I saw Iron Man 2 this Saturday and it has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts. The reason for the delay is that I didn’t want the glee of seeing this year’s eagerly awaited big comic book behemoth to keep me from giving a fair assessment. Well all that well-intentioned crap aside, I really enjoyed this sequel. Being that it was a follow-up to an equally successful film, this got the green light to go big, and so it did.
PREMISE: Billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), his identity no longer concealed from the world, faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public and receives tension and backlash for not sharing his technology with the military. As he is defiantly unwilling to hand over his Iron Man technology, Stark finds that being a super hero is the least of his problems. His duality loyalty to his friends and country are pushed to the limits as he faces new and powerful enemies.
HIGHS: Beginning just as the events of the first Iron Man wrapped up, the decision to make the sequel feel like a longer first installment than a “5 years later” type set up just worked. This film allowed us to follow Tony thorough his overconfident second and third steps as he’s still only a newly minted super hero. He has quite a way to go before he gets to that “Invincible” Iron Man status.
Downey (in one of his best roles yet, I’d say) completely owned the movie. Playing a vulnerable Stark still accepting his duality is the key to this whole series and I don’t think they could have cast anyone better. His continual growth is still in flux and he continues to refrain from being the carefree billionaire playboy he tried to distance himself from during the entire first film. But sometimes he can’t help being Tony and, in those sequences where it seems he’s back to his old tricks, is just a treat to watch someone as talented as Downey act it all out.
Second to Downey, I really have to give high points to Sam Rockwell who just stole the show. To me, he had the best character arc in the film, as he progressed from timid engineer with Tony Stark envy to a damn near Stark impersonator. Rockwell stole every scene he was in. While Mickey Rourke plays the film’s dominant heavy Whiplash, I was more impressed and therefore must speak up for Rockwell in both character and performance.Rourke, to me, didn’t have the presence the trailers made him appear to have.That was a bit disappointing after the momentum he gathered from The Wrestler as I thought he’d steal the show for sure.
But based on his charismatic turn, I’m hoping to see Rockwell should they bring Justin Hammer back for the next Iron Man. Since the rumors are saying it will involve The Mandarin, I’d love to see some sort of jagged alliance between Stark and Hammer…now that would be cool!
LOWS: Traditionally, if the first film did it’s job right and fans are on-board, a sequel’s plotline (as far as characters go) can be placed confidently on auto-pilot. That allows the script to focus on broader plot details, add more (possibly annoying) side characters, inject a heavier amount of action and try some new things. In the case of Iron Man 2, the film was able to have a little more fun at its own expense. Now there’s nothing wrong with a little comic relief but the goofing around was a bit distracting. While I wasn’t expecting a Dark Knight level of focus and intensity, it was quite a bit more playful than the first film and that slightly diminished the grown-up tone of the film.
The minor and secondary characters in this film were borderline uninteresting. While many films featuring Sam Jackson proudly tout his part in the production, he, after the fanfare, usually delivers the goods. Yet in this case, his here and there appearances just didn’t seem that important or necessary (aside from the fact he was setting up the Avengers). Kind of a waste of talent in my opinion. I guess even the mighty “Samuel L” is shadowed by Downey…especially when they’re both wearing out-of-place looking comic book costumes in a Donut Shop. I thought his “presence” could have had more “presence” but it seemed like anyone could have played Fury and it would have had the same effect.
Some of the plot got pretty slow in the middle and I felt like the rift between Stark and Rhodes was so artificial and forced. The writers came up with an immature (almost adolescent) tension scene which felt like the script pandered to 12 years olds. Their scuffle simultaneously made Stark look typically pompous and made Rhodes look justified in his actions with the end result serving only to create the “set up” for the battle scene at the end of the film. That “2 birds with 1 stone” approach can backfire and give the impression that the story just isn’t thought out very well.
Then, suddenly… a change of pace! After more slow pandering, they cut to the end and (thinking they were late/low on the action quota) just rushed to get some fighting on-screen. The last act was over and done before you knew it (similar to Spider-Man 3 in my opinion). That said, the ending to the film didn’t seem to have a sense of accomplishment, it just had a finale – there’s a difference between the two.
Lastly, I just found Jon Favreau to be a distraction. Sure he’s the director and he’s a big reason the first film was a success, but he just took me out of the movie. In the way M. Night makes increasingly longer appearances in his films Favreau too wants the audience to know he’s part of the film. While he stood out unconvincingly as a “security guard” in the first film, he was one step away from juggling in Iron Man 2 to let us know he’s part of the film. While I still don’t know exactly what it is about his presence irritates me (maybe because he’s not just not a good actor), I have to cite him a kink in the Iron Man suit.
RULING: Many films (namely comic book films) have a tendency to “over do” their second installment and don’t quite live up to the level of quality. Iron Man 2 faltered a bit but the short-comings were overlooked by just top-notch acting by Downey, Rockwell and um..mainly those two. As fun as this ride was, this film didn’t quite live up to the first film. Yet what it lacked in story it made up for in action and special effects (despite the rushed ending). In terms of story, it’s no Spider-Man 2 but it gets my vote for one of the better comic book sequels out there. All in all it was a great way to get me in gear for the rest of the eagerly awaited summer films to come.
G-S-T Ruling – 3.5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval – GRANTED
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