Iron Man 2
By Beth Davies-Stofka
May 8, 2010 - 10:51
Studios: Paramount Pictures
Writer(s): Justin Theroux
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke
Directed by: John Favreau
Running Time: 124 mins.
Release Date: May 7, 2010
Distributors: Paramount Pictures
Let's start with the bad. The film is cluttered. Frames and sets are crammed with too much stuff. As the story neared its climax, I kind of wished I could follow Agent Coulson to New Mexico, where dusty roads stretch for miles through empty landscapes.
The plotting is disorganized and meanders through Tony Stark's personal issues without reminding us why we should care.
The action sequences are very flashy but they don't produce any tension.
And while there's a lot that can be said about the dangers of an ever expanding military-industrial complex, I don't think it ever will be said. Certainly not by Marvel or anyone else invested in the ability of Iron Man to produce revenue. As a result, the movie suffers from a feeling of willful irrelevance.
Face it, the first Iron Man was a tight, deftly told story with incredible heart. We fell in love with a selfish and clueless billionaire whose industrial output was tearing families apart and destroying the lives of defenseless villagers on the other side of the world. One of those villagers saved Stark's life, opened his eyes, and gave him a shot at redemption. Stark eagerly seized on that opportunity, even when it nearly cost him his life. That was very cool. This sequel sprawls, tries to do too much, flies out of control, and lacks relevance. The story of a man seeking redemption went AWOL.
You know what? This movie is a kind of a letdown.
But let's not forget the good. Robert Downey Jr. is nearly as good as he was in the first movie, despite the muddy plotting. Terrence Howard is missed, but Don Cheadle delivers a promising, if underdeveloped, version of Rhodey. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau work extremely well with Downey Jr. and Cheadle, and no one steals scenes.
The other performances will blow your mind. Garry Shandling is awesomely oily as Senator Stern. Scarlett Johansson is voluptuous, sexy, mercurial, and dangerous, and telegraphs those qualities merely by moving silently through a room. Samuel L. Jackson does steal his scenes, and he should, since his job is to show that Nick Fury really can't be bothered with Stark's ridiculous ego.
And Mickey Rourke, oh my. He has very few lines. Many of them are delivered in Russian. When he speaks in English, his words are badly distorted by his thick Russian accent and the perennial toothpick in his mouth. And he makes you listen. After all, Rourke's vengeful Ivan Vanko has the only dialogue worth remembering, or pondering after the credits roll.
Just as in the first movie, director Jon Favreau displays a sophisticated grasp of the role of mass media in determining our society's shared reality. The return of a certain fictional Vanity Fair reporter is reinforced by the appearances of real life media stars Christiane Amanpour and Bill O'Reilly. There is a great theme lurking here – the packaged presentation of reality is very difficult to differentiate from the reality of experience.
This franchise has remarkable appeal. When I went on Friday afternoon, the people in the theater ranged in age from 5 years old to 75 years old. A group of wee children sat right next to me, and never showed fear or boredom. The movie is hilarious, and the violence is usually more implied than shown. It's an all-ages extravaganza perfect for an afternoon of popcorn and fizzy drinks (and there's probably an Iron Man-fizzy drink tie in to make the day complete). If it's raining today, I think you should go.
And by the way, stay through the credits. It's worth it.
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