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Saturday, May 08, 2010

IRON MAN 2 (2010)

Well, I saw IRON MAN 2 last night and no one is more surprised than me by how much I enjoyed it. It is by no means perfect, but, a few very minor gripes aside, I actually prefer it to the first film. The original was letter-perfect until the last reel, when the narrative just kind of fell apart into rote predictability, plus it was an origin story that I already knew (and never liked all that much in the first place), so there was nothing new there for me other than the perfection of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. This time around, the origin story was out of the way, so the filmmakers could spend the whole movie concentrating on the characters, and that is what Iron man was always about for me. I was never into the comic's "armor of the month" aspect that reached often ludicrous extremes when I read it as a kid, but I always dug Stark's personality and the soap opera that was his day-to-day existence, so IRON MAN 2's ephasis on character-heavy goings on in lieu of wall-to-wall armored action/slugfests suited me just fine.

From this point on, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

IRON MAN 2 takes up some six months after the events of the first film and immediately addresses the fallout from Tony Stark very publicly revealing that he is Iron Man. The government, represented by a douchey senator (Gary Shandling), demands that Stark turn over the Iron Man armor to the military, but Stark "humbly" refuses on the grounds that thanks to the suit he has essentially ensured world peace , thus unwittingly forcing his best friend, Col. Rhodes, aka Rhodey (Don Cheadle, needlessly replacing Terrence Howard for no adequately explained reason), to side with the military against him.

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.

During the government hearing, ineffectual rival tech-maven Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is called in as an expert to discredit Stark's claims that the Iron Man armor is not a weapon, but he meets with resounding failure as Stark mercilessly humiliates him and the governmental bureaucrats, lighting the fuse of Hammer's quest for vengeance and an armor project to supersede Stark's technological supremacy (translation: male pissing contest). Meanwhile, Stark's body is slowly suffering the adverse effects of the arc reactor that keeps him alive. His blood toxicity is gradually increasing and the batteries that power the arc reactor burn out at an ever-increasing rate, so unless he comes up with some kind of solution, it's only a matter of time until he's stone-cold tits-up dead. Fearing the worst, Stark names his right-hand woman, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), as Stark Enterpises' new CEO, steps down, and embarks on a series of questionable activities that make no sense to her because she is unaware that Tony is getting ever closer to death's door.

Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke).

While a conflicted Rhodey is ordered to obtain an Iron Man suit for the military by any means necessary, bitter Russian tech genius Ivan Vanko (an especially grimy and unkempt Mickey Roarke) crafts his own arc reactor and uses it to power a lethal pair of electrified whips for the express purpose of killing Stark (the reasons for his vendetta are best explained by the film itself). Tracking Stark to a Formula 1 race in Monaco, Vanko's admittedly impressive murder attempt fails and lands him in the custody of the Monaco police, only to have his death faked and his escape engineered by Justin Hammer, who promptly places Vanko in charge of improving his munitions company's mini-army of suits that will make Stark's armor look like a Ben Cooper Halloween costume by comparison.

New Stark Enterprises employee "Natalie Rushman" (Scarlett Johansson).

As Stark's behavior becomes relentlessly obnoxious while his health deteriorates, new secretary Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johanssen) joins the Stark workforce and elevates Tony to new heights of perpetual priapism. After witnessing the smokin'-hot redhead hand Happy Hogan (director John Favreau in a role considerably expanded from the previous film) his ass in company's boxing ring with a stunning and lightning-swift martial arts takedown, it's apparent that there's more to Rushman than meets the eye. But that mystery takes a back seat to Stark completely fucking up all of Pepper's PR efforts in the wake of his antics during the government hearing by throwing a wild birthday party at which he gets drunk off his ass, dons his armor and does indoor skeet shooting with the suit's repulsor rays, unintentionally demonstrating just how dangerous the Iron Man technology can be when used irresponsibly. A pissed-off Rhodey puts on one of Stark's extra suits — a silver one, so it's distinguishable from Stark's signature red and gold — and fights him in an effort to stop his friend's dangerous shenanigans, leaving Stark with his ass kicked and making off with an Iron Man suit that he delivers straight to the Air Force.

Rhodey engages in some tough love and grand theft armor.

There's all of this and more going on in this story and each of the narrative threads seamlessly converge to form a satisfying climax, but it has its flaws to go along with its heights, so here are some items to consider:
  • I don't buy Rhodey being able to effortlessly operate an Iron Man suit on the first try, much less being able to fit into armor that was built to Stark's own particular body specs, especially considering that it would be built to be powered by an arc reactor that was directly implanted into his chest cavity. There is an argument to be made that Rhodey probably got to test drive one of the suits during the six months prior to where the film's story starts, but the script does not set that up.
  • I had serious reservations about Scarlett Johansson being cast as the legendary Russian superspy/S.H.I.E.L.D. operative known to comics fans as The Black Widow, but — lack of "moose and squirrel" accent notwithstanding — she turned out to be awesome.
She's perfect as Natasha and has a spectacular scene where she completely decimates a security squad at Hammer's headquarters that drew riotous applause and cheers from the theater audience. I can't wait to see her reprise the role as soon as possible.
  • Don Cheadle is a very good actor, but his Rhodey made little impression on me. He wasn't bad or anything, but in this story he served no purpose other than to be inside the armor that becomes War Machine.
  • The fun relationship between Stark and Pepper continues and it is very entertaining to behold. Downey and Paltrow would have been right at home in an old screwball comedy.
  • Mickey Roarke is quite menacing and creepy as Vanko, a man with a wholly understandable reason for his hatred of Stark. He's creepy, dangerous and brilliant, but he also appears to have never washed his hair or fingernails. Significantly, he is not the Whiplash we know from the comics, and I'm thankful for that; Whiplash is a big nothing of a villain in the comics, and here he is re-imagined to very good effect.
  • Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury returns and is given more screen time than previous appearances, which is only a good thing.
  • "Hey! Larry King!" Best Stan Lee cameo ever.
  • I could have done without the overuse of AC/DC on the soundtrack. For the next film I would like to suggest the inclusion of Motorhead's "Bomber" during any aerial action scenes. Also, Saxon's "Terminal Velocity" would be a natural pick.
  • Keep an eye out for Captain America's shield.
And whatever you do, don't walk out when the credits start to roll!

I went into IRON MAN 2 with zero expectations thanks to many reviews that described it as boring, bloated and overlong, but I seriously have to ask if the critics saw the same movie I did. I think the problem may be that most viewers wanted and expected to get a film that was nothing but wall-to-wall scenes of Stark in his Iron Man armor blowing shit up and providing them with a totally mindless feature-length video game projected onto the big screen. What they got instead was a film that had the balls to have an actual story that is heavily character-driven, with very little of Iron Man in action. The action sequences are very good and the fact that they are used sparingly only lends them stronger narrative impact; they are moments of combat and violence that naturally spring from the narrative, rather than mindless dazzle that amounts to nothing. In other words, the film is far more intelligent than what audiences that think the TRANSFORMERS movies are actually entertaining want, so a negative response was kind of unfortunately inevitable.

Look; I'm a guy who fucking hates the vast majority of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters that leave me feeling ripped off, so I was very pleasantly shocked at being presented with a movie that I actually want to see again in first-run. And at New York City ticket prices, no less! Unlike IRON MAN, I will definitely add IRON MAN 2 to my DVD collection when it gets released, so TRUST YER BUNCHE and check it out. (Just keep in mind that the kiddies may get restless.)


eddiesezz said...

Can't wait to see it! Want to see it again?

Glenn Greenberg said...

Okay, Bunche--does this make up for what I apparently said about INDEPENDENCE DAY all those years ago?


Ben Dale said...

Just one thing, about Rhodey being able to pilot the suit, I thought they addressed that well with one quick line. When he's eating donuts with Fat Nick Fury, Tony says "...and my best friend stole one of my suits." Fury replies with something along the lines of "Oh, and he was just able to pilot one of your suits?" with a suspicious glare. Tony just kind of looks at him like, "Ok, you got a point there.."
Kinda to show that either he had piloted it in the six months before, or Tony had modified it for him thinking he was dying.

I am glad you liked it. I agree it was imperfect, but also the first one didn't walk on water or anything. It felt like the second storyline in a comic series and the climax was better than the first movies. Overall a good time, setting up some good conflicts for 3 or Avengers too. Whichever happens first.

Mindlesskirby said...

I agree, Iron Man 2 felt more like a very good comic book then a movie. I bet you kind of feel like an ass now spamming your facebook wall with all those negative Iron Man 2 reviews

Draw Like Crazy said...

Nice I am really glad the movie isn't going to be a complete fail. I couldn't read the whole review though cause I don't want to ruin it for myself.

I started watching thunderbirds. I am amazed by this show!

Bunche said...


Bet you feel kind of like an ass for me having to — ONCE AGAIN — chastise you for not fully reading something. Yes, most of those reviews that I "spammed" myself with were negative, but in the interest of fairness some were positive/mixed.

Chi said...

The movie consistently trades genuine emotions for quick laughs, which ruins a lot of the narrative and emotional tones that an audience should feel. Not once did I feel sorry for Tony's condition or even get attached to any of the characters. The villains were rendered ineffective because one was too much of a laughing stock and the other is supposed to be a tough guy but he has a thing for a cute bird. There was no sense of real danger or believability that they could pose as a real threat to Stark. The movie was trying to be too much and lost a central theme that should have pulled it all together.

Anonymous said...

You asked for this:

Bunche, you must be on crack.

I saw Iron Man 2...

and it was SHIT!!!!!


First up: it had NO PLOT. It was just a sequence of unconnected incidents without sense or purpose. It reminded me of those useless superhero films where the hero mopes around instead of fighting crime; meanwhile the villains circle around him desperately searching for some kind of plan to justify their useless existence.

Yes, Iron Man 2 is this generation's "Batman and Robin".

Or Spiderman 3... without the dancing.

So we've got Whiplash who holds some sort of ridiculously convoluted grudge against Stark's father. Then there's Justin Hammer, Stark's rival. They form an uneasy alliance because Ivan knows how to build arc reactors. But the two villains pretty much sit on their arses for most of the film.

Hammer wants to replicate the Iron Man tech, a character motivation that is made irrelevant by the fact the military GIVE him War Machine halfway through the film. Dramatically, that makes NO SENSE.

Tony Stark spends the whole film acting like a huge arse-hole 'cos he's got blood poisoning. This time round there is nothing charming or endearing about Downey's performance. Stark is just a boorish, rude slob. He doesn't get to perform a single heroic act until the tacked-on and clich├ęd finale.

Shield turn up out of nowhere with a crate that contains en encoded formula that will cure Stark's condition and provide the world with a new energy source. Deus Ex machina or what?!! Dramatically, that makes NO SENSE.

Black Widow spends a good portion of the film fighting her way towards a room we already knew was empty. Dramatically, that makes NO SENSE.

Shield intervene to prevent Stark going over the edge, and yet it was Black Widow who gave Stark the advice to just go wild. Dramatically that makes... you get the idea.

There's a huge scene where Stark is clearly told he is under heavy security house arrest; the next scene sees him wandering the countryside free as a bird without an explanation: a bad bit of writing made all the worse by the fact that one of the characters actually refers to it later in the film. "I hear you got though our High Security Perimeter!" What was the point of mentioning it in the first place then?

What exactly did Tony Stark do to merit a medal at the end of this movie? He failed to stop a villain from blowing up his exhibition. Whoop de doo. The Drones were only targeting him anyway. If anything I'd have thought he'd be arrested on suspicion of corporate malpractise and manslaughter (if anyone was killed in the crossfire which they surely must have been).

he didn't prevent the Iron Man tech from falling into the hands of the military. In fact he seemed quite happy about it. His dad provided the solution to his problems. He didn't prevent the Expo from being destroyed. Just what, exactly did our "hero" achieve?

To be honest, writing this review has provided me with more entertainment than that film had to offer, because it committed the worst crime I can think of: it was boring. Let's try the kid test: one of them curled up on my lap and went to sleep during it. The other kept asking me what was going on. I wish I could have answered him.

The film has no plot and makes no sense. The characters were unsympathetic and alienating. The dialogue is mumbled and incoherent and no one is actually saying anything of any dramatic relevance anyway.

It bears all the hallmarks of script by committee. It's like they drew up a list of what was needed to be in the film (to service the Marvel franchise) and tried to make it all fit instead of what was actually dramatically logical.

sorry, but I'm not with you on this one.

Your man across the pond.