Saturday, May 8, 2010

Iron Man 2

So, here's the follow up to the best Marvel movie since 2004's Spider-Man 2. And conveniently, a comparison can be drawn between this and that movie's sequel. Iron Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 are both inferior to their predecessors, mainly because they add a few too many new elements to the mix when a less is more attitude probably would have been a good idea. Let's just look at the history of comic book movies, shall we? How many really benefited from having a handful of new villains instead of just a single, strong newcomer? I can't really think of any. All of the great sequels I can think of have one powerful antagonist and that's enough for any movie. I don't feel like Iron Man 2 came out as badly as the last Spider-Man, as I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but it is pretty muddled.

In the first movie, a lot of time was spent on the origin as usual, and after his initial escape from his captors, the only significant factor working against him is a bald, bearded Jeff Bridges. This time, he's dealing with Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko, who's a combination of a couple villains from the comics; Sam Rockwell's Jason Hammer, a rival businessman; the government coming down on him and trying to co-opt his technology; and the increasing toxicity of his own blood. Even his buddy James Rhodes is upset with him most of the time. I was skeptical about Don Cheadle taking over the part from Terrence Howard, mostly because I just don't like seeing roles get recast, but he does a pretty darn good job. Most of the cast does, and that along with the solid action is why the movie ended up being enjoyable despite all of the different factors at work. In addition to all of that stuff, he has to deal with S.H.I.E.L.D., who aren't exactly antagonistic but only seem to serve the purpose of helping to set up the Avengers movie down the road and making Scarlett Johansson look as hot as possible. They end up helping in the main plot but if they wanted the movie to be tighter it wouldn't have taken a great effort to take them out.

But yeah, I enjoyed the movie. Director Jon Favreau has a strong comedic background, and it shows in the movie's more humorous scenes that always end up funnier than pretty much any other action movie. I think he gave himself too large of a part in this one, but he knows what he's doing with that stuff at the least. The banter, the way Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow are always talking over each other, Sam Rockwell's delicate balancing act between absurd and menacing, they're all played perfectly. I'd say Downey's performance carried the movie if he really didn't have to, although the whole thing does kind of ride on him remaining sympathetic despite his frequent dickish persona. Rourke's performance is sort of half campy with the accent and everything, but I think he did a good job of presenting an evil face to root against, and his surprising technical knowledge makes him a pretty good counterpart for Stark. There's a lot of cameos and in-jokes sprinkled around, like a funny moment with a certain recognizable piece of equipment, and it's really just a fun movie for most of its length. The action sprinkled around is pretty good, especially by super hero movie standards, and the climax makes up for its own surprising easiness by just being extremely cool. Nothing too shocking or profound going on, but it's the definition of a summer movie.

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