Tagline: Round 2 of the Iron Man franchise.
Synopsis: Billionaire Tony Stark returns with his superhero alter ego but this time he’ll have to battle enemies from his past as well as an old, trusted friend all the while trying to find a cure for himself before time runs out.
Meat & Potatoes: Lets start at the beginning. Iron Man, for those unaware is a fictional superhero first appearing as a Marvel (X-Men movie franchise, Spider Man movie franchise, etc.) comic book. The character appears in issue #39 of Tales of Suspense in March of 1963 as a result of creator-writer-editor Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby. Btw, an original off-white comic book sold for over $4,000 dollars just last year. A hefty increase over the original street price of 12 cents.
In 2008, screenwriter, actor, director John Favreau brought us the film adaptation of Iron Man starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Grossing over $800 million dollars worldwide, it was generally praised by critics and audiences alike. The character of Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr., also appears at the end of the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.
As far as I’m concerned, the franchise is alive and well with the second installation. I enjoyed IM2 and look forward to the next film, predictably titled Iron Man 3 – though rumor has it we’ll see The Avengers before IM3.
What Others are Saying: The happy folks over at rottentomatoes would have you believe the sequel in the Iron Man franchise is only a moderate breath of fresh air, trailing the success of the first film with a rating of only 75%. As opposed to the 93% rating they gave the first film. I think you should watch it and enjoy it without the need to compare it with the first movie. Maybe their rating would hold some weight if it weren’t for the fact that early reviews of the first film, prior to the combined box office total, were similar. If you want to watch a similar film with similar special FX but lacking any clear direction and based on a dismal script, check out Terminator: Salvation. Or, how about Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2005) – which despite the hype and geek factor, received only a 78% rating at rottentomatoes.com. Maybe they really are onto something? If you need an escape and a big budget film with familiar comic-book characters and beyond, go see IM2 – you won’t be disappointed.
Further Thoughts: Now that is not to say IM2 doesn’t have a fair share of blunders, mis-steps, and typical big budget oversights. Sure it does, but lets not forget what we’re watching folks. Big budget films are there to shock and awe us – a term lovingly if not foolishly used to describe our effort to ‘bomb them back to the stone age’ in the Iraq war campaign. Of course they contain our most favorite actors and even directors – in some cases, the special effects team as in Peter Jackson’s WETA digital. We go to have our senses bombarded and our everyday malaise blown temporarily away by IMAX’s 47’ x 24’ to 74’ x 46’ screens and 2,000 watts of power. Therefore, by the very inherent nature of the spectacle it behooves us to put the tiny little critic in each of us to bed the night before, tuck him or her in snuggly cause you to go vegetable for a couple of hours where your bills, worries and aspirations can’t reach you. Ever.
Technical Note: I did have some technical issues with my IMAX experience. Admittedly, I did shell out the extra bucks to ‘upgrade’ to the super Big-gulp movie experience because, well that’s me. If you saw it the old regular way, most of this still applies. For the rest of us who want our cherry cola on the rocks with a jumbo straw and extra ice, we have to pay the price and the price today is $4 bucks extra per ticket. We’ve seen a propensity for filmmakers to create longer and longer movies – what ever happened to intermission? I can fondly look back at my movie experiences and yes, even watching movies at the drive-in, when you got those cute little ads with the dancing popcorn and soda and corn dog all happily, joyfully parading to the concession stand. Today we get television commercials and trailers for movies we’re never going to see. What is most disturbing is how, in this day and age of smart phones and electric cars, can you have a bad movie experience after shelling out $15 bucks to get in.
My case in point: No sound. You heard me, no sound. Adding insult to injury, I realize that the images and text on the big screen are off just a bit, like 3D without the color shift of reds and blues. The harder I try to figure out why everyone has a full size preemie double attached to them the more my head hurts. In the old days, the reel would jump or the projector would hiccup and some old curmudgeon would scuttle around with a flash light in the booth and after making some ‘adjustments’ the problem would be fixed – either right then or later, minutes usually but longer in some cases. Today, the EMO in the booth pushes ‘play’ and leaves for a smoke break or to shoot the sh!t with another EMO or hit up the new hottie at the concession stand. We, the overpriced, under-caffeinated paying public are left there in the dark like bad clothes in the closet that haven’t seen the light of day for years, decades in some cases. And just when I think to myself, O.K., someone is going to fix this, they have to. Nope. Not until five minutes into the movie anyway. Now that’s not a complaint with the movie as much as the movie theater, but it’s just one more example that audiences today take what they are given even when what they are given isn’t what they expect or want. At least that was the experience at the metroplex in Emeryville, California.
Moving on the actual movie: I was impressed by Mickey Rourke – though admittedly I’ve been a fan since way back when – like his character, Charlie in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) and Robert ‘Boogie’ Sheftell in Diner (1982). He got off track for a while there but you can see some of the old Mickey in IM2, the truth deep down inside him where the broken bits are and even with all the somewhat silly electric bull whips and funky space suits he shines in ways other actors never will. And whereas a great many actors have failed at believable accents, Mr. Rourke’s Russian accent was spot on. I also read that he brought a lot of detail to his character in an effort to humanize him – bravo! Robert Downey Jr. delivered the same ego-centric, techno-savy wild child here as in IM1, believable and watchable as though he simply walked from the set of the first movie to the second without as much as a cappuccino break. I was reminded of the Apple Expos and the “man behind Apple” as I watched Downey’s portrayal of the extravagant, billionaire Tony Stark. I couldn’t help but recall Steve Jobs (check out Gizmodo’s take) – though Jobs is hardly charismatic these days, more akin to a skeleton with good lighting. John Favreau has proven that he knows his way around a set and secured himself as a top-notch director capable of smaller, more intimate character vehicles – see Swingers (1996) and Made (2001), – as well as big-budget-big-movies like IM2. I am reminded of Peter Jackson’s early films, though admittedly I never got into them. I was actually quite surprised at his transformation from role-playing super geek to the maestro behind The Lord of the Rings franchise. I was also glad that Favreau wrote himself into the script, as he should. I’m still at a loss to exactly why Terence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle (more here and here). Personally I think his role as Djay in Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow was amazing – his transformation from street pimp to rapper so convincing as to explain in no uncertain means just how a pimp is able to convince and maintain a relationship with a bevy of prostitute meal tickets. Money. Things like this are almost certainly about the money. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think Cheadle might just be the better actor but given his role in this film I didn’t see enough character to matter. I’ve read it was over money or ‘creative differences’ – the idiom two people or groups of people use to describe utter contempt for one another and the resulting financial consequences. Either way, the side-kick buddy movie idea with a character that is under-developed, if not relegated to the back shelf of the story seems like an unnecessary appendage that should have been trimmed in pre-production. But I digress.
All in all I enjoyed this film much the way I did the computer game turned feature film, Max Payne (2008). Payne, as you’ll recall was an action packed extravaganza and as long as you took that with you, settled the urge to be critical, it was a two-hour ride of pure escapism – exactly what it intended to do.
Bits & Bites: For a giggle, check out some of the excerpts at rottentomatoes from ‘the critics’. Really? These people are being paid to write this stuff? That’s why I’m here.
Official Iron Man website.
Check out screenrant.com for, well rants. And more thoughts.
The Closer: Iron Man 2 delivers exactly what it is supposed to – escapism on the big screen. You’re not going to find a reinvention of the genre or some new interpretation of big-budget filmmaking here. But you’re not supposed to. If you liked the first one then you’ll like this one and that’s enough to pamper yourself at the metroplex – but save the butter flavoring for de-icing the highway.