Monday, May 17, 2010
IRON MAN 2 - MY REVIEW
Not having been a huge fan of the first Iron Man movie my expectations for Iron Man 2 were incredibly low. As early reviews rolled in that it just wasn't up to snuff I figured my disappointment was just and that once again Hollywood had failed me on a superhero level. Having seen the film I now realize that I will never, ever see eye to eye with critics nor the general movie going public for I thought Iron Man 2 was absolutely wonderful. Where the first film had no pacing, this has plenty, where the first film had no discernible villain, the sequel has two and where the first movie had no third act, Iron Man 2 delivers with serious punch. I can only suppose the folks who said this movie was a mess and had too much going on either suffer from ADD or saw a different cut of the film.
I think one thing that made folks uneasy was how director Jon Favereau balanced the structure of the movie like a house of cards. Each plot point rested heavily on the next to the point you began to feel as though the whole movie will topple over. Again and again Favereau pulled it out just in the nick of time, which added a layer of tension outside of the events in the film. I was interested in how people said there was no focus to the movie when it was clear Tony Stark was the focus, everything happening in the film was a direct result of his actions. His enemies, the Government, the creation of War Machine, the resentment of his friends, all Tony's doing and all obviously Tony's doing.
Favereau also let his characters grow here, letting the film take a step back from the standard action movie to grow some real relationships. Instead of this being the Robert Downey JR show everybody in the film gets some meat to chew on. To be honest several of the supporting cast including Don Cheadle as Rhodey and Garry Shandling as a sleazy politician steal the show from Downey JR. In fact the casting of Iron Man 2 is something that clicks for the first time ever. I didn't think any of these people were very good in the first film but they all nailed their parts here.
For instance Tony Stark is so over the top egotistical in this movie thanks to his new found fame that you want to hate him but you really can't. That's exactly how Robert Downey JR is so suddenly the role really becomes his. Given more to do Gwenyth Paltrow rises to the occasion and even Favereau's cameo as Happy The Bodyguard is fucking awesome. To be honest the only person left out in the cold is Scarlett Johansson but that's mainly because Black Widow has absolutely no reason to be in the film other than a cheap "save the day" writer's trick towards the end.
The two performances that stand out here are Cheadle as Rhodey and Sam Rockwell as fellow weapons tycoon Justin Hammer. Anybody who thought Cheadle wouldn't kick ass as the new Rhodey will be left feeling much better after the film. Cheadle brings a strong determination to the character and a force of will that easily matches Downey Jr. When the two face off there's real tension there, you find yourself rooting for both men.
Sam Rockwell is the backbone of the entire film and it sucks because his name is getting lost in the bigger star shuffle. Rockwell owns the character of Justin Hammer and plays it perfectly. He's sleazy, funny, insane and you can feel the hatred he has towards Tony Stark with every breath. Rockwell approaches Hammer as a spoiled child who know he's not as brilliant, handsome or charming as Tony Stark and it burns him to his core. That dedication to destroying Stark allows the decisions Hammer makes in the film to make sense no matter how off the wall. Without Rockwell there is no Iron Man 2, period.
People are all up in arms about Mickey Rourke's Whiplash and while he's a good villain the character suffers from Rourke's need to show how incredibly thespian he is. At no point does it feel like Rourke is enjoying the character or having fun with it so Whiplash comes across too heavy handed. Favereau manages to save the whole thing by only giving us doses of Whiplash. Right when it feels like too much he cuts and moves on to another event in the movie.
Action wise I thought there was a perfect ratio of Iron Man in the movie. Favereau doesn't over do it and makes sure that when Iron Man shows up the action is so thoroughly kick ass you can't help but cheer. What's really great here is that the filmmakers learned from their lack of a third act in Iron Man and worked to really focus everything on a strong delivery for the sequel. I was also happy that the Nick Fury scene actually played a part in the plot of the film, it wasn't just "Hey guys remember the Avengers movie is coming out soon". For us super comic book geeks look for a kick ass Captain America nod that I actually found cooler than the post-credits Thor scene.
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the problems in the movie. First of all whenever Tony Stark becomes righteous or reflective it doesn't work, Robert Downey JR just can't play those scenes well. As I said before Black Widow has zero reason to be in the movie at all so whenever she appears it's a real distraction. There's also a cheesy subplot involving Stark's father that could have worked had it not been so "Adrian's Speech To Rocky" cliche. Outside of that and a few tiny moments that didn't work nothing here took away from the good time of the movie.
I really enjoyed the fact that Jon Favereau realized that Iron Man to is bright, splashy and fun. This isn't Batman or Spider-Man, there's no melancholy darkness here and adding some to bring in the Dark Knight crowd would have ruined the film. Iron Man 2 is an exciting, action packed, funny and oddly charming superhero movie that proves how good these films can be if handled by the right people.