Saturday, June 5, 2010
IRON MAN 2: Not Bad or Good, Kinda Meh
Well, I FINALLY caught up with IRON MAN 2 (almost a month after its release ---- an all-time record for me to see a Marvel superhero flick!) The buzz from people I know who had seen it had been quite polarized: either they loved it or liked it with the caveat that it wasn't as good as the original.
Now that I finally saw it, I am siding with the latter (and with my gut instincts, which did not care for the trailer). But it wasn't a terrible sequel, just all over the map.
Let's face it, not every sequel can be a DARK KNIGHT or EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. So I was hoping for a fun, decent sequel, which is what I think IM2 is. It's not a piss-poor sequel like X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE or ELEKTRA or a mediocre movie like GHOST RIDER or a disaster like Ang Lee's HULK!
Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark is as charming as ever. Mickey Rourke is fine as Whiplash. It was fun to see Garry Shandling in anything, even though it's not a particularly hilarious role. And oddly enough, one of the best bit of casting is the film's director Jon Favreau, returning as the chauffeur Happy Hogan (he also played Foggy Nelson in DAREDEVIL - guess he's the quintessential Marvel Comics sidekick in cinema.)
I did have a lot of nitpicks: the biggest gripe––not enough action! This is the yappiest superhero movie on God's green earth, especially in the middle, where it gets really flabby. The scene with Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts racing in the face of a Monte Carlo car race without getting struck defies a lot of credibility (but OK, I can live with that...) When we finally get to the climax, the villain Whiplash (who by the end virtually becomes ANOTHER Iron Man villain, the Crimson Dynamo) is disposed of all too quickly.
I also didn't buy the whole gambit of Rhode/War Machine picking a fight with a drunken Iron Man at a party full of innocent people (why would a military guy like Rhode jeopardize their lives?). Tony Stark's drunkeness, as depicted in this movie, is played for laughs (there's no anguish or battle with addiction, as in the comics) and kind of makes Iron Man look goofy, and with the AC/DC blasting and lots of big showy spectacle, there's a "frat boy" gloss to it (as my buddy Javier Hernandez put it) and a "Super Bowl" flavor to this movie (as another pal, Jon Clark, worded it). I'd have to agree, that's how it hit me as well. Odd for a movie that actually does not have enough spectacle going on: not enough Whiplash, only one scene in which the Black Widow kicks ass, and routine robot warfare we've seen in many other films previously.
Lacking from the proceedings are any kind of "Oh, wow!" moments of Iron Man taking flight, which were very well done (and very naturalistic) in the first film. Remember those great daylight flight shots that seemed so authentic? None here, most of it is done at night, where you can cut corners on realistic special effects.
Speaking of the Black Widow, to my surprise, I enjoyed Scarlett Johannsen despite my initial reservations, but again, not enough Black Widow. and, truth is, she doesn't really belong in this film. Neither does Samuel L. Jackson/Nick Fury, who got on my nerves. He's not a badass (like every other Jackson role) or as charismatic as in the comics. They should've gone with the original Caucasian Nick Fury character, rather than let the Ultimate Marvel version. Jackson is too old and flabby and oddly toothless as Nick Fury, who needs some more bite to him. Javier had a great idea: cast WATCHMEN's Comedian (Jefferey Dean Morgan) in the classic Nick Fury role. While we're at it, Terrence Howard (from the original IRON MAN) would've been a much better and more convincing Rhode/War Machine than an aging, physically unimpressive Don Cheadle). And honestly, does this movie really need War Machine? Save something for IRON MAN 3, right?
And that's the biggest problem with IRON MAN 2 (and, evidently, recent Marvel movies, such as the dust-up behind the scenes on SPIDER-MAN 3 and SPIDER-MAN 4, where characters and subplots were forced onto Sam Raimi's movies) is there's too many executives in the kitchen, trying to shoehorn contemporary characters and storylines (in this case, all this Ultimate Marvel/Avengers Initiative plot leading up to the AVENGERS film).
Like the Uru hammer Mjolnir, the Avengers plot will be picked up in next May's THOR movie. (For now, the hammer is out there in the New Mexican desert, where both Javy and I expected to find the Hulk! How a Norse God winds up there will be an interesting thing to learn....) Let's hope that the continuing quest to get to Marvel Entertainment's endgame - THE AVENGERS movie - does not hamper the storylines of both THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER next summer.