PREFACE: I originally wrote this review to Iron Man 2 back in May when the movie originally came out. However, I was also wrapping up one of my Masters courses at the same time and couldn't finish the review when it would have been timely. So I just kind of tucked it away for a rainy day.
Considering that Iron Man 2 is now out on DVD and this week's comic is late due to the fact that we moved into a new home last week, now seem liked a good time to dust it off and post it to the site.
I hope to have a new comic for you later in the week. But hopefully, until then, this review will tide you over. Thanks for your patience and understanding!
I had to watch Iron Man 2 twice before writing this review. As the die-hard Iron Man fan you know me to be, that should cause you some concern.
After watching the film the first time a week ago, I was undoubtedly entertained. But I left the theater questioning if I actually liked the film.
I enjoyed the movie much more the second time through. While it lacks the sense of discover and wonder of the first film, I still appreciate the final product. I like both films. They’re just different from each other.
First, let’s talk about the performances.
It should go without saying that Robert Downey Jr. owns this film six ways from Sunday. His improvisational style is loose, yet hyper-kinetic. You can’t help but watch the guy as he plays Stark as a genius whose mouth can’t keep up with his brain.
Compared to RDJ, however, the rest of the cast looks like stuttering wallpaper. Gwyneth Paltrow tries to match wits as Stark’s Girl Friday – Pepper Pots, but comes of like much more of a pecking hen then she did in the first movie.
Don Cheadle (stepping in for Terrance Howard) as Stark’s friend and confidant James “Rhodey” Rhodes isn’t given much to do except glower and become frustrated by Stark’s antics.
Similarly, Mickey Rourke – who plays the most tan Russian you’ve ever seen, the villain Ivan Vanko – is also curiously mute. His performance is relegated largely to sideways glances, the occasional chuckle and muttered Russian sentences.
Rourke tries to add texture to Vanko by giving him a parrot as a pet and an omnipresent toothpick on which to chew. He has also appeared to have stolen some of Viggo Mortensen's character research from Eastern Promises, adorning Vanko with a tapestry of Russian prison tattoos. We’re supposed to believe this grimy ball of eccentricities is a brilliant engineer and physicist?
Lastly, Scarlet Johansson - as S.H.I.E.L.D. undercover operative Natasha Romanoff - sucks the life out of nearly every scene she’s in. Is Downey Jr. is 100% charm, Johansson is anti-charm. Like the rest, she’s given very few lines of dialogue, so she spends most of the time trying to pose like a bad-ass while clomping around in knee-high stilettos. It’s as awkward as it sounds
The only performer besides RDJ that looks like he’s having any fun is Sam Rockwell as Stark’s corporate rival, Justin Hammer. It is as if director Jon Favreau instructed Rockwell to do a bad Robert Downey Jr. impression and let him off the chain. He prances, he preens, he makes Hammer look like a wolf in sheep’s clothing trying WAY too hard to sell you something and ALL of it works. I’m curious how much of Rockwell’s performance was improvised considering how much of his performance mirrors Downey Jr. in its tone.
Ultimately, Iron Man 2’s biggest problem is its script by Justin Theroux. If not for the charm and improvisational skills of RDJ and Rockwell, one wonders if the film has anything original to say at all.
Sure, there are plot points that propel the movie forward – the US government wants to Tony to turn over the Iron Man technology, meanwhile, the RT unit in Tony’s chest is killing him. Ivan Vanko wants to avenge his father who once worked with Tony's father. Pepper is appointed to CEO of Stark Industries and Rhodey steals the Mark II – but the script lacks the connective tissue to form a cohesive experience. Taken in chunks, Iron Man 2 is fascinating. Stitched together? Less so.
I presumed since the first movie was so successful that we might get to see more of the Iron Man armor in action, but that's not entirely the case.
While the initial confrontation between Tony and Whiplash debuts the awesome suitcase armor, it's on-screen briefly and is dismantled pretty quick. Fan favorite War Machine makes an appearance, but spends most of it standing around at the Stark Expo. When it DOES launch into action, Rhodey's not even in control of it! The suit's programming has been commandeered by Whiplash.
Free of Whiplash's influence in the final confrontation, War Machine and Iron Man put the smack down on a platoon of robot drones. But this battle is effectively meaningless considering that these are robot drones we're talking about and there's nothing really at stake.
By the time Whiplash shows up in a more souped up version of his laser-whip rig, there's barely any time left in the movie to showcase a proper fight. It's edited horribly and over way too soon.
Something that any good superhero movie does is give the audience the sense of wonder and discovery of the protagonist discovering their powers. Sam Raimi did an excellent job of this in the first Spider-Man and Favreau did a great job as well in the first Iron Man.
Considering Stark's penchant for upgrades, it would be very easy to reinsert that sense of wonder and discovery into a sequel - new technology, new features of the armor and so on. While the suitcase armor was a step in the right direction, they didn't push the concept far enough. The third act feels like a huge step back.
Did I love Iron Man 2? Of course I did. But I'm also a crazed fan.
That said, I'm not so blinded by my undying admiration for the character that I can't recognize that the film has problems. Whereas the first movie rocketed out of theaters with energy and a sense of purpose that breathed fresh air the super hero genre ("I am Iron Man." - END CREDITS!), Iron Man 2 stagnates and doesn't fulfill the promise of the first film.