Iron Man 2 ***
One Liner Review:
Not half as good as the first one, but still fun in it’s own way with it’s multi-charactered, multi-layered story and cool innovative technology ideas.
Iron Man 2 is very different than the first film and not quite as good, but it still finds it’s own angle for pulling off an entertaining story. The credit for that goes more to the cast than the filmmakers. The writing, by Justin Theroux (who wrote the excellent tropic thunder), is overly chaotic, but John Favreau is a smart enough director to know to give it to us in doses. And then there’s Robert Downey Jr., hamming it up as the playboy billionaire who loves to joke around and holds nothing back. Matched with two great actors playing villains, having just as much fun as he is, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell both steal every scene they’re in. Which is interesting since they have many scenes together. In those moments, Rourke takes a back seat to Rockwell, playing the quiet, disturbed type to Rockwell’s “have to know the answer,” agitated, jealous little scientist.
Downey Jr. as tony stark opens the movie with his expo and the announcement that he will relaunch it as a year-long contest that his father began about three decades ago. He speaks to the audience at the expo about how great he is and how he has single-handedly put the world at peace, and his arrogance is through the roof. As he leaves the building, he is handed a summons to appear in front of a senate hearing in washington the next morning.
that senate hearing, where the senate wants him to turn over the iron man weapon to the government, also introduces us to a number of characters. There’s the sleazy senator, played by gary shandling, the weapons expert who is tony’s competition, played by rockwell, and then tony’s friend rhodey, played by don cheadle (replacing terrence howard from the first movie.) stark insists at the hearing that nobody else has the technology to create a suit like his and even shows footage from around the world to prove it.
That brings us to monocco, at a grand prix race, where mickey rourke steps onto the track wearing a similar suit with electric whips in his hands. He fights with iron man in the first big action scene of the movie, and by the end of it, rourke is defeated, but stark’s theory about being the only one with such a suit is proven wrong.
At the senate hearing that took place earlier, rockwell’s character, justin hammer, was made to look stupid by stark. A video was put on the screen by tony’s own hand-held technology, that showed rockwell’s attempts at building a suit like tony’s and how much failure he was met with. When tony and hammer run into each other again, in monocco, we learn that hammer’s defense contract has been put on hold as a result of this. And so when hammer sees what mickey rourke can do, he immediately sets forth to get the man out of prison and working for him, building weapon machinery.
This gives us the two villains teaming up. And while they set to work in the background, without tony even knowing that rourke is still alive (his death was faked in his prison cell, orchestrated by hammer), tony has his own things going on at home. He promotes pepper (gwenyth paltrow) from being his assistant to being the C.E.O. of stark industries. In place of her, he hires scarlet johansen as his new assistant. And he’s got a bit of a health problem of his own, involving the poisoning of his blood level by the light energy device he wears on his chest. It’s the thing holding his heart together, not allowing metal shrapnel to get in, but at the same time, it’s poisoning him with toxins. Tony needs to discover a new element to solve this problem in a plot point of the movie that is a little silly and certainly overkill.
While the first movie was all about the moral issues and implications of being a weapons manufacturer and selling to other countries around the world, as represented by villain jeff bridges (a truly slimy and amazing portrayal), this movie doesn’t even address that. It has new themes of its own to tackle. The theme of this movie is tony’s relationship with his dead father (played in multiple video clips by mad men’s john slattery). That father-son relationship enters into the plot throughout the film, first with rourke’s character being the son of a man who he believes was wronged by stark’s father. then there’s the stark expo, originally founded by his father, as the ongoing project or event that both kicks off the film and also ends it with the big show climax. And finally, there’s the middle section of the film, where slatterey’s design for a sort of technology theme park (looking very similar to disney world), actually has a hidden image inside of it, which is the element that tony is looking for.
The movie follows a standard formula where at the start of the film the character is doing great, then in the middle, he hits a major slump, and by the end, he returns to stardom and redeems himself. That middle section is most interesting of them all as tony becomes so depressed about his blood level situation and the fact that he might be dead soon, that he abuses the iron man suit and alcohol at his birthday party. He gets drunk, starts blasting and breaking things, and his buddy rhodey needs to jump into one of the suits himself, just to put tony in place. Stark and rhodey, now both dressed in full battle gear, go at it with a fight around the house that leaves tony even more of a mess than he was before.
Following that fight, he’s left on his own. Visited by the agents of shield (which tony learns his father was involved with), he is put under temporary house arrest until he starts to figure things out. And so he rebuilds and restructures his home, and then he rebuilds his suit using the new element. When he returns to work, pepper has fully taken over as head of stark industries and rhodey has taken the suit he “borrowed,” over to the military to get it weaponized by none other than justin hammer. It’s a pretty cool mid-section of the movie.
And for the climax, we have the stark expo as the show that turns into a fight when rourke unleashes his robots and then shows up in person to add to the massive destruction. Overall, the movie is short on action, but big on plot strands. For action, there are really just four major scenes. There’s the monocco race track sequence, the stark vs. rhodey fight around the house sequence, and then two at the end. One features scarlet johansen kicking ass and the other is the big climactic fight against rourke and his robots. All four of these action scenes are pretty great, and that goes a long way. the plot is pretty interesting too, especially in the way it keeps weaving in tony’s father. There is a little too much going on here, and if one thing had to go it should have been the new element idea, but otherwise, this is a good film. I give sam rockwell credit more than anyone else (aside from downey jr.), for giving us both a sympathetic and funny villain whose motives and actions are totally understandable. He’s the guy who was ruined by stark whereas rourke is the guy ruined by stark’s father. I like that this movie isn’t afraid to go dark with stark’s arrogance and self-destructive tendencies. Favreau might be leaving the series, having directed only the first two of it’s films, but he certainly kicked it off in the right direction.