Two years later and after eight bucks, I caught my chance to see “Iron Man 2” (IM2). I caught it this past weekend, and had the opportunity to hear public feedback and critical feedback. Both combined make a mixed bag and I kept some of it in the back of my mind as I watched the movie.
The story takes place months after Tony Stark reveals his identity as Iron Man, which was seen worldwide, including by Ivan Vanko, a Russian physicist with a grudge against Stark that goes back to when their fathers worked together years ago. He is one of the many challenges Stark faces, in addition to pressure from the U.S. military that wants the Iron Man armor and worries about competitor Justin Hammer developing his own powered armor, his strained relationship (of sorts) with Pepper Potts and also the shadowy intervention of SHIELD director Nick Fury, a fatal disease claiming his life …and of course the responsibility, or lack of, being Iron Man.
That’s the movie in a nutshell and there is a lot going on… a lot of story. That’s what I really liked about this sequel, but also what I didn’t think translated well…this is a very mixed yet enjoyable bag once you break it all down. Every part is important to the story, though some parts of the movie could have been saved for IM3 maybe. I also liked that the story was put ahead of cramming the movie with heavy action scenes, a common fault of many summertime action films. Some people will not be satisfied with an action film that is on the lighter side of action, rather favoring drama and sprinklings of comedy, akin to some earlier works by director Jon Favreau. This quality is the movie’s achievement and defeat in the same token. It depends on who you ask and my answer is that it is achievement. The action that does happen is much more intense and frantic than the first film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Additionally, every action scene had a real purpose and not for the sake of just blowing s#!t up (here’s looking at Michael Bay).
The first film was so great likely because it was a wave of fresh air after the 2006 duds “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Superman Returns.” The Fantastic Four movies didn’t do any favors for the graphic novel inspired film sector either, but they weren’t bad films either. IM2 is not the tour-de-force that “Spider-Man 2” or “The Dark Knight” were, however it is a serviceable sequel that sets up the future Marvel stories for Thor, Captain America, the Avengers team, and the Hulk. However, not much is done for Iron Man’s universe. We assume that Iron Man is our gateway to these larger-than-life personalities as Tony Stark is the most grounded of them all. That accessibility also makes this sequel worth watching.
Robert Downey Jr. makes this sequel and the series live and without him it would die. A line from the film stated by Stark said that he and the Iron Man suit are one being. I like that we don’t see a different personality like a Batman or Spider-Man. Downey Jr. plays a regular guy who happens to be a genius saving the world in his inventions. I also like that the Tony Stark character cannot be outshone by his villain, though Mickey Rourke makes a damn good case for it. Rourke says only a paragraph of dialogue, but he speaks by presence alone. For the hardcore comic heads, his character is a merge of the Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo villains from the comics. Though I felt aspects of Vanko was a bit of a rehash of the first film’s Iron Monger. The secondary villain, Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell is somewhat annoying but entertaining nonetheless as an avatar of the anti-Stark.
Don Cheadle steps in as Rhodes aka War Machine and I personally thought he did the role a little better than Terrence Howard, but it’s an apples and oranges type of thing. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts and without her character, a big chunk of the humor and drama would never work. The chemistry between Downey and Paltrow is integral to the story and to their characters, which adds weight to the s#!t blowing up. IM2 doesn’t give us a lot of time to get into Sam Jackson or Scarlett Johannson, both playing SHIELD agents. I think they’ll save the full expose for “The Avengers,” but I expect them to pop up in other Marvel movies. A lot of characters with a lot of purpose, but I think IM2 packed in too much too soon.
What is great about this movie is that we can get excited about a real universe of multiple films connecting together. The drawback from that connection is that we don’t know too much about Iron Man, independently. I understand that since the first film, we were going to be placed in a film canon where there are other superheroes, but I still wanted to have an independent story. Hopefully IM3 will fix that, but I hear that will occur AFTER Thor, Cap, and Avengers. The entire story will require multiple views, which is good; however some things still crowd the space. It’s like getting in an elevator with too many people but it’s just under the weight limit. I figure the movie could have been longer to open more development and maybe another action piece.
In conclusion, IM2 is good summer entertainment though the crowding of characters and multiple story plots with minimal action might be too much for some people. If you’re a fan of comedy and drama, this will definitely please you. The action junkies will be disappointed to an extent. You will have some fun somewhere in there because the movie makes it fun, no matter what is happening. It’s not better or worse than the original, but it is a different type of summer film.
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