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Jon Favreau’s Iron Man took a lot of people by surprise. It was Favreau’s first tentpole film, for one thing (unless you count Zathura), and his seamless blend of action, CGI, and practical effects cemented him as a credible and skilled action director. But it also showed us that Robert Downey Jr. could perfectly incarnate billionaire playboy Tony Stark. Despite the film’s flaws, the first one had a nice balance of drama, humor, action, and sci-fi geekery. So how well does Iron Man 2 carry on its legacy? Hit the jump for some of my brief thoughts, and leave yours in the comments section below.
Iron Man 2 is in theaters everywhere today.
Sadly, I don’t think Iron Man 2 is quite as good. In Iron Man, Tony Stark had a pretty great character arc: He started off cold and callous to the consequences of his action. Then, seeing the human misery and suffering his company has wrought, he vows to become a savior to the downtrodden. It was obviously impossible to duplicate for the second film, so instead we get…lots more characters! We’re introduced to Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwel), Stark’s sleazy rival, and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a spurned physicist who vows revenge on Stark. Also, Scarlett Johansson plays Stark’s new secretary (OR IS SHE?) and ends up getting one of the most satisfying action sequences in the entire film.
Despite Rockwell and Rourke’s excellent performances, all of these characters feel one-note, constrained by the film’s running time and script. It doesn’t help that a significant chunk of the film is devoted to the Avengers world-building elements. These segments come off as clunky and take away from the momentum of the plot, which already needs all the help it can get.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark just doesn’t really do that much, nor does he change as a person, for a majority of the film. An early plotline suggesting that Stark will be forced to confront his mortality goes nowhere.
I also found that the new film suffered from (dare I say it?) a lack of action or, at the very least, a lack of thrills when compared to the first one. When Iron Man didn’t have Stark taking out third-world terrorists, it featured Stark trying out the new features of his suit as he flew through the skies of Malibu. The pacing was excellent and I never felt bored, which I can’t say about Iron Man 2. Furthermore, except for maybe one or two brief shots of Iron Man flying, the sequel did not convey the sense of wonder that I found so appealing about the first film. I was also really disappointed with the boss battle at the end of Iron Man 2, which I found to be quick and unsatisfying. I think Favreau has yet to understand the mechanics of how to make an exhilarating final fight.
To be fair, the movie does offer some great thrills. For example, when I watched the scene below, I felt a tingle in my geek heart. [Do NOT watch this clip if you want to go into the movie fresh.]
Iron Man 2 is still a great time at the theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll stir in awe, you’ll be thrilled momentarily. Just don’t expect any more than that, and don’t expect it to surpass the first film.Cool Posts From Around the Web: