Saturday, May 15, 2010

Iron Man 2: 7 Pints

My first film review will be for Iron Man 2, directed by Jon Favreau, with Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell.

The movie is basically the story of Ivan Venko (Rourke), a Russian scientist and former spy whose father worked for Stark Industries and helped design the power core of the Iron Man suit many years ago. Dad dies, penniless and alone, and Ivan wants revenge. There to help him is Justin Hammer (Rockwell), a weapons maker and CEO of a Stark Industries rival. Amidst all of this, we discover that Tony Stark is dying because the power core is poisoning his blood. The more he uses the suit, the more sick he gets.

That's the basic premise.

Now, I was honestly surprised when the first Iron Man movie did so well. Let's face it, Iron Man isn't exactly one of the more commonly known superheroes, like Batman, Superman or Spider Man. Iron Man's more B-list, and I've always thought of him as Marvel's answer to Batman - a normal (but wealthy and brilliant) guy in a suit with gadgets. The first movie did so well because it had a solid script, solid direction, and the perfect star playing the perfect role. Robert Downey Jr. as a wild, egocentric but lovable alcoholic?


I like RDJ, and I always have. I was bummed when he got busted again and went to jail, and I'm happy to see him doing so well now, both professionally and personally. Tony Stark is a great role for him. Perfect, really. I also think that Iron Man 2 has more of a plot and a stronger, more interesting villain than the first film, and that it's a more coherent movie. So why did I enjoy it less?

First of all, I think, because it was more of a superhero movie than the first. The first was about a guy who became a hero despite himself. It didn't have a typical hero/villain setup until near the end, and largely was the story of a guy utterly unfit to be a hero becoming just that.

This movie sets up the good guys and bad guys right away and gets to work. I personally would have liked more scenes exploring the divide among the public over Iron Man - hero or danger? All we really get of this is Gary Shandling as a blowhard Senator (an interesting stretch), and Bill O'Reilly as a blowhard pundit (hardly a stretch). Everything else is pro-Iron Man, or ignores it all together. It's too bad, because it misses out on a lot of what I think made the first film work so well - playing with the contradictions that are Tony Stark/Iron Man. Instead we get 'Tony is dying' and some blatant advanced marketing for the upcoming Avengers movie. I've never seen a trailer for a movie actually in another movie, before. Here, it was a full-blown plot.

Scarlett Johansson was good, as were her assets (why Happy acts like her wrapping her thighs around his head is a bad thing is a mystery to me!), but ultimately unnecessary, as was Sam Jackson. The whole Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. thing could have been left out, Tony could have discovered his Dad's message on his own, and more time could have been spent on Tony Stark's struggle to stay heroic. Or they could have given the very good but underused Mickey Rourke more to do than toy with Rockwell's character and play on a computer for half the film.

Rockwell, himself, had too much screen time, and I say that as a fan. In Galaxy Quest the guy basically stole the fucking movie from Tim Allen, Alan Rickman and Tony Shaloub. That takes skill. In Moon, he showed that he can do serious drama, as well. Here, however, the character they gave him is a bit of a one trick wonder, and we get too much of him and not enough of the far more interesting and enigmatic character Rourke plays.

In the end, it's still a pretty good popcorn movie and a good superhero flick. I just think that they went too formula and tried too hard to set up the Avengers franchise instead of building on the first movie. Most casual moviegoers know fuckall about Nick Fury and all of that, so why bog the film down with it? Putting the Avengers stuff as an Easter Egg to fanboys after the credits worked well in the first movie. It should have continued that way.

No comments: