Part of what made the first Iron Man such a breath of fresh air two years ago is that modest expectations allowed it to be fun, lean, and pretty light on the brooding superhero stuff that had become so commonplace in other comic book movies around that time. Iron Man 2 is the sequel to a movie that wound up being very successful at the box office, meaning that it is obliged to be a little bigger and more of an action spectacle than its predecessor. As a result, it also feels a little more ordinary and not quite as good. It's certainly not a bad movie, but at 2 hours, 10 minutes, it's a little too dull to really justify its running time, and perhaps feels more like the summer movie you go to see because the one you want to see isn't out yet (which is kind of what I thought the first picture was going to be in relation to The Dark Knight back in 2008).

Once again, Robert Downey Jr. is a narcissistic, beaver-chasing, drug addict, alcoholic asshole, meaning that he slips into the role of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) seamlessly. As the movie starts, a Russian Mickey Rourke just happens to be watching the end of the first movie on television (specifically, the scene where Stark reveals that he's been Iron Man all along at a press conference), which inspires Rourke to spend the entire opening credit sequence building what we will later find out is a very powerful S&M outfit complete with electric whips that are powerful enough to cut through cars and bust Iron Man up at various points during the picture.

But before that happens, Stark. has to a face a Congressional hearing in Washington led by Senator Gary Shandling, who wants to commandeer the Iron Man suit for use by the US military to protect the nation, much as he himself has commandeered an insane amount of fat to protect his puffy, bloated face from aging. Downey Jr. argues he has successfully privatized world peace (a statement which goes completely unsupported... we don't see him dismantling weapons or even stopping any global criminal activity or anything of the sort), and further says that no one else is even close to developing a suit that rivals what his Iron Man suit can do. The only other person even trying is apparently Sam Rockwell, appearing as a sleazy weapons contractor named Justin Hammer who looks like he's auditioning for a role on the next season of Mad Men.

Later on, after the scene on the race track with the whips that's in all the trailers, Rourke says that he didn't want to kill Iron Man, but just wound him and then watch the world consume him afterward. It's a nice line, but again, there's virtually zero demonstrative evidence that anything of the sort results from that action. Oh, the fat around Shandling's face twitches with vindicated triumph, but I don't think any actual plot points or anything develop from it.

I guess one thing that does happen, though, is that Hammer hires Rourke to build a bunch of knock off Iron Man suits that will be debuted at Tony Stark's WMD Expo that happens more or less continuously in New York. This all ramps up to the film's big climax, which is a bit of a let down for the same reason that the climax for the first movie was a let down. In the first movie, it was basically Iron Man versus an even bigger Iron Man! Played by The Dude, but still. In this one, it's Iron Man vs. a lot of other Iron Men!

The scenes between Morton Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, the heart of what made the first movie so good, completely feel 100% improvised in this one, often with dialogue that overlaps so excessively that you cannot understand what either one is saying. I don't know who at Marvel felt that this movie needed to be more like a Robert Altman movie, but it really feels like they made the wrong decisions here. In the middle of the movie, there are lengthy and irritating sequences like the behind-the-scenes footage of Robert Downey Jr. drunk in the Iron Man suit (which was cleverly edited into the movie to make it look like the screenwriters had written a scene where Tony Stark is drunk at his own birthday party).

Don Cheadle steps into the role played by Terence Howard in the first movie (he will become Black Iron Man later in the flick), and Sam Jackson puts on the crappy eye patch he wore during the end credit cookie of Iron Man 1 and kinda vaguely plays Nick Fury, the super secret head of S.H.I.E.L.D. which will figure into the planned Avengers movie in a few years (basically, it's Marvel Comics version of Superfriends).

So anyway, there we are. The first movie was an above average bit of summer fun, and while this movie is still alright, it gave me plenty of time to wonder why I was so excited to see it in the first place. I guess you can blame the element of surprise vs. the element of expectation. I had no idea who Iron Man even was in 2008 until Paramount started marketing a movie about him. I think I have a new way to measure event movies, though: Is the movie better than the Burger King ad that comes with it?

In this case, no it isn't.

My review of the first Iron Man

No comments:

Post a Comment