Review: Iron Man 2

RASPUTIN

It’s good to be back!

Critically acclaimed and financially successful, Iron Man was the first film to launch under the (then independent) Marvel banner back in 2008. Fans and non-fans loved it. Marvel set in motion a sequel, laying the foundation for its larger cinematic universe. Would lightning strike twice? Alas not quite and while Iron Man 2 is a good film, at times a very enjoyable film to watch, it suffers from far too much happening in the film.

The first Iron Man is good but flawed.The thought of a man building a mechanical suit to keep him alive was intriguing, though it suffered from some rather debilitating problems.

The villain Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) lacked substance, it never pushed on from its excellent first act, the action was weak side and the finale was as if the film ran out of ideas. Unfortunately those problems still persist with the sequel and it would seem not enough time was spent on streamlining the script.

The film carries off from the first. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) has revealed that he is Iron Man and is dealing with the consequences. Stark sets out to make his own legacy by re-opening his father’s (Howard Stark, played by John Slattery) year-long expo.

However conflict arrives in Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), son of Howard Stark’s colleague who wants revenge for the way his father was treated. More conflict emerges from the Government (Senator Stern played by Garry Shandling) who want Stark to hand over the Iron Man ‘weapon’.

Another threat emerges in Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who has moved in to the weapons area Stark vacated. Add to his growing list of problems Stark is having relationship problems with best bud Rhodey (Don Cheadle), his confidante and Stark CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he’s under surveillance from S.H.I.E.L.D in the guise of Natasha Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Oh and he’s also dying from palladium poisoning caused by the arc reactor in his suit.

That’s a lot and the film suffers for it. The problem is not that the story gets too confusing or complicated but simply that the plot-lines don’t get the room to really breathe. Saying that it’s hard to see which subplot would be discarded.

There are parts of the film that play very well. The Monaco Grand Prix is the highlight with Vanko gate crashing the race spectacularly. It’s the only moment where you feel that Tony is truly vulnerable. However it gets dragged down by other elements. Despite Rockwell doing his best with the hammy Stark doppelganger, he’s too comedic to be threatening. He’s Stark but with infinitely less charisma and rubbish jokes.

Vanko is a disappointment too with Rourke sounding like he has a phoney accent. Left to simmer until the finale, he’s another villain that lacks a threat. The film is so focused on Stark’s travails, that the villains just can’t impose themselves enough.

When you look at the cast director John Favreau has assembled another excellent ensemble. Cheadle starts off shaky but grows into the role. Paltrow as Potts is left with a thankless task of being Stark’s closest confidante and she performs commendably. Johansson is striking as Natalie Rushman whose character isn’t fleshed out and shows off some physical prowess when she takes on a group of armed guards.

John Slattery, who with his Mad Men connections is an apt father figure as Howard Stark does well in his limited screen time. Jackson is his usual, larger than life self, injecting some energy into a second act that is listless at times.

Downey, as always, is beyond reproach as Stark providing some welcome humour and melancholy in dealing with his predicament. He’s out of control at times but it never dips into the Demon in a Bottle storyline. There are times where Stark ego/self pride causes him to alienate those around him and it can be annoying, but its more down to the script than the fault of Downey Jr.

Like everything else the production values across the film are impeccable, the CG, apart from some glaring oddities, is good if overused. There are some nice touches throughout especially with the ingenious suit-case at the Monaco Grand Prix (watch out for the kitchen sink in one fight). The graphical overlays are a nice touch continuing on from the first film’s implementation and the music is better but still disappointing.

The action is better with Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack) onboard to choreograph the action. It still suffers from metal on metal action which at times is incomprehensible but the choreography is better, slicker and with Iron Man and War Machine in play you have two visually interesting characters to look at. The action scenes sparkle with rampant destruction and are exciting apart from the final confrontation between Stark and Vanko which is over far too quickly.

Iron Man 2 is a worthy sequel that suffers from the same problems as the first. The ambition is definitely there but it suffers from a surfeit of characters and subplots that clutter the film.

It’s as if there wasn’t enough time to fine tune the script. It attempts to set up a larger universe and it succeeds but at the cost of the film itself. It feels like filler for films that are still in the pipeline and while it’s fine as a standalone film it never quite hits the heights you’d expect.

7/10

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Posted on 25/10/2010, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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