Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is it just me, or did "Iron Man 2" kind of suck?

Before anyone assumes that I'm exaggerating here, take note of the words "kind of" in that headline. We're not talking about "X-3" or "Spider-Man 3" epic suck here, but think about it: Either in comparison to the wildly entertaining original movie or just on its own as the flick to launch this summer, "Iron Man 2" was for the most part a big disappointment.

Granted, it certainly starts off well enough. Tony Stark is just as brashly fun as we remember him at the Stark Expo, and the good stuff keeps building until the Grand Prix de Monaco, which is one of the best superhero set pieces in recent years and certainly a grand entrance for Whiplash, the ubercool villain played by Mickey Rourke.

Which just makes it that much more of a shame that, from that point on, the movie just pretty much completely fizzles out. It really goes nowhere, and what we get, rather amazingly, is a placesetter. Now, an extremely flashy placesetter at that, but why in the world should the the world's coolest superhero have to fulfill that role for anyone, be it Thor, Captain America, the Avengers or even his own next movie? Sheesh.

The real travesty in that almost complete letdown in the story department is that the cast - new and old - is pretty uniformly first-rate. Downey is if anything even funnier than he was in the original - no small feat - and he and Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts have quickly developed the kind of naturally witty give and take that is sorely missing from the vast majority of what passes for romantic comedies these days. I still see no need to have replaced Terrence Howard - a definite fave around here - with Don Cheadle here, but he certainly works too as both Rhoady and the War Machine.

And as far as villains go, Mickey Rourke makes a bigger impression as Whiplash than any big bad since Alfred Molina's Doc Oc, and like Molina, he menaces at least as much with his words as he does with those electrifying arms. Combined with Sam Rockwell, who just hams it up as weapons man Justin Hammer, pretty much the anti-Tony in every way, they make a pretty sensational dastardly duo once they join forces.

But with all that going for it, how in the world did director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux manage to deliver such a dud storywise? Be warned: If you haven't seen "Iron Man 2" yet and want to (and I would certainly never tell anyone not to), you probably shouldn't read any further today, because I really can't get into my real beefs with "Iron Man 2" without getting pretty specific from here on out.

OK, work with me here, people. After Rourke's smashing intro as Whiplash in Monaco, what's the most exciting thing that happens in the rest of "Iron Man 2"? The real peril for our hero doesn't come during the middle stretch from Whiplash, but instead from the palladium that is slowly killing him at the same time that it superpowers him. But how does Tony go about finding a replacement? Well, after tinkering around a bit in his lab (not being a gadget guy, easily my least favorite of any "Iron Man" tale), Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury simply GIVES HIM THE NEW ELEMENT, or at least what he needs to discover it. Where in the world is the fun or any kind of intrigue in all that?

But the real letdown of "Iron Man 2" has to be the finale, so once again be warned, don't read this if you haven't seen the flick yet. OK, think about it. What happens after Whiplash dupes Hammer (an amazingly easy feat) and unleashes his deadly army of drones at Stark Expo? After a "battle" that lasts maybe a minute or two tops, Tony and Rhoady dispense of them all with seemingly little to no trouble at all. That, however, is just placesetting for the arrival of Whiplash in his own suit of ultrabad armor, right? Nope. Whiplash does look like one bad MF armored out, but Tony and Rhoady, in one of the the silliest Wonder Twins-esque superhero moments ever, take him out almost instantly. Again, where in the world is the fun in that?

In the end, that sums up the real downfall of "Iron Man 2" for me: Though it brought plenty of funny, the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that the root word of that is fun. And lest anyone reading this think I'm simply a curmudgeon who doesn't like superhero flicks, you're at least partly right, because done right, I LOVE THEM. "Spider-Man 2" isn't just my favorite superhero movie, but just one of my favorite movies of all time in any category. And this year alone, though it made next to no money, "Kick-Ass" had all the fun spirit that "Iron Man 2" just squandered after its promising first 20 minutes or so.

And I read that Jon Favreau has his eyes already set firmly on an "Iron Man 3," with Mandarin as the big bad. Well, "Iron Man 2" certainly had to be a setup for something, so I'll give him another chance when that inevitably rolls around, and will be hoping it's a whole lot better than the mixed bag he came up with this time. Peace out.


Anonymous said...

Not just you. It sucked.

(The first one sucked too BTW.)

Reel Fanatic said...

Can't agree with you on No. 1, anonymous one, but glad to know I'm not alone on the sequel

Ken said...

The first one owns. Iron Man 2 sucked, I agree. Not as bad as X3 or Spiderman 3 or Wolverine suckage, but a major disappointment. It's still better than Elektra, Daredevil, or Ghost Rider, but Favreau set the bar so high with the first one. Hard to reproduce that kind of magic.

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