Flicks: ‘Iron Man 2’ fitting despite criticism
Editor’s note: If you haven’t seen “Iron Man 2,” and intend to, the following column may contain spoilers.
Taking the day off to see “Iron Man 2” was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the last month. Up there with, yes, I will eat this doughnut and why, yes, I will have another doughnut.
The reviews have been mixed, applauding Robert Downey Jr.’s performance (again), but saying too much was jammed into the two-hour movie.
Jokes aside, I disagree. The movie followed the formula of the first one, leaning on its perfectly cast leading man, a punchy script and stellar special effects. But it wasn’t the surprise the first one was, so critical acclaim became slight criticism. It didn’t break ground because there isn’t any to break. Tony Stark was created 40 years ago, during the Cold War. Sure, you can update the story line: Stark was imprisoned by terrorists, not Communists, and the rest just falls into place, but the movie suffers from the same problems the comics do.
Despite having some nice pieces in place — Gwyneth Paltrow is superb and even Scarlett Johansson fits nicely into the cast — the most interesting thing about “Iron Man” is Tony Stark. And the biggest conflict Tony Stark faces is himself.
I worried “IM2” would fall into the “Spider-Man 3” trap, with too many disjointed storylines shoved into a terrible script. While many story lines were in play — Ivan Vanko, Tony’s mortality, Tony’s relationship with his dad, Tony’s relationship with Pepper, Tony’s relationship with Natalie, Tony’s relationship with Rhodey, Justin Hammer, S.H.I.E.LD. — they meshed easily, if rapidly together.
Multiple villains — sort of working together — don’t overwhelm “Iron Man 2,” but they do a slight disservice to the story. Mickey Rourke mostly grumbles and squints his way through the movie, pulling a Brandon with the bird thing. Sam Rockwell as Hammer is a more fitting adversary for Stark/Downey, even if he seems a bit dopey and his stuff doesn’t work. How is he a billionaire, again? Oh right, government contracts.
Oddly, Garry Shandling’s Sen. Stern is probably the most interesting foil for Stark, because that battle doesn’t require rocket boots and repulsor beams, just a willpower and quick wit.
The end was rushed, no doubt about that, even falling back on the “this thing/line happened/was said earlier in the movie because it would solve/defeat the puzzle/villain when all seemed lost. And then it was quickly forgotten in the wake of exchanges between Stark and Potts and Rhodey and Stark and Nick Fury and Stark and Stern. Oh, and the secret scene after the credits.
Ultimately, “Iron Man” — and stop if you read/heard this — needs less of everything else and more, much more, Robert Downey Jr. Fortunately, it’s fairly obvious the director and writer(s) realize this, and that’s exactly what audiences will be getting.