Archive for May, 2010

Review: “Iron Man 2”

This movie could’ve been a disaster.  More bad guys, more hot girls, more action; sounds a lot like the premise for Sony’s Spider-Man 3, which, for all its good intentions, was like a disaster.  In that flick, it was obvious Raimi and Co. only had one villain in mind for Spider-Man to fight (Sandman), but due to studio pressure, which was pressured by rabid fanboys, Venom had to be included.  That created some uneven storytelling as the flick had a hard time deciding who was more important: the black suit or Sandman.  Alas, this is not a critique on Spider-Man 3, the only reason I bring it up is that Iron Man 2 could’ve been another Spider-Man 3.

But, it’s not.

What makes Iron Man 2 better than that movie is that, yes, they do ratchet everything up a notch, but they also do the same for the story.  While it doesn’t have the same ‘magic’ that the first one had, this does feel like the logical progression of the ‘Iron Man’ story (and, in the grander scheme, the ‘Avengers’ story).  The world is now dealing with its first superhero who isn’t hiding his identity, and rival nations are struggling to catch up.  Billionaire industrialist/entrepreneur/inventor/superhero Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is riding high off his reveal that he is Iron Man, much to the chagrin of the U.S. government, who wants the suit’s tech in order to make more of them.

The movie’s villains are Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), CEO of Hammer Industries and rival to Stark.  He’s not having any better luck crafting his own Iron Man, and teams up with bitter Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who’s father once worked with Tony’s father Howard in creating what would eventually be the ARC reactor (the tech that powers Iron Man).  Vanko wants Stark dead for what he believes is the Stark family’s fault in ruining Vanko’s family.

Instead of introducing each villain and having them team up against our hero at the end, director John Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux do the wise thing and have the team up towards the beginning.  In a nice twist, the heroes are the ones that wait until the last possible moment to unite.  Stark’s friend Jim ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle, taking over for Terence Howard) is having a hard time watching Stark do whatever he wants while believing that the suit should belong in more responsible hands, like the Air Force.

This leads Rhodes to donning the military-pimped Iron Man suit, dubbed the ‘Variable Threat Response Battle Suit’, though to comic fans, Rhodes is now known as the War Machine.  Iron Man and War Machine then put aside their differences to lay the smackdown on several dozen Iron Man suit drones and face off against Vanko (aka ‘Whiplash’) in a newly designed suit.

What surprised me about the first one was the lack of action.  There’s the cave escape near the end of Act 1, then the brief scene of Stark field testing the suit near the end of Act 2, then the final battle between Stark and his mentor that closed Act 3.  The main driving force behind the story was Stark himself and Downey, Jr.’s great performance.  Here, there’s actually less action (the racetrack fight in the trailers and the Iron Man/War Machine team-up at the end), but the story still moves at a brisk pace.  While it felt longer, they expand upon the story and even delve into Stark’s alcoholism, a point of focus in the comics.

There are some disappointments, however.  The final Whiplash fight is way too short, and the story seems to almost disregard the events of the first movie.  There’s almost no mention that I can remember of Obadiah Stane and the Iron Monger that tore up a freeway, or the fact that Stark has renounced making weapons for the military.  And while some may decry the addition of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as unnecessary, but she does provide some nice eye candy for all the guys, while kicking some serious ass near the end.  It’s also obvious she’ll play a role in the upcoming Avengers flick as well as any possible Iron Man sequels they may come up with.

Iron Man 2 may not be better than its predecessor, but I don’t think it’s worse than it, either.  It really is more of what was in the first, but in a lot of good ways.  The actors, especially Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow, are more comfortable with their roles, and the new additions prove to hold their own as well.  Also, the secret scene at the end of the credits serves to set things up nicely for Marvel Studios’ big summer next year, as well as the massive Avengers movie coming in 2012.

8.5/10

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May 11, 2010 at 9:01 am 1 comment


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