Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Two-Cents on Iron Man 2

Since Iron Man 2 was the only summer blockbuster that I was looking forward to, I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype and just disappointment me. We all know that sequels have a tendency to be letdowns with a few rare exceptions, so I went into the theater hoping for the best, but being prepared for the film to be underwhelming. When the credits and the bonus scene were done, I left satisfied.

Now, Iron Man 2 was not better than Iron Man, and that's OK. Only a handful of follow-ups can be as good as the first one, and I wasn't going in expecting IM 2 to trump its predecessor. I just wanted the movie to be good, and it was successful at being just that...good.

I was relieved that the sequel was able to maintain the tone and humor of the first film. Sure, Tony Stark's playboy antics were not as charming the second time around, but they weren't supposed to be. IM 2 was trying to show you more about the man that was introduced in the first film. Stark is rich, suave, and funny, but he's also a flawed and isolated individual. IM 2 was successful at showing the audience that side of the man. We got to see his struggles with mortality, alcoholism, and his sense of failure. While daddy issues are not anything new, I think the way IM 2 introduced Tony's relationship with his father, and how it's impacted him was subtle and effective. Favreau could have beaten that theme to death, but he briefly introduced their relationship, let it be the catalyst Tony needed, and they moved on.

The conflict that arose between Tony and his closest friends, Pepper and Rhodey, was also well done. Stark is supposed to be the man that has everything and is loved by everyone, but only has a few close confidants, so there was more of an impact when a rift was created between him and those closest to him. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt bad for Tony when Pepper wanted nothing to do with him and Rhodes turned over his suit to the military after their brawl. We understood why they were reacting the way they were, but Stark was accessible enough for us to feel the sting of betrayal and loneliness as well.

Another aspect of Iron Man that was able to transition during the sequel was the sexual tension between Stark and Pepper Potts. The first time around, the chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow made the relationship between these two characters work, and they were able to make everything feel new again. IM 2 moved the Stark-Potts from the "coy flirty" stage to the "bickering married couple" stage fairly smoothly, and in my opinion it all worked. Speaking of Pepper, I was glad to see her move from personal assistant to CEO of Stark Industries, and while she was overwhelmed at first, she was able to hold her own towards the end.

While Pepper became one of the stronger characters in the movie, others could not say the same. This time around, we're given two villains in the form of Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko (AKA Whiplash, although I don't think he was ever referred by that name). Hammer and Vanko's motivation to be the big bads made sense, and the performances by Sam Rockwell (Hammer) and Mickey Rourke (Vanko) were good, their presence in the film fell a little bit short of being captivating villains. Although they were still better than Venom and Sandman.

Also, I was a little confused by Scarlett Johansson's role as Natasha Romanoff. For some reason, I thought Romanoff was going to be the Black Widow, which would have made her more of an adversary of Stark/Iron Man before becoming an ally. I guess to some extent that's what happened, but I was thrown off by her being an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Don't get me wrong, I was pleasently surprised by Johansson's performance (and she did look good kicking ass in that outfit), but I just didn't get a good read on her character. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and the other hand, pretty much rocked.

Another small criticism I had about the film as a whole was there was not enough Iron Man. Sure, we had some great Tony Stark moments, both funny and dramatic, but it just seemed like Iron Man himself had very little screen time. I love a great character-driven movie more than mindless action flicks, but when you go to a movie called Iron Man 2, you expect to see a little more of Iron Man. You could argue that Iron Man and Tony Stark are one in the same, which is true, but I wanted to see him kicking ass in the suit more as opposed to him being drunk and eating donuts in the suit.

In the end, Iron Man 2 was no The Dark Knight, but it was still a fun-filled superhero flick with some great laughs, decent actions scenes, and some actual character development. With the tragedies that are Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand existing, I'm a little hesitant about a third installment, but I am a little more excited about Joss Whedon's The Avengers after seeing this movie. I just hope Captain America and Thor can keep the momentum going.


  1. I pretty much agree with your whole review. However, I really didn't like Don Cheadle's take on Rhodey. I missed Terrance Howard! I thought DC played it a little too hard and cold.

  2. To be honest, Rhodes was an afterthought for me. Part of it was due to the fact that I thought Cheadle was just phoning in the performance. I did miss the chemistry between RDJ and Howard.