Tuesday, May 11, 2010

[Movie Review] Iron Man 2

I was a huge fan of the first Iron Man movie, somewhat to my own surprise. I never really read the Iron Man comics, so I didn't come to the film with a wealth of knowledge or a big sense of devotion to the character(s). Iron Man was always a peripheral character for me, a minor player who wandered into some of the comics I did read, such as Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and other Marvel titles.

The original Iron Man just blew me out of my seat. Tony Stark was a complete anti-hero - a rich, spoiled billionaire playboy, sort of like Bruce Wayne without all the brooding. As a character, he had to undergo a transformation and have his eyes opened in order to come into his own as a do-gooder. He also had to be betrayed by one of his closest advisers to realize who his true friends were. The combination of outstanding action scenes plus Tony Stark's engineering exercises along with some hysterically funny dialogue and situations came together to make Iron Man a spectacular film, one that I've since re-watched many times and continue to enjoy.

I was very worried that Iron Man 2 would lose some of its humor. Based on the reaction of the audience I was with, I might conclude that it had, because they didn't seem to laugh at anything. Luckily, though, I was there too and was able to guffaw where appropriate. It was, once again, a very clever, funny movie with some witty banter to keep me amused in between scenes of destruction.

Iron Man 2 is actually much more complex and, therefore, daring than the first movie. The original basically just had to juggle Tony vs. his supposed friend and business partner Obadiah Stane. Tony escaped from captivity, built and upgraded his suit, and took on a band of militant Afghanis, but then it turned out all of that had been organized by Stane in an effort to oust and destroy Stark. So the whole film was really Stark vs. Stane, culminating in the huge battle between Stark as Iron Man and Stane as Iron Monger.

Iron Man 2 has tremendously more conflict. There's Tony Stark's (Roberty Downey Jr.) rivalry with second-string weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). There's his rivalry with the US Government, personified by Senator Stern (Gary Shandling). There's the vendetta of Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). There's his semi-betrayal by frustrated friend and Air Force Lt. Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle this time). And there's his complex relationship with Nick Fury's (Samual L. Jackson) S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, which is slowly revealing itself as a serious behind-the-scenes player in the Marvel universe. And, naturally, Tony has his own personal demons to battle as well, from the physical toll his own technology is taking on his body to his feelings for his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwynneth Paltrow). Whoa! That's WAAY more complex than the first film.

I've read reactions to the film that said it jumped around too much between characters. Rubbish! This is no Spider-Man 3 here, even if it did have Stark busting loose and then busting up a dance party at one point. This was an outstanding blend of character development, surprises, and action scenes, all laced with the irreverent Stark wit and even some clever one-liners from Rhodes as the armored War Machine.

There were certainly some opportunities for further development and I wouldn't have minded if it had been a little longer (it sure didn't FEEL like 124 minutes. Wow - I'm amazed it was longer than 90) to better explore some of the questions. For instance, when Tony tears up the dance party, I THINK we were supposed to understand that he wasn't drunk, so much as suffering ill-effects from his own technologies. But I wasn't sure that was the case. But that's a minor nit compared to the overall excellence of this movie. Pay no attention to the nay-sayers. Iron Man is the first big hit of the 2010 Blockbuster Movie Season. More, it totally lived up to my expectations as a sequel, and I admit I was very worried that it wouldn't. The marketing and hype for this movie reached a fever pitch, and it's insanely hard to live up to that level of expectation. Iron Man 2 did it, though, and any fan of action blockbusters or superhero films will be well served by seeing it. I give Iron Man 2 an A+.

Oh, and if you go to see it, stay through the (incredibly long, I'll grant you) credits for a super-short sneak-peak at Marvel's next big adventure.


  1. Darn I left before the credits ended, I guess it was Thor? I liked the movie too! One character you didn't mention in your review that I enjoyed was The Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. I'd like to see a feature movie with her as the lead. 90+ minutes of Ms. Johansson in spandex, I'll take that! :) Even if the movie sucked it would be worth it! ;)

    Really loved that scene where she was kicking the crap out of like a dozen baddies while Happy is struggling with one guy. (He's down!, oops...) Great scene and fun movie!

  2. Agreed - Black Widow was an awesome character and the scene you reference was amazing. Did you know that the character of Happy is played by the film's director, Jon Favreau? I didn't until I saw the name in the credits.

    I think Marvel could do a lot worse than creating a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie as part of their universe of crossovers. As cool as Jackson looks with the black outfit and the eyepatch, it would be terrific to see him actually, you know, DO SOMETHING.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!