Iron Man 2…Much Awesome

Iron Man 2 has been a difficult review for me to write. Firstly – my weekend was intense with a remodeling project. Secondly, my last few nights have been busy. Thirdly…wasn’t sure I had much emotional investment in the film to do any form of analysis.

Despite all that – here ya go.

PLOT

Yes – the critiques are that the movie tries to do too much in it’s bloated two hour run-time. Yes, it could have easily stretched into four hours to add for lots of character development and so much more action…but it never felt like the film was wobbling or exceeding it’s grasp on the material. Unlike The Dark Knight, which had multiple endings and felt too long. Ironman 2, seemed just a bit too short.

A quick summary – Tony Stark is holding a technology expo as a throwback to his late father right in the middle of some manner of Senate investigation or trial regarding the Iron Man suit and it’s potential value as a weapon. The US military wants to get it’s grubby mitts on the technology (ala Iron Monger). Have a feeling this is going to be a re-occuring theme throughout the franchise…and it’s something that seems totally feasible to me. Yes – if this technology existed, the US Arms folks and Defense contractors would be salivating.

These kinds of details inject the Iron Man mythos, the hot-rod red suit and smarmy playboy cheese with a tangible sense of realism. Something I never felt in The Dark Knight film (to take another stab at that Comic Book Movie darling). Seriously people – get off the jock of that film. Aside from Heath Ledger’s performance…it wasn’t groundbreaking or mind-blowing, and it wasn’t the first film to treat comic book movies without kid gloves. So there.

Meanwhile – in some soviet country somewheres – Ivan Vanko is creating a modified version of the Iron Man suit (with special effects galore via electric whips) based on designs made by his recently expired destitute father, and Stark’s own papa. It appears that Stark Senior claimed all the glory for the tech and left Vanko Senior to rot in the mother country.

Vanko is out for revenge – and his clashing with Iron Man gets the best action-sequences, second only to some fancy footwork by Black Widow (Scar Jo). Sam Rockwell sleazes around as a Defense Contractor yearning to be just as skanky and clueless as Stark himself. Except he’s more eviler. It ends with lots of Iron clanking action.

ALSO: Stark’s mystery illness, hints of alcoholism and S.H.I.E.L.D. bits thrown in on top.

ACTORS

Robert Downey Jr really can’t lose in the role of Iron Man. Tony Stark, a smarmy genius playboy fits him like an exquisite tailor made suit. And what’s more? He’s fun to watch. There isn’t a single moment on-screen where the audience is thinking – geez, why are we still watching this guy? He chomps up the scenery, and the best the other actors can hope to do is keep up. Right? I mean, let’s just say it like it is.

Gwyneth Paltrow does her best as Pepper Potts. It doesn’t help that the original material is sexist garbage. They step up her character a bit more from the first film, and she’s accepts the CEO position of Stark Industries (is that a spoiler? If so – rather minor). The joke is – she’s already doing the job anyway. Any attempt to paint it as though she’s assumed more responsibility since becoming the CEO is kind of laughable. Whatevs – my hopes for women in this particular franchise and for the Avengers are slim. But yay for an attempt at inclusion, even if it’s botched?

I’m not to keen on how things wrapped up for her at the end of this flick.

Don Cheadle lays waste to any of the grumblings about his role with the very first line he utters on screen – “Yes, it’s me. I’m here, so deal with it.” Nuff said. He does a fine turn as Colonel James Rhodes (Rhodey), but the chemistry between Cheadle and Downey IS different. There isn’t much film time for them to establish solid rapport. We all know that was supposed to have been dealt with in the original. There were a few moments between them that felt clunky, and Rhodes *SPOILER* stealing the Ironman suit didn’t come off as well as it could have.

But the battle between the two in the Stark mansion? Awesome. Drunken Tony Stark in the Ironman suit? Awesome. War Machine? Awesome.

Mickey Rourke turns in a guttural and sincere performance as Vanko (aka Whiplash aka Blacklash aka Crimson Dynamo). This man has been on a crazy roll since Sin City – has he really sucked at anything? He doesn’t require much screen time to make his presence felt, and some of the best character interactions happen between him and RDJ in their quieter moments together.

BRIEF RANT

Part of what makes a great superhero movie – is having a believable and engaging super-villain. I would say that so far – The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2 have boasted some of the best villain performances to date. I’m sure someone will argue that point, and I would love to hear thoughts on this one.

BACK TO THE ACTORS

Sam Rockwell as the desperate yet money-grubbing defense contractor Justin Hammer worked on multiple levels. Rockwell painted him as pathetic, calculating, and maniacal, with a dash of humor. His motivation for wanting to destroy Stark is believable. Of course, his association with Vanko does alter the trajectory of his plans, but I don’t want to spoil that for you.

Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow is quite under-used here. But with all the other plot happening – there isn’t much more for her to be than eye-candy. Yes, she is eye candy. At least to Stark. And Stark is our gaze-man…we see the world through his eyes. To us, she’s a mystifying secretary sex kitten one moment, and a cold, detached spandex clad double agent the next.

I didn’t dislike her. She was simply confounding, without enough time to work out WHY. I wasn’t quite sure what subtext was supposed to be playing out between the Widow and Pepper Potts in their brief exchanges. One moment they are catty, the next they are BFFs. And why does BW dissapear whenever Stark encounters danger?

My feeling is that loads of her character development was left on the cutting room floor. That’s the only excuse for teasing out these bits without any effective pay-off. And why is she sexing up RDJ? Does secretary/spy really require that much oozey sex?

A SIDE NOTE

Use her effectively in The Avengers flick.

…and now onto something more awesome…

SPECIAL EFFECTS

Were like a dream. Watching the suitcase Ironman suit unfold on the big screen is nothing compared to watching it on your TV at home. Very cool. In fact, the whole race-car sequence was visually inspired. I would say it even trumped the final action scene for me.

Another great scene – when Stark is piecing together the mystery of his father in the lab, all of the projected computer elements were serenely beautiful.  Watching Downey sifting the streams of light with his hands was swift and a little breath-taking to behold…kinda like the merging of magic and technology. It came off as some kind of one man symphony, and I could have honestly sat through at least an hour watching his fingers fiddle in the air with computer-animated models. This was as much the RDJ performance as it was the special effects team that brought this sequence to life. But ya know – kudos to both.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I don’t like Iron Man as a comic book series or Tony Stark as a character. I never have and possibly never will. The playboy, devil-may-care with oodles of charm and cash with which to orchestrate his fantasy life of banging women and driving fast cars is NEVER going to entice me to the material. I would and do feel the same way about equivalent characters of my own gender (see my fond dislike for Sex and the City).

But I love watching RDJ and fancy graphics and big explosions…and I love how this film is shaping things up for Thor and Captain America and The Avengers flick in the near future.

Obviously a bit of love/hate going on here. But the over-arching theme is awesome. Too much of it.

LINK LOVE:

- Feminist Backlash? And How! (not really getting the Iron Man Suit = Dong reference here though…)

- /Film Review

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 29 year old woman with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Minor in Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson and two pugs, Sunny and Jabba. She spends her free time devouring books, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

5 responses to “Iron Man 2…Much Awesome”

  1. Addie says :

    Oh, I’m glad you shared your thoughts on the movie here. I agree with my Dad and most of the critics that this wasn’t as strong as the original. But I had tremendous fun with it. I remember profs in my CS department talking about declining enrollment back when I was in school (you can see how sharply it declined in an image I shared on my FB today) and how to draw people to the discipline. One of the profs in attendance joked that we needed a “CSI” of computer folks.

    I love the Ironman franchise for making physics and engineering (including programming) look so sexy. I have extra appreciation for Stark’s swagger, because dude knows his shit. And he pulls it off with a charisma that the actual engineers I see in my community poorly attempt, and fail at – all the time. What I really enjoy here is that Stark and Vanko’s power really comes from their super-smart brains, not their suits and inventions. It’s a nice change from the typical superhero model being first and foremost about brawn (and Johannson’s Black Widow was a good example that. So she can bring a dude to the floor by grabbing his neck with her ankles; but what semblance of a personality does she actually have?)

    Of course with loving the braininess, and paying more attention to it, the programmer in me also takes major issue with the logistics of a lot of the tech in the movie. I won’t go into details, except that I had a huge laugh out loud moment during the scene where Rhodes’ suit was being rebooted. The terminal is moving too fast to catch most of the text, but what I DID see was some HTML, which was just hilarious. The contrast between the vast technical limitations of HTML and the idea that any component of Rhodes’ suit ran on it was too much.

    Also, as someone not familiar with the franchise, I thought they did a really poor job of explaining why Rhodes was able to just step into a suit and make it work for him – one mention of the prototype suits during the court hearings and that’s that? I personally find the idea that the suit depends on Stark one of the more endearing concepts behind the character, so the way they so happily skipped Rhodes into the suit really bothered me. My father can attest.

    I feel similarly conflicted about Potts. I really like her character in the movie, as the director appears to have given her brains to match up to Stark. Her personality is a nice foil to his. But I know her role is stereotypical and problematic. I also loved that Stark didn’t end up with the her in the first movie; that Potts gave in so easily this time really bugged me.

    As a final note, did you notice the horrible self-tanner hands that Rockwell’s character had, most obvious during the scene in the airport hangar? I thought it was a lovely little smarmy touch that was never overtly pointed out in the rest of the film.

  2. Troy says :

    In the end, I was glad I watched Iron Man 2, but I wasn’t compelely on the “IRON MAN 2 IS AWESOME” Train.

    • tinyheroes says :

      I can respect that. As a less-than-enthusiastic-Iron-Man watcher, I thought this had a lot more action and fun graphics…and at least an attempt at bringing some women on board. :)

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