MOVIE REVIEW: Iron Man 2 (2010)
The second act of any franchise is usually one of the hardest things to put to paper and the silver screen, and the stakes are even higher when the first film in a franchise is really good. This holds true for Iron Man 2, following up on 2008′s Iron Man. When Iron Man was first released, I was thrilled: Iron Man has long been a favorite comic book character, and the first film proved that a comic from 1963, could be brought into the modern age while retaining relevant themes. The second film follows up on Iron Man 2‘s successes, but doesn’t quite rise to the same heights that the first film did.
To be fair upfront, I found Iron Man 2 to be a spectacularly fun film, one that was generally better than a number of other follow up comic book films. But at the same time, the film falls prey to some of the major problems that studios seem to push on sequels: more action, more characters, more explosions. Iron Man 2 gets this treatment, but it handles it far better than expected.
In the opening of #2 (Thankfully not named Iron M2n or saddled with a ridiculous subtitle like: Iron Man: Rust Free or something), we’re treated to the ending of the first film on the television, where a Russian man passes away, with his son, Ivan Vanko, vowing vengeance upon the Stark family, who’s relationship to the Vankos plays out over the course of the film. In the meantime, Tony Stark is waging a sort of conflict against a couple of other problems: defense contractors and governmental interests who want their own Iron Man suits, competition from other countries working on creating their own suits, an adoring public and his own failing health due to the power source that keeps him alive and allows him to use his iconic suit.
Vanko has his own agendas, and after a failed attack on Stark, he’s courted by one of Stark’s rivals, Justin Hammer, who, as a major weapons manufacturer for the U.S. Government, is trying to build his own power suit. Vanko is put to work, creating a line of drones for Hammer, and after Col. Rhodes takes one of Starks suits, sets to work on his own version of the suit, with some additional modifications. S.H.I.E.L.D. is brought back for the second half of the movie, telling Tony to get back in line, revealing his assistant, Natalie Rushman, as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. This follows a portion of the film where Tony spirals out of control. He’s faced with the possibility of death, due to the poisoning from the power source, and acts out accordingly, putting him at odds with his testimony before the Senate Arms Committee and his rivals as being in control enough to protect the nation with the Iron Man suit.
The film moves on from there, setting up a number of storylines in the first half of the film that then lead to Vankov building a suit of his own, Hammer unleashing his drones, and Rhody and Stark fighting back to back in a rather spectacular fight scene over parts of Brooklyn.
Iron Man 2 covers a lot of ground, touching on the Extremis and Demon in a Bottle storylines in the first half of the film, before really focusing on the buildup of the final act and the buildup to the upcoming Avengers and Thor movies. As such, there’s a lot to the film, but it largely felt that there was quite a lot cut out of the film (which should make the upcoming DVD release a good buy) and that there was a lot left unsaid, making the film feel incomplete.
The first big issue that fell flat is the respective issues between Tony and Howard Stark and Ivan and Vankov. This could have been blossomed out quite a bit more to become a major theme of the film. Much of the film builds off of the relationships that both men had – Vankov, out of anger at losing his father and then directing that anger at how his father was treated by Howard Stark. Stark himself acted first out of looking to please a distant father, which then turned to learning that his father cared greatly for him, and prepared (conveniently) for his son’s future. There were points where these elements felt simply dropped in where needed, mainly with Vankov, and it could have been fleshed out quite a bit more.
The other major issue that I had was the film’s split between the Extremis and Demon in a Bottle storylines. I thought it was a very good move to place one before the other, where Stark’s illness in part causes his breakdown and slip into depression, which in turn helps fuel along the rest of the film. That being said, as it was only used as setup material, it felt shortened, incomplete, in need of a bit more treatment. Ideally, this plotline should have remained at the center of the film from the beginning – Stark’s refusal to turn over the suit, even though his judgment was clouded, and then looking to his redemption throughout the film, I felt deserved more focus. While this was a large part of the film, much of what’s really found in the first half of the movie is really lost as the action kicks into high gear.
The final battle is really the part that annoyed me the most, however. With such a large buildup over the course of the film, the final battle really fell very short at the end. What we did get was pretty spectacular, with Justin Hammer bringing out the drones, Vankov taking control of them to exact his own revenge on Tony Stark, tearing up part of the city before Iron Man and War Machine go back to back to fight them all off. The problems happen when Vankov comes into play with his own suit of armor (which really comes out of nowhere), the fight wraps up pretty quickly, and the end result is a bit of a letdown.
There’s a lot of good to the film though. Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer is simply a hilarious and attention-grabbing character anytime he appears on the screen; he really rivaled Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark. Hammer’s character fills the role of #2 in the defense industry, behind Stark, and willing to go to some darker depths in order to supplant his rival. Mickey Rorke likewise does a fantastic job as Ivan Vankov/Whiplash, short as his role was. Scarlett Johansen likewise did a decent job, although her role was pretty limited.
As a coworker noted to me, the film didn’t have a dull moment – the action is top notch, just the right bit of over the top, the humor was pretty consistent throughout the film, and overall, it fit extremely well with the first film. While not as good as the first, Iron Man 2 does an admiral and unenviable task of filling its shoes and setting up not one, but four other movies: Captain America, Thor, Avengers and Iron Man 3. Those will play out over the next couple years, but in the meantime, Iron Man 2 does ‘shoot to thrill’.
Filed under: Movies
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