Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

Six months after revealing himself as Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has become a national hero. Not everything is all sunny in the life of the world's newest hero, however. As Iron Man 2 opens Stark is facing multiple problems including health issues tied to his use of the arc reactor, a push by the U.S. Senate to get their hands on the Iron Man technology for military use, a competitor (Sam Rockwell) wanting to steal limelight for himself, and the son (Mickey Rourke) of Howard Stark's business partner out for revenge.

That's a lot of plot to squeeze into two-hours, and I haven't even mentioned Pepper Potts' (Gwyneth Paltrow) new role as CEO of Stark Industries, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D., James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and the creation of War Machine, or Stark's new assistant (Scarlett Johansson) who has a few skills not listed on her resume.

Despite having success with the formula for Iron Man, director Jon Favreau makes changes in both tone and pacing from the first film. The sequel has been dipped in cheese and deepfried (including a prolonged scene with a drunk Tony Stark in full armor acting the fool). While the first gave you some dramatic weight to balance its lighter moments, the sequel seems content merely to have fun. Iron Man 2 is also paced within an inch of its life. Favreau goes the George Lucas’ “Faster, more intense!” route here in an attempt to keep the roller coaster from ever stopping. The effect of both these choices, however, is that when the film interjects some genuinely dramatic scenes they don’t have the gravity they should.

That doesn't mean there isn't some fun to be had. Iron Man himself may not be as cool this time around, but War Machine, Whiplash (Rourke), and large army of robot drones help make up the difference. And though not really necessary to the plot, Johansson (thankfully without an accent) is better than I expected as the Black Widow. Throw in a beefier role for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) plus the final after-credit sequence, which I won’t ruin here, and the Marvel movie universe is starting to take shape.

Although Iron Man 2 stays away from the current slow motion craze it does interject its own form of craptastic camera effects. In what I’ll refer to as crap-motion, several scenes are sped-up in an attempt to trick you eyes into thinking what you are seeing is more impressive than it actually is. The movie does this a handful of times, the most egregious example being Johannson’s big Matrix-like action sequence. Rather than choreograph and shoot scenes that actually work this short-cut misdirection technique attempts to convince you that something cool might have happened, even if you didn’t quite see it. It annoyed me to no end.

Even with the nagging issues I had, Iron Man 2 is a fair bit better than recent Marvel missteps such as Punisher: War Zone and Spider-Man 3 and is the type of fun summer flick that is definitely worth a couple hours of your time. Maybe you’ll even get to see it in stereo-sound (unlike the screening I attended where none of the surround speakers made a peep during the entire film).

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