Movie Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010)

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IRON MAN 2 MOVIE POSTERIron Man 2, 2010
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, John Slattery, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Gary Shandling, Jon Favreau
Review by Joshua Starnes

SYNOPSIS:

With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances — and confront powerful enemies.

 

REVIEW:

Most sequels offer you one of two choices in their approach: either bigger, louder and faster (the most popular choice), or smaller with a focus on characters over plot. Both of these choices offer certain costs and benefits. One gives you more bang for your buck but tends to be empty and heartless. The other will offer a surfeit of heart but with so little actually happening that you can’t help but feel unsatisfied. The ideal sequel will balance the two, upping the ante in threat and using it as an opportunity to deepen its characters and story.

“Iron Man 2” isn’t an ideal sequel but it is awful good, fixing most of the problems of the first movie without giving up what made it work to begin with.

To be fair, much of what made the first film work was Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, and that’s still true in the sequel. Better yet director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”) have given him some real problems to struggle with instead of just being charming and funny.

Because Tony Stark is dying. The materials in power core that keeps him alive are also deadly poisonous, it turns out, and Tony can’t find a cure. With the end starting to look nigh, Tony has turned his attention to his legacy, finding a good person to run his company and pick up his Iron Man mantle after he’s gone. Unfortunately there’s a dark side to his legacy as well in the form of mad Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who has figured out how to weaponize Stark’s power system and wants nothing more than to wipe Stark out once and for all.

 

They say you have to make one of these films to learn how to make one of these films and Favreau has certainly taken that lesson to heart, adding a great deal of style and panache to “Iron Man’s” already impressive repertoire. What was good about the first “Iron Man” is still good about the sequel and in many cases noticeably better. As good as Downey’s original performance was it is aided considerably by having to deal with the reality that he may not have cheated death after all, just put it off for a little bit. The quest sends him not just to cement his legacy but also an incentive to increase his already manic and unpredictable lifestyle–like spontaneously taking his Formula One driver’s place before the Monaco Grand Prix–which is the part of Stark that Downey really excels at.

It’s also a step above the original in terms of pure craft. While the original was solid but unassuming, the sequel looks every inch the big budget film it is. Matthew Libatique, who shot one of the best looking movies of the 00s—”The Fountain”—has substantially upped his game from the first film. The Monaco sequence in particular is gorgeous and illustrates in microcosm what makes “Iron Man 2” so successful. It’s extremely well paced, quick and funny and light on its feet before turning a sharp corner as Vanko attacks Stark on the racetrack while he is alone and unarmed. Even in the middle of a large action sequence Favreau keeps his eye solidly on his characters and working hard to make solid use of everyone, not just Downey, as his erstwhile Girl and Guy Friday’s—Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Happy Hogan—drive against traffic in a Formula One race to get Stark’s armor to him.

IRON MAN 2 POSTERIn fact almost every character gets significantly more to do, from Pepper struggling with running the company to Stark’s best friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) being forced to decide where his loyalties lie, to Stark or the US Air Force. New characters, like Sam Rockwell’s unctuous Justin Hammer (a sort of anti-Tony Stark) are just as good, and yet for the most part they don’t overwhelm the film.

However, while Favreau et al. have solved a lot of the problems of the first film, several of them still remain, not least its propensity to climax without warning. A great deal of work has been put into building up the action sequences, with Industrial Light & Magic putting in some fantastic effects work, only to have them suddenly finish. It’s not as noticeable as in the first film but it’s still there, particularly in any sequence involving Vanko.

More insidious it’s starting to develop the ‘comic book universe’ problem. These premade stories come packed with large amounts of ready made stories and characters, and plenty of fans who want to see them on screen. Inevitably this seems to turn to introducing characters just to introduce them, letting them eat of screen time that would be better spent somewhere else. It’s most noticeable in Scarlet Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, who while well executed serves no important purpose. She moves the plot along, but there’s nothing she does that couldn’t be done by another, already existing character. However she does eat up valuable screen time that might be better used by Rhodey who is not around near enough considering how important he is to the climax. He’s the only character who still feels underdeveloped.

It’s also risking getting stuck in a rut. Because there are as yet no super powered people for Iron Man to fight he keeps getting stuck fighting iterations of ‘other guys in Iron Man armor’ and there’s only so many times you can go to that well.

Still “Iron Man 2” is far, far better than it is weak. Action junkies may find the middle more than a little slow as it dwells quite a bit on his existential dilemma, but that’s also where many of the films best moments lie. “Iron Man 2” is one of those rare films with something for everyone, good characters, excellent presentation and well designed adventure elements. Worth every penny.

 

 

 

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Movie Review: IRON MAN (2008)

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IRON MAN MOVIE POSTER
IRON MAN
Movie Review

Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges,
Review by Salome Bell

SYNOPSIS:

When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armored suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.

REVIEW:

You can’t send a boy to do a man’s job, and you can’t put a man in a role that calls for him to be smarter than he is.

Fortunately for “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. carries enough weight for any ten metallic suits, and seems like exactly the kind of guy who could build them

Popcorn movies have a tendency to underwhelm, but “Iron Man” has managed a pretty miraculous feat — to sneak in almost under the radar with few television ads and deliberately vague trailers, and to be the best flick I’ve seen this year and a natural to go on my list of top comic book films of all time.

Everything works. The casting is perfect. Paltrow shines as the essential but overlooked Poppy Potts, despite a last-moment shoe choice that says just about everything you can about fashion victimization. Jeff Bridges has just as much chemistry cast as the mentor/father figure to Downey Jr.’s obsessed Stark. The script is everything you could want — witty, intelligent, and steering clear for the most part of the usual comic cliches.

Even the ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo is a treat, which I will not spoil. .

If there’s one thing I could criticize, it’s that the story bogs down briefly while it shifts its bearings between Stark pre- and post-captivity, where it seems to be reinventing its moral center, much as Stark is at the same moment. Current films self-consciously walk the thin line between portraying the U.S. as a benevolent superpower or as a force just as prone to cause problems as solve them. “Iron Man” knows certain people have to die, and that because it’s a comic book movie, it has to relish the manner of those deaths to show off Stark’s new invention. But it never feels comfortable; in these years since the fall of the U.S.S.R., Hollywood is still searching for the perfect hateable villain.

But, smartly, things get personal and everything falls as snugly into place as Iron Man’s hydraulic armor. This film thunders through to the end, at once a flick that a newbie with no clue about Stark or Iron Man’s pic-lit roots can love while providing enough insider tips of the hat to thrill the fans with the feeling that, “Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus watching over Marvel Comics movies.” The effects are seamless and organic so you feel every bump when Stark hits the ground (or a concrete wall), and Favreau has a brilliant touch with injecting just a little bit of humor into the darkest scenes. “Iron Man” is going to do well, really well, at the theatres, and it’s a movie not only a fan will want to own.

3 1/2 stars out of 4!

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