Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was a surprise to many people. In spite of a rather shoddy third act, it was a funny, exciting and extremely enjoyable film backed by some smart and inspired production choices. No more than two years later and Favreau and crew are back with a sequel. Iron Man 2 packs higher expectations due to its predecessor’s success but lacks some of the positive, pre-release word of mouth that the first film seemed to drown in (the dismissal of Terrence Howard was upsetting to say the least). Nonetheless, I hightailed it to the theater a few nights ago to catch the film.
So, how was it?
Short answer? It was pretty good.
Long answer below.
It’s no secret that casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was a stroke of genius and despite a few missteps in the film (which I’ll get into), it’s his performance that really drives this movie and makes it worthwhile. Stark is funny, cocky, hard-headed, a ladies man, a genius and a quick thinker and it’s Downey Jr.’s acting and demeanor that really sells us on the part. His work in the first film was fresh and likeable and his work on the sequel is just as good.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, either because of script deficiencies or just plain acting, doesn’t quite reach those standards. Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is as charming as she was in the first film but her subplot is a throwaway. Rourke is believable as antagonist Ivan Vanko but the character’s motivations are shallow and, in turn, the character becomes uninteresting. Scarlett Johansson is just kinda there really. My two biggest issues in terms of casting and characters though, lies with Don Cheadle and Sam Rockwell. As Rhodey, Cheadle lacks all of the charisma, intensity and chemistry with his cast mates that Terrence Howard portrayed in the first film. That’s probably one of the more disappointing aspects of Iron Man 2, being reminded of how much better if would’ve been with Howard on board, especially considering Rhodey’s larger role in the sequel. Sam Rockwell’s character, on the other hand, is the typical greedy and obnoxious “second best” and he’s just extremely annoying in every single scene he’s in. Why he got so much screen time over Mickey Rourke is beyond me.
The story itself, to put it as briefly and succinctly as I can, feels like a long build-up to a 20 minute fight sequence at the end and, during those first 90 minutes or so, most of the movie deals with stuff that seems inconsequential. The subplot of Tony Stark’s slow death, for example, feels underdeveloped and thus lacks significance in the face of the larger events taking place in the film. Similarly, the Black Widow adds nothing more than a few jokes, a fight scene at the end, some more ties to The Avengers and not much else. There are two fight scenes prior to the big finale and one is over before it even starts and the other just comes across as being silly. Favreau appears hell bent on rectifying the weak finale in the first film but seems to have done so at the expense of at least 2/3 of the movie. I also have an issue with the big climax in that facing off against one interesting bad guy is better than facing off against 40 robots that you could care less about but I digress.
Generally though, the plot deals with some interesting themes. There’s an aspect of legacy and leaving something behind for future generations that is rather interesting but some of the more engaging parts of the film are the real world political implications of a person owning a suit with such destructive power and it’s handled in a believable manner that tries to cover all the bases (even if the very end kind of does away with it all in favor of a typically clean cut superhero movie ending where everything is resolved harmoniously). This is an aspect that has been handled only in recent years in the comics (and only in the most superficial ways) so it was refreshing to see someone take a stab at it. Conversely, Tony’s alcoholism problems, which is a revered part of the character’s comic book history, is dumbed down to basically “Tony gets drunk and makes a fool of himself.”
So yeah, the movie is hit or miss in a lot of places. As a sequel, it was bound to lose some of the “oomph” that made the first Iron Man so memorable but, even taking that into consideration, Iron Man 2 doesn’t manage to be anything more than an above average. There was a lot more Avengers stuff thrown in this time around and all of it is really exciting to me as a comic book fan. It’s such a bold move to establish separate film franchises and have it all come to a head in one massive, bombastic film and I really can’t wait to see how the rest of the movies in the line unfold. Iron Man 2 though, is not a film that I’ll be revisiting very often.Posted on May 21, 2010 in Movies, Reviews |