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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Iron Man 2 Does Some More Fun Heavy Lifting

Iron Man 2: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Senator Stern: Our priority here is to have you turn over the Iron Man weapon to the American people.
Tony Stark: Well, you can forget it. We're safe. America is secure. You want my property - you can't have it! But I did you a big favor; I have successfully privatized world peace.
The first Iron Man film, in my opinion (along with many others), has the distinction of being one of Marvel's best origin story film. While it had problems in its third act, the film was solid thanks to great special effects, a fun vibe running throughout, and the solid work by the cast involved, namely - Robert Downey Jr. Now, here is the sequel. With superhero movies, for the most part, the origin story film does a good job at setting up the characters, only to have then next chapter one-up the previous film by giving us more interesting stories and further building on the characters (basically being bigger and better). Unfortunately, Iron Man 2 doesn't quite live up to that promise. However, the film is still a lot of fun, looks great, and most importantly, brings us back into the world of Tony Stark.

Tony Stark: I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.
6 months after the events of the previous film, with the world now aware of his dual life as both a billionaire playboy inventor and the superhero Iron Man, Tony Stark, played by Downey Jr., faces pressure from the government to share his technology with the military. Stark, of course, has no such desire and continues with his seemingly amazing life as the charismatic hero, who has created peace for much of the world it seems. While keeping the audiences very pleased; however, Tony Stark is actually hiding one thing - he's dying. The powerful unit in his chest that is keeping him alive, is also killing him.

Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes: This lone gunslinger act is unnecessary... you don't have to do this alone.
As Stark deals with this situation, trying to find an answer, he has plenty of other problems to deal with as well. His company is in a bit of a mess, which is where his loyal assistant, Pepper Pots, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, may come in to help. He is still being pursued by the elite organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. to possibly team up with some other super people. A rival inventor, Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell, continues to try and show up Stark with his own ideas. Oh, and a homicidal, revenge-seeking, Russian physicist played by Mickey Rourke is also stirring up some trouble for Tony.
Justin Hammer: I wanna make Iron Man look like an antique.
Iron Man certainly may have certainly have his work cut out for him this time around, but give him some tools and a drink, or two, and he'll surely be able to figure his way out of this one; maybe even in record time if a certain new War Machine - like Col. Rhodey Rhodes (this time played by Don Cheadle) can give him a helping hand.

Oh, also - Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson show up to recreate the "magic" that happened in their previous team up in The Spirit by playing Nick Fury and Black Widow, agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nick Fury: I'm the realest person you'll ever meet.
So this movie is pretty packed to the brim. We have a lot of new characters, a lot more story elements, although, surprisingly, not that much more action. The best way to address the overall feeling of where this story has taken us - It's a bit messy.

Jon Favreau once again takes the director's seat, as well as increases his role in the film as Tony's driver - Happy Harry Hogan, and serves up a lot of stuff to chew on. He has certainly taken some ambitious steps to make this film larger in scope, but unfortunately it doesn't all gel to make a film that is completely cohesive. By that I mean, the film doesn't do the best job at being fun, while progressing the story, or action all at the same time; instead, it does these things in pieces. It's not necessarily sloppy, but its pacing is clearly off. There is truly enough material in here for two films (any comic fan can see both elements of the "Demon in a Bottle" plot line along with "Armor Wars" stuff all taking place here - let alone Avengers setups) but instead, the film pushes in a lot of elements, while never crafting a story that flows more smoothly. Then you have Tony's birthday party, which runs dangerously close to everyone's favorite Spider-Man 3 scene...

That being said, there are still a lot of good things present, which make this movie very enjoyable. Somehow, this flick managed to bring together Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, and Samuel L. Jackson all together in prominent roles, and that's fine by me. Downey once again shows off the kind of likable, ego-filled charm that makes Tony Stark an endearing character, while also passing off the issues he has with his own health effectively. I didn't mind Terrance Howard in the first film, but Cheadle does solid work as Rhodey. I really enjoyed Rockwell, but then again, I always enjoy Rockwell. Here he plays it within his realm of slime-ball type characters, managing to reflect all the bad elements of Stark's personality pushed into a worse place.. And Sam Jackson of course does his thing.
Tony Stark: I'm sorry, I already said I don't want to join your super secret boy band.
Mickey Rourke also manages to just look comfortable in a role that asks him to be intimidating, wild in appearance, but subtle enough in his dialogue (despite the heavy Russian accent) to be a credible threat. Johansson accomplishes a goal of looking hot in leather (tough, I know). And Gwyneth, again, is more likable here than in pretty much anything else she's done.

One thing that the first film accomplished in a way that sets up how other Iron Man films will apparently be is its breeziness. By this, I mean the way it handles these characters and their interactions with others. The first had a lot of improvisation going on during the non action scenes, and this film is just the same. And again, it works. The way everyone talks to each other in these films, for the most part, feels very natural and gives off a lot of good chemistry. In a comic book world, where exposition can be constantly thrown at you, it's nice to see these people just play it by ear, and address things loose and naturally.

As far as the action goes, I can say that this ending is better than the last, and the race track confrontation in all the trailers is a lot of fun, but the film, again much like the first, isn't all that action packed. However, when there is action, its good, and definitely builds upon some of the cool moments from the first. Iron Man is cool and all, but I've been a long time War Machine fan, and seeing them both kick ass in a film is something I would never want to miss.

Tony Stark: Yes. I, Tony Stark, am going to pleasure myself.
What else? Solid effects throughout. Once again, the film is very devoted to character development. A lot of humor throughout, making this a very light-hearted film in a world where most of the other heroes constantly deal with too much darkness. The cool factor of having metal suits doing cool things.  Gary Shandling! This is a fun film. Not quite a Spider-Man 2 or X2 in terms of upgrade, but little would stop me from seeing it again in a heart beat. Added note: And now having done that a mere day later and enjoying it more, this film certainly shows off how much fun the Iron Man universe is.

Tony Stark: [reading a profile] Mr. Stark displays textbook narcissism. [glances at Nick Fury, who just stares at him] Agreed.

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