A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Iron Man 2

September 29, 2010

Iron Man 2

We watched this movie in the theaters with our good friend A. It was only after we had watched the whole movie that she revealed that she had never seen the first movie. She thought she was coming along to watch a simple summer action movie full of explosions and fun. I have trouble imagining just what she must have thought watching this movie. The first Iron Man is an origin story, concentrating on the creation of Iron Man and Tony Stark’s redemption from being an irresponsible but brilliant cad to being a super hero with a conscience. It’s a fairly straight forward movie with a pretty simple arc. This movie, on the other hand, is a sequel to a successful action film, and so it has to somehow juggle being bigger and more explosive than the first film with providing something new for fans. Without losing the charm of the first one.

It’s a difficult challenge to take on, and for the most part it works, but at times it has a kind of thrown together feel to it. The problem is that in an attempt to ratchet the whole experience up a little the film makers have tried to mix together too many plots. Some of them are compelling, and some of them are less so, and the resolution of at least one of them is disappointingly deus-ex-machina and doesn’t feel to me like it fits with the world of the film.

Let’s try to identify the main plots: There’s the one about how Tony is literally killing himself by being Iron Man. The palladium that he uses to fuel his portable arc reactor is poisoning his body at a frightening rate and he only has days to live. Then there’s the super-villain of the movie, Ivan Vanko, who is a tortured soul who believes that Tony and his father are responsible for Ivan’s father dying alone and without acclaim in Russia even though he was partially responsible for the creation of the arc reactor technology. Then there’s the plot about Tony’s relationship with his brilliant father (or as I think of it the Venture Brothers plot.) Then there’s the plot about how the US government wants to have the Iron Man suit technology for itself led by Senator Stern and military industrialist (and Tony Stark wannabe) Justin Hammer. Then there’s the plot about SHIELD wanting Tony for some end of their own. Throw all this together in a blender with some romantic subplots as well and you eventually get Iron Man 2. I suppose it’s impressive that the finished product works as well as it does.

That it works at all is almost entirely due to the acting and directing talent on display. Not that I want to belittle the special effects. There are a ton of great action sequences as, in keeping with the whole “turning it up to eleven” theme Tony and his friend Rhodey have to fight off an entire squadron of mechanised attack drones. But the movie wants to be more than an action film. It wants to have a heart in the way that the first movie does, and that relies on the actors to make it all work.

As with the first movie I get the impression that much of the dialog is improvised. I’m sure they had a script, but it’s just there to provide some sound bytes and present a skeleton for the actors to hang their performances upon. Leading the cast once again is Robert Downey Jr, who plays Tony with a kind of self-absorbed fatalism for much of the movie. Everybody else just has to keep up, and for the most part they do. Gwyneth Paltrow has done this with Robert before of course so she does a great job of working with his patter. Replacing Terrance Howard as Rhodey we have Don Cheadle, which threw me at first but very soon I found myself enjoying his interpretation of the role. I love seeing Sam Rockwell in anything, and he’s marvelous as the smarmy Justin Hammer. Garry Shandling has a very small part as Senator Stern, but he goes for the gusto and manages to get the last line in the movie (if you don’t count the bit after the credits.) Director Jon Favreau has given himself a significantly larger part as Happy Hogan, going from a sort of cameo and nod to the comic books to a major supporting character. Scarlett Johansson plays the uncannily perfect assistant from Stark’s legal department who turns out to be much more than she at first appears to be. Samuel L. Jackson gets to take his portrayal of Nick Fury from being just a crowd pleasing post credit bit to a completely badass muthaf*cker. I look forward to seeing more of him in this role.

And of course there’s Mickey Rourke, fresh from his Oscar-nominated performance in The Wrestler, as Ivan. His performance is wonderful to behold, and I somewhat feel that it is wasted. He’s a great and powerful bad guy, but there’s so much else going on in this movie that he doesn’t have the impact that I think he could have had. I mean – look at all the actors I listed in that last paragraph there. Look at all those plots. When you try to take on so much stuff then you can’t really do justice to the bits that deserve more screen time.

Another weak part of the movie is the way it rushes to resolve all its plot threads. I feel short changed because so much needs to be tied up so quickly at the end that there’s no time to linger on any one point. The whole plot of Tony’s mortality, which I felt to be one of the most compelling bits of the movie, is resolved in a very off-hand manner through a montage and some magic tech that WOULD NEVER WORK THAT WAY ANYHOW! Ivan is reduced from a menacing terror to a somewhat rote evil-doer. There’s a whole lot that just isn’t resolved at all, except through so me quick dialog bits. Like the daddy issues for both Ivan and Tony – I thought there were going to be more revelations there but it’s just “Nah, Ivan’s dad was evil after all and let’s get on with the rest of the movie now.”

Still, for all its failings I really enjoyed the movie. Mostly for all the great little bits, the sparkling performances and the memorable one-liners. In most other hands this movie would have been a complete disaster, but Jon and Robert manage to carve something cool and amusing out of it. It manages to be lighthearted and a lot of fun to watch, with some fantastic action and special effects. I just wish that we had shown our friend A. the first Iron Man movie, so that she could see how much greater this could be without all the extraneous baggage of a sequel.

September 29, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,


  1. What I was thinking was . . . mostly about Ivan Vanko, I’m afraid. He’s creepy-hot, and I have a weakness for it. And I didn’t recognize Mickey Rourke!
    As for the rest, I was pleasantly surprised. My chief knowledge beforehand was some headline I had read saying that Paltrow ate only kale the whole time for fear of gaining an ounce, and as such, I was surprised to see how strong her character was.

    Comment by A. | September 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Cool. Someday we have to have you over to watch the first movie.

      Comment by tanatoes | September 30, 2010 | Reply

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