Iron Man 2 Review With Spoilers (3 of 5)
SPOILER ALERT: This is your warning.THERE ARE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS ‘REVIEW’. If you don’t wish to have the movie SPOILed for you than go no further. If you do, then it’s your own damn fault. Don’t blame me, blame your own weak will.
I have to say right up front that I had fun watching Iron Man 2, but I also have to post what Jeff Bridges was quoted as saying from the original:
“They had no script, man. They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?'”
He went on to say:
“You would think with a $200 million movie you’d have the shit together, but it was just the opposite. And the reason for that is because they get ahead of themselves. They have a release date before the script, ‘Oh, we’ll have the script before that time,’ and they don’t have their shit together.”
I’m not giving you EVERYTHING that he said. Do a search if you want to read the whole thing. But (paraphrasing) Bridges called it one of the most unprofessional movies that he ever worked on and that he was surprised that it turned out as well as it did.
MY POINT is that I would be willing to bet that the sequel followed the same diagram of success. It was an enjoyable movie and it might make more money than the first one did, but at the same time it was very much apparent that they were just ‘winging it’. Characters came and went with no purpose. So did storylines and plot elements. There were pointless scenes. There are long stretches where people just stand around talking and nothing really happens. And it was very non-dramatic…. But I guess it was still fun. The more I continued to write about it, the more I thought about the flaws, of which there are many.
The strength of the movie once again rests on the the shoulders of the film’s star Robert Downey Jr. He once again carries the film. Without him, the level of quality would probably be on the level of the recent GI Joe film. I do think that his character is much more of a buffoon in this one, where in the first film the audience laughs WITH him a lot more. But Downey is one of those actors (like Jeff Bridges) that are pretty good in just about any part you give them.
Pepper Potts isn’t in any of the Iron Man comics I had growing up, but she is the love interest in the films, so I have a hard time understanding why Gwyneth Paltrow’s role was so severely diminished in the sequel. There’s a sub-plot which never amounts to anything that approaches being dramatic, which involves the power source that keeps Tony Stark alive is at the same time killing him. You would think you would want to show a little bit of dramatic tension by allowing the love interest to find out that her man’s dying and maybe have her take some action to help… or to put her in danger… Or something. In the few bits that she was in she did add a few humorous moments, but was mostly reduced to acting sullen towards Stark, even though it went against her behavior in the first film.
And on the subject of ‘dying, but not really’, can’t Tony Stark afford to go to a doctor? I guess he doesn’t have to, since besides being a genius in the fields of Physics, Mechanics, Electronics, Holography and all things related to computer technology; he’s also an expert in the field of medicine, able to… (deep breath ) to find the cure himself by creating a new element that his father had been ‘working on’ decades beforehand and luckily that new element will act as an energy source for the chest device that powers his suit of armor and keeps him alive and works to (I guess) reverse the effects of the techno-virus-like illness that he has developed from the ‘palladium’ that he had been using as a power source. I say that, but I’m not really sure. At one point, Stark is hanging out at a doughnut shop and Sam Jackson shows up with Scarlet in a leather catsuit. Jackson explains that they somehow know that he’s ill and that they have the cure, And they do. Or maybe it’s a temporary cure… I think that’s what the creation of a NEW ELEMENT was all about, but it served to let the nerds in the audience know that WITH THIS NEW ELEMENT IRON MAN IS MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER! Stark announces that, even…As muddled as what I just said, I feel like that was a pretty clear depiction of what was presented. I don’t REALLY know if that was what cured him or what happened earlier… Wait… Let me go back a little.
At one point in the movie, Stark throws a house party. I believe he does this because Natalie (or Natasha) that Stark has just met answers his question of what she would do if she knew she were dying. Her answer is to do whatever she wanted with anyone she wanted… First, the scene would have had a MUCH larger impact if this had been posed to Pepper Potts, the ‘love interest’. It would have been meaningful. Second, it’s a stupidly irresponsible answer. Thirdly, the fact that I think that is the reason that he starts acting like a complete @$$ is really weak. At the party he starts acting erratic while wearing the Iron Man suit and dancing a la Adam West doing the ‘Bat Dance’, when his Air Force pal Rhodey shows up to talk to Tony about turning over his ‘Iron Man’ technology to the… US government? The military?… Anyway, Stark disrespects Rhodes, so he does the logical thing (that’s sarcasm, there): he helps himself to one of Stark’s extra suits of armor. This suit of armor must be the most user-friendly technology ever devised because he immediately knows how to operate it (Didn’t Tony have to go through half a movie trying to work out how to operate the suit in the first film?). Anyway, the ‘logic’ continues and much like every single comic book I’ve ever read where there is a superhero ‘guest appearance’ in a superhero title; before the 2 heroes can team up against the villain, they are first obligated to fight one another senselessly. And they do. Not a well thought out fight, but it was adequate (that’s my inner nerd talking… Pay no attention). AND during this, they show us what happens when they ‘cross the streams’… Yes, they stole an idea that has been in a number of movies like Ghostbusters (and even Marvel’s Howard the Duck for that matter). I think it has always been a lame idea, except for that one time in Ghostbusters. They also stole a little from ‘here and there’, like the scene where Hammer technology is depicted as defective. Those clips were ripped straight from the first and second Robocop films with absolutely no shame.
The worst part of this entire scene is where Pepper Potts screams at the Johansson character Natalie Rushman (yes, I know what her real name is) that this all of her fault, because ever since she had arrived at Stark Industries everything has gone wrong. That’s the only time where that subplot is set up. Beforehand there is some snappy banter between Stark and Potts about the new assistant’s attractiveness that is nothing more than snappy banter. It goes from the snappy banter directly to the angry accusation. Does this subplot develop after that? Nope. Stark shows up to see Potts (who now runs his company in a GIRL POWER! subplot), and Paltrow and Johanson are getting along swimmingly. I think the Black Widow character is the most blatant example of Marvel forcing a character into one of their movies. She really has no purpose in the movie other than to look hot… Okay, I am the last person that would complain about Scarlet Johanson standing around looking hot, but really… Her part added nothing to the story. She had virtually no personality in the entire film. Not the fault of the actress.
This disappoints me to a very large degree, because one of my favorite Marvel comics characters is the Black Widow. I always enjoyed the Marvel Fanfare run drawn by George Perez, along with her role with Daredevil, the Champions, the Avengers, Spider-Man, etc. She’s wasted in this film.
There are a number of unnecessary subplots. One is a plot that involves Gary Shandling as a Senator that wants Tony Stark to turn over the ‘Iron Man’ technology to the government with no payoff. The Senator is pinning medals on Stark at the end of the film. Apparently all of the federal laws that Stark breaks during the film makes the Senator realize the error of his ways of trying to obtain the Iron Man technology and just drop the whole idea altogether.
Later, Scarlett and Stark’s chauffer (Favreau) are involved in an illogical, pointless action scene . It has no payoff. And I know she’s playing the Black Widow, but unless I missed it, they never say that. They don’t speak the name of Whiplash. Or was he the Titanium Man at the end? I don’t know. Is it no longer considered ‘cool’ to let the audience know that “yes, this is Whiplash from the comics”? Or War Machine for that matter? You can name a character ‘Pepper Potts’ and that’s acceptable, but calling the villain his comic book name isn’t? Whatever. I digress.
The villains were both pretty weak. I am a big Sam Rockwell fan and have been a fan of a lot of Mickey Rourke’s work, but here they aren’t given much to work with. Rockwell plays Justin Hammer, who I always remembered as being a pretty nasty guy (he once used his technology to take control of Stark’s suit and killed a politician during a photo op with Iron Man). Here Hammer is reduced to an emasculated ineffective idiot.
Hammer hires the GENIUS (aren’t they all) Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), whose father apparently helped develop the technology that was the foundation of the Stark empire. Ivan feels Stark is a thief of that technology, so after his father dies, he builds his own little arc reactor and makes himself some electro whips. Why whips and not frickin’ laser beams or a suit of armor like Iron Man, I don’t know. You’d think being a GENIUS that he would realize that he’s at a disadvantage wearing a harness and some electric whips going up against a heavily armed guy that flies around in a suit of techilogically advanced armor. On a side note, I’m betting there aren’t many Physics GENIUSes that are as large and tattooed as Vanko and spent 15 years in jail, either….
The most blatant example of how little time the writers thought about what they wrote (if there were writers), is Hammer ‘s relationship with Vanko after hiring him. Hammer never has any idea of what his employee is working on, what he’s planning, why, etc…. Hammer heads a multi-million dollar (if not billions) weapons-making corporation that competes with Stark, but apparently A) he’s incompetent and B) there isn’t anyone other than Vanko employed by Hammer who actually works on producing weapons. WHERE ARE ALL OF THE ENGINEERS? Hammer has a ‘fleet’ of unfinished suits of armor, but who actually put them them together is never revealed. The only employees shown are security guards that are there to get their @$$e$ handed to them (pointlessly) by a 12o lb. woman and a chauffeur later in the film .
Anyway, Vanko shows up at the Indie Car racing track where Stark decides to be the driver for the team that he owns and attacks Stark where he stands on the track while the cars are driving a couple of hundred miles of hour and not hitting him. That’s not half as ridiculous as when Stark’s butler races to his employer’s aid, feels it necessary to drive AGAINST the flow of traffic on the raceway. That part is probably the hardest thing to swallow in the entire movie… Anyway, the chauffer manages to avoid all of the oncoming CGI cars and runs into Whiplash, pinning him against a concrete wall and the car. You’d think that would have at least broken his spine or something, but I guess he has SUPER POWERS or something. He tears the car apart, but Stark as Iron Man quickly disarms his attacker.
That was another thing that was a bit disappointing… As much screen time that Rourke gets in the film (and how much was invested in him in the advertising), he’s dispatched at the end in about 15 seconds. He has a bigger fight with Iron Man in the Race Car scene. At the (anti)climax of the movie, and after Iron Man and War Machine take out a slew of robots (video game style), Rourke shows up in a helmet-less suit of armor, gets a couple of shots in before Iron Man and Rhodey ‘CROSS THE STREAMS’ and take him out. I guess at least he got that, though. Rockwell’s character just gets arrested.
Despite all of the problems that I had with it, I still thought that it was reasonably enjoyable, but mainly because of the humor delivered by Downey Jr. It wasn’t quite as funny as the original. It was poorly written and directed for such a big budget movie, but still managed to be fun. I have a very strong feeling that based on this and the Incredible Hulk movie, that the Avengers is going to be a monumental train wreck, but we’ll see. Overall, I give 3 out of 5 whatevers for Iron Man 2. Take out Downey Jr and Johannson to look at and I’d half that. Hopefully, if there’s a third Iron Man movie before or after the Avengers film, that the producers will have a (good) script in hand before going into production.