Iron Man 2 (2010, dir. Jon Favreau)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Slattery, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, Garry Shandling
In 2008, two major comic book based films were released: The Dark Knight and Iron Man. By the end of the summer I had seen The Dark Knight three times, Iron Man only once. Now, I admit a predisposition towards the DC Comics characters, but I have enjoyed many of the Marvel movies (X-Men 1 & 2, Spider-Man 1 & 2). The first Iron Man was an enjoyable film, I just never found it as amazing as it seems much of the movie-going populace did. Robert Downey Jr. is a great, witty actor but the character is where my problems lie, because Iron Man/Tony Stark just isn’t that interesting.
It’s been two years since Tony Stark went public with his superhero identity of Iron Man. The news made its way to Russia, where Ivan Vanko, son of a Soviet physicist betrayed by Stark’s father sees his pop’s designs being used in the Iron Man armor. Vanko spends awhile building his own cobbled together suit to attack Stark but is arrested. The second villain in the picture is Justin Hammer, a military industrial complex billionaire who is frustrated with being unable to copy Stark’s technology. These two forces will inevitably come together to create a force that will challenge Stark’s resources. And these are two of the myriad of half-hatched plots and sub-plots that turn the film into a complicated mess.
Iron Man 2 is definitely suffering from sequel-itis. The pressure to up the ante in comic book franchises is hard to fight and so many new elements are introduced to try to keep the series feeling fresh. The part that is missing though are motivations. Stark is given a very weak motivation do something in the film and it definitely comes across as a plot element thrown in about a dozen drafts into the screenplay. Hammer’s motivation is only a few shades different from Obadiah Stane’s in the first film and Vanko’s reasons for revenge are just as hackneyed. Every thing felt like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle you had pieced together so many times that it just wasn’t fun anymore.
What the picture did have was a lot of “sound and fury signifying nothing”. There were “hot babes” and “sweet rides” but for an hour and a half that’s pretty boring. There were a lot of attempts to hint at the Thor movie coming next summer (all the mentions of New Mexico from the SHIELD people) and of course more hinting at the inevitable Avengers film. But all the actual material dealing with Tony Stark fell flat. Vanko didn’t ever come across as a formidable enemy and Hammer was the sort of character you knew was doomed to fail from the moment he showed up on screen. Scarlett Johansson was stage prop, but her stunt double did an amazing job. Looking at it all together, its not much better than some of the mediocre Marvel movies (Daredevil, Fantastic Four), sadly not even the power of RDJ could save it.