Iron Man 2

Damn, I’m torn on this one. There’s good and bad in this movie just as any other, but I’m still not sure which side of the fence I’m on just yet. Maybe by the time I get done writing this I’ll know; let’s see where it goes…

Ok, let’s do the description first: IM2 picks up where the first movie left off. Tony Stark has declared he’s Iron Man, he’s taking on all comers that threaten the security of the US (a very timely topic) and he’s Time Magazine’s person of the year. Life is good for Tony Stark/Iron Man (played once again by Robert Downey Jr.). 6 months go by and having held off the bad guys as well as our government (Garry Shandling’s senator character is trying to take the Iron Man suit from Stark for the military), Stark has officially “privatized world peace”. Things start to go south for our hero when he discovers the energy source that keeps him alive is actually slowly killing him. If that weren’t enough, Stark’s competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is making a play for his spot as the go-to weapons guy and Stark is now being hounded by someone from his family’s past out for revenge. Confused yet? Well, it gets thicker…

Let’s start with the good stuff. There’s plenty of action and some great effects. There’s also some beautiful locations and plenty of eye candy. I’m a Marvel comics fan and was enjoying the nods to the upcoming Avengers flick (look for the Captain America shield and be sure to stay until the end of the credits). Samuel L. Jackson appears again as Nick Fury which is always a welcome highlight. The tongue in cheek humor is fun too.

As for the rest, well, the film seems to get a bit bogged down. The storyline is all over the place – Stark’s dying, there’s a new villain (actually 2 of them), there’s a new hottie (Scarlett Johansson), there’s a lot of globe jumping, there’s controversy with the government, there’s controversy with Rhodey (Stark’s best friend played this time by Don Cheadle), there’s controversy with Stark’s real love interest and new CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark has some unresolved daddy issues, Stark’s trying to establish his legacy, oh and there’s the whole maintaining world peace thing. Did you get all that? Yeah, me neither. I know that sequels often try to go bigger than the original, but there is such a thing as too big (see just about anything Michael Bay does). This film suffers from the same syndrome as Spider Man 3, X-men 3, Batman and Robin and others that choose flash over substance, IM2 just got there sooner.

As a director myself, it’s hard to take off those glasses as just a movie goer if the film has too many weak points. If the movie is strong than I have no problem just enjoying the merits of it. My wife heard me complaining about the writing in this movie and she said “well, aren’t a lot of comic book movies written poorly?”. The answer to that is yes, but my retort was that there are plenty of comic book movies that are well written including: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (which is complex but brilliant and relatively easy to follow), Superman Returns, X-Men 1 and 2, and Spiderman 1 and 2 as well as the first Iron Man. Unfortunately I think the director (Jon Favreau) got a bit too big for his britches on this one and instead of focusing on how many scenes he could work himself into, he should’ve been a bit more concerned with staying behind the lens and focusing more on the substance of the project.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s easy to criticize. So I’ll put my money where my mouth is and tell you what I would have done. The foundation is there, I just would’ve trimmed the fat and focused a bit more on the main villain (Whiplash played by Mickey Rourke), giving him more backstory and more screen time, he’s not in here all that much and mumbles broken english when he is in here, so it’s hard to make a connection to despise him as the villain especially when he’s overshadowed by the Justin Hammer character. I would’ve honed the action a bit more. There is action but I really don’t need to see Scarlett Johansson’s character kicking ass as much as I want to see Iron Man doing it. In fact, I’m really not sure why Scarlett Johansson is even in here other than to add hotness as she doesn’t say much either making her character seem a bit pointless. The main fight at the end goes by too soon. There’s a robot army that gets taken out pretty quickly where there could’ve been a lot more fun with that and the fight with Whiplash is over before you know it too. Just to put it in perspective, Jon Favreau’s body guard character is in a fight that lasts longer than the main Iron Man vs. Whiplash fight at the end. I couldn’t care less about Favreau’s character, much less his action scene (which I would’ve chopped out). C’mon Jon, you’re a talented guy, get your ego in check wouldya?

Then there’s some overly weak moments I would’ve re-tooled. One big one that sticks out: there’s a point where Iron Man needs to take the robot army fight away from a crowd of innocent bystanders. He even says “we have to get away from these people so noone gets hurt” (or something to that effect). So, Iron Man flies out of the building with the robots chasing him only to circle back into the same building and then into the parking lot where everyone is fleeing to get