jamesintexas Movie review--Iron Man 2
Director: Jon Favreau
Reviewed: May 2010
Wow, what a disappointment. Welcome to the summer movies of 2010, I guess. Iron Man 2 kicks off the summer with a whimper, struggling to make sense of itself and wasting a cast of marvelous actors. It will rule the box office this week (and no doubt, make a truck full of money), but will anyone want to watch this movie again?
Robert Downey, the eminently likeable actor in such gems as Home for the Holidays, Wonder Boys, Kiss-Kiss, Bang-Bang, and Tropic Thunder, returns as billionaire Tony Stark, techno-weapons expert who has transformed himself (using a number of helpful talking robots) into the Iron Man weapon. Let me be forthright; I enjoyed the first film quite a bit. Although it was overshadowed by its darker, deeper cousin The Dark Knight in the summer of 2008, Iron Man itself was fun, buoyed by Downey Jr.'s performance, as well as top-flight special effects, and a supporting, nasty turn from the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges. It was fun, pure and simple. However, after staying past the credits of this bloated, aimless sequel, I'm not looking forward to the inevitable Iron Man 3, 4, and 5.
There's no problem with Downey Jr.'s snarky, miles-a-minute performance as egomaniac Stark. His lines don't read as funny as I had hoped they would; again, knowing the good lines from the trailer does decrease their power. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts, Starks' secretary-friend-turned CEO, and the Oscar-winning Paltrow mostly stands around, talks on the phone, looking frightened/concerned. Don Cheadle replace Terence Howard as Starks' buddy Rhodey; Cheadle is always dependably solid. His humor is sharply displayed in the last minute of film, and it could have livened up the proceedings much earlier. It was a relief to see him cut on Stark and throw jabs back at him. They should have given him a chance to loosen up earlier.
Scarlet Johansson, who has not made a good film since Lost in Translation, emerges as a new secretary, Natalie Rushman, working for Stark Industries; Natalie is more than she seems, but unfortunately, Johansson's performance is not. It is dull, emotionless, and besides some butt-kicking that, frankly, Uma Thurman in Kill-Bill, Carie-Anne Moss in The Matrix, and Malin Akerman in Watchmen could have done in their sleep. I don't know what it is about Johansson, but I don't think that she brings anything to the table in this film. Cheadle tries gamely, Downey Jr. delivers the best that he can, but the true tragedy of this film is Mickey Rourke.
To be clear, I like Mickey Rourke. I like his bizarre hair, crazy-Russian-prison tattoos, his mumbling Russian line readings as Stark nemesis Ivan Vanko. Yet, he's wasted here, given an incomplete character and not given much to do, besides looking at a computer screen and some furious typing! Rourke has such a presence and physicality, even as a comic book sized antihero in Sin City; here, he's confined and diminished, defusing his creativity and effectiveness. There's some incomprehensible backstory about how Stark's dad betrayed Vanko's dad way back in the day, getting Vanko's dad deported back to Russia; Rourke has a state-of-the-art physics lab in Siberia where he toils away, replicating the Iron Man suit during the opening minutes. Rourke is such an interesting, provocative actor; his work in The Wrestler was so compelling, that it is difficult to watch him here snarl and cackle, mumble his way through lines. Vanko's character is poorly developed (and disappears for at least 20 minutes by my count in the middle to last third of the film), and the final fight is anticlimactic at best, uninspired and boring at worst. I awarded a half-star more to this film because of Rourke's frightening electric whips, which--in the film's most exciting sequence--slice a car in two!
Rourke deserved better direction, as did Sam Rockwell as his co-villain, a weapons expert Justin Hammer. Rockwell seemed to be trying hard to replicate Downey Jr. at times; at other times, I was wishing Gary Oldman was there to inject some silliness or accents, ala The Fifth Element. Anytime Rockwell is on the screen, the movie falls flat. And when Rockwell and Rourke are together, what should be fun isn't.
Cinematically, there's no point in even trying to film a jailbreak scene in the post-Dark Knight era. No one can beat The Joker sewing a cell phone bomb into a prisoner who is then checked into the prison. A blob of C4 on a cafeteria plate and some slow-mo Mickey Rourke walking away from the cell as it explodes in a towering fireball is just not going to cut it. Go big, Favreau, or go home.
And finally, I've grown tired of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, wandering into the film several times as Basil Exposition, giving us tedious backstory, setting up inevitable prequels, sequels, referencing other superheroes, other characters, other eventual movies. After the credits end, they introduce yet another superhero movie, and I rolled my eyes. When I'm annoyed by Samuel L. Jackson, something's not working.
Save your money.