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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Don Cheadle
Written by Justin Theroux
Music by John Debney

What the hell happened here? Iron Man was a genuine treat; exciting, compelling, innovative in terms of superhero films, with Robert Downey Jr the highlight as a spoiled, somewhat eccentric, but charismatic billionaire. The sequel is a bloated mess, with not even a fraction of the original's wit or excitement. We have a bunch of new characters, most who are only peripherally involved with the main drive of the film (which is pretty thin anyway, involving a weapons contractor rival, Tony Stark's heart giving out and other shit). The action scenes are distancing, not involving. And even though the CGI is pretty amazing for the most part, you don't end up caring what happens from one dumb fight to the next.

This looks really retarded but thankfully when it's in full-motion it's 4% less retarded

Chief of the film's problems is Marvel Studios' insistence on shoehorning this bullcrap about Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and some organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D. who wants to recruit Tony/Iron Man for some reason, and yet not. Or something. I don't really know, nor care, because it has no impact on the main storyline. It's so they can lead into the forthcoming Avengers movie, making Iron Man 2 more about advertising the Marvel universe than, y'know, making an ACTUAL FUCKING MOVIE for those of us who think S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Shitty Humans Interrupting Everything Largely Decent. Most of us non-comic readers probably don't give a rat's arse about all this shit. And the references to Thor and Captain America? Again: WE DON'T CARE! All it does is take us out of the moment. It's like watching The Godfather and having Robert De Niro from Goodfellas turn up in the middle of the film saying how there's a bunch of mobsters planning a heist with Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta and a bunch of others and how Marlon Brando and Al Pacino should totally join up with them and then leave it at that.

The story is all over the place. Sam Rockwell is surprisingly ineffective as the main villain. Scarlett Johansson as some S.H.I.E.L.D. agent whose name I forget and don't care about looking up looks hot in tight black pants and kicks people in the head quite well, but again her character is quite superfluous. Mickey Rourke is the only actor in this who surpasses the lame material he is provided; even the usually excellent RDJ fumbles with a character who is supposed to be amending his wild, childish ways but in the next scene flip-flops right back into those annoying characteristics I thought were supposed to be dispensed with in the first Iron Man.

Note to self: fire agent, do sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang instead..."

There's a lot of CGI-stuffed action for those who like boring scenes jerked out of a computer. Where the action scenes in Iron Man felt organic and real, most of the stuff in Iron Man 2 is so over-the-top and so inconsequential to the story (such as RDJ and Don Cheadle's fight) that we, the audience, quickly lose patience. Instead of one or two iron-suited baddies at the end, we get a whole horde of them who are surprisingly easily dispatched. *Yawn*.

Iron Man 2, along with Spider-Man 3 and Transformers 2, has to be the gold standard for the typical Hollywood overblown sequel: too much of everything stuffed into an otherwise simplistic story that fails to engage the audience, too reliant on CGI to smooth over the glaring flaws, with nary an actor able to save it, not only hugely disappointing, but bad enough to besmirch the legacy of the original.

Best bit
Whiplash confronts Stark on the Grand Prix circuit

Iconic moment
none I can think of other than Mickey Rourke thrashing his electric whiplashes about...pretty piss-poor selection, really

Worst bit
so many scenes to choose from, but I'd have to say the pointless, energy-sapping moments with Samuel L Jackson and all the malarky about S.H.I.E.L.D.

Best line
"I've successfully privatized world peace."

Best performance
Mickey Rourke in full-blown Russian bad-guy mode

cinematographer Matthew Libatique: Iron Man 2 at least LOOKS excellent

What would have made this better
remove all the Nick Fury/S.H.I.E.L.D. crap, cut out a lot of the characters, don't make Tony Stark such an annoying prick

What would have made this worse
ditch the Iron Man storyline and make him a background character to a feature-length film about S.H.I.E.L.D...yet still call it Iron Man 2

Companion film
presumably the companion films to this, as advertised by Marvel frigging Studios, is Thor, Captain America and The Avengers

What to watch instead
Iron Man, and pretend it's a standalone film

If you liked this...
you've fallen into Marvel Studios' trap

+ the CGI is mostly excellent (when it's not slapping you in the face with hundreds of Iron Man knockoffs)
+ the cinematography is very nice
+ Scarlett Johansson in a tight black outfit
+ good cast

- good cast, wasted
- overlong
- needless stuff about S.H.I.E.L.D. gets in the way of the main story
- references to other Marvel characters and forthcoming films makes this feel less like a movie and more like a two-hour-plus advertisement you payed for
- too many pointless characters
- unnecessary scenes that contribute NIL to the film

Rating on the Michael Keaton/Batman level of superheroicness:

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