May 18, 2010

Iron Man 2 Review

Iron Man 2
Paramount Pictures, Marvel Studios
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by Jon Favreau

When the first Iron Man came out, it was a breakthrough, not only for the superhero genre but because of the revelatory comeback that was Robert Downey Jr. playing the role he was born to play- the playboy arms dealer Tony Stark. This was not even under my radar beforehand, so it was an even bigger surprise for me as I had zero, as in zero, knowledge of the film's content. I just knew that Iron Man was that dude with the red/gold plated armor in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

Well, obviously, the movie changed everything. Iron Man is now a household name usually tightly-knit together with Downey, because for audiences, one wouldn't exist without the other.

Two years later and Justin Theroux comes back with a new screenplay. The same director comes back on ship, and most of the actors reprise their roles. Don Cheadle is a credible actor as well, so what could go wrong?

While the trailers portray Tony Stark as an unstoppably charming rich douche, life is far from the "almost immortal" image he is drawn up to be, because a lot of things actually plague Stark's life.

You may remember Tony Stark's unprecedented confession of his identity in the first movie, and this installment of the franchise (obviously, it's going to be a franchise) deals with the perks and consequences of doing so- a Russian Mickey Rourke wants to seek copyright justice for his dad, the government wants to possess the suit for military use, Stark's refusal to hand over his suit prompts his rival Justin Hammer to make one (and fail), and the arc reactor that's keeping him alive is ironically killing him slowly.

When you think about it, that's a lot of sub-plots. Like Spiderman 3, all these sub-plots eventually converge into one huge action setpiece (which, mind you, is better than the first one's pedestrian final action scene) so judging from the comparison, you'd think Iron Man 2 would suck, but it just isn't the case.

The several events that happen throughout the movie are executed much more elegantly; it doesn't feel convoluted, nor heavy-handed like a lot of superhero movie sequels. However, one huge thing that Iron Man 2 and Spiderman 3 do share is the fact that there is no sense of a main plot. A lot of the movie's threads are based on sub-plots and it doesn't feel as if Tony Stark is actually aiming for one thing that the audience wants him to get.

Maybe it's true that the story of Iron Man should become a bit more complex, but it's hard to really like the fact that it has to be done in expense of the simplicity that made the first one extremely satisfying. This is actually what the second sequel lacks: a sense of true-blue satisfaction.

Despite all of it, the glue that really keeps the movie together is the performances. Obviously, Downey makes every scene enjoyable, Pepper Potts' character is a bit more explored so there's more for Gwyneth Paltrow to do, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer- while a bit cartoonish- steals the show, Mickey Rourke is quite intimidating as Whiplash, and Scarlett Johansenn is most definitely a hot item in that Black Widow suit.

Johansenn, dare I say it, made me a 'fan' of hers in this movie. Screen size does matter.

But putting that aside, her character is a real badass secret agent, and some of her scenes make for some pretty funny comedy.

That's one of the best things that the movie retains: the comedy. Even after dealing with Afghanistan, near death, the arms race, and daddy issues- just to name a few- the movie is still able to keep a sense of humor, be it with Stark's snappy retorts or the slapstick that occurs with a driver, the humor balances everything and makes it all click. Through it all, the movie is still quite fun, charming, and badass.

Iron Man 2 tries to address the criticism lobbied on the first one by at least trying to go for a more multi-threaded story and better action sequences, but I think the movie succeeds more on the latter. The plot is still quite easy to follow and the actors make the movie more than watchable, but that sense of satisfaction that made the first movie so refreshing and compelling is just not there. Normal audiences won't even notice much to nitpick or complain about, because the film is still a great time in a theatre, not only because of Downey and company, but also because of its sense of humor... and its undying ability to constantly serve you with a large can of whupass, so if you haven't already watched this one, well, what're you waiting for?

Rating: 7.9/10

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