Thursday, May 13, 2010

Iron Man 2

Spoilers. People have been asking for an Iron Man 2 review. I totally liked it, but also find myself without that much to really say. The same people who asked me to review it also provided some thoughts of their own. So I thought I would chuck a bunch of stuff in this post written by different people and see what happens.

The main thing I had to say about it was that it felt to me like a new kind of blockbuster. The Dark Knight did too to a certain extent -- but the Dark Knight was a BAD new kind of blockbuster, one that tried to make SERIOUS, DOWNER points, one that lectured the audience (It was not the first, but it was big about it). That is not good summer blockbuster material.

Iron Man 2 was new in a good way. The scene in the diner with Samuel L Jackson was what made it clear to me. The logo of the diner is in the window and it is all yellow and orange. Like something from the 70s, but not exactly the 70s. And I realized two things. 1. The nebulous time superhero comics are set in is very like the nebulous time Tarantino movies are set in (People are texting in Death Proof but everything else about the setting seems 70s; in the comics in what war does Iron Man's origin take place?).

2. Iron Man 2 is good for the same reason Pulp Fiction is good -- and watching Samuel L Jackson in the diner is the overlap, the scene in both movies. Pulp Fiction is an irreverent, randomly and gratuitously violent film, but even though those were all things the audience, including my high-school-self, valued, this was not why we watched the movie. We watched for the dialogue, for the conversations. The revolution of having such a successful cool picture, a movie (along with Reservoir Dogs) it felt like my whole high school was obsessed with be about PEOPLE TALKING is kind of amazing, especially when people think high school kids are just idiots who want to see violence (and we were, and we did, but the talking trumped all).

Turn to Iron Man 2. Surely the point of the blockbuster is the action set pieces. And they were there, just as the violence was in Pulp Fiction. But the action is not the point. So when the ending was rushed and a friend suggested the movie could have been longer to give it some breathing space I was surprised to hear myself say -- yeah but if it was longer I think I would have wanted more talking, not more action. Name another blockbuster were you feel like you want less blowing things up and more of the scenes in between. Star Trek is starting to go in this direction. Dark Knight THOUGHT people wanted more talking, but did not know what kind. Iron Man 2 is the real success on this front. All the other problems the movie had, maybe some second act problems, sink beneath the undeniable fact of the charisma of actors talking. This is like a successful version of my favorite movie, Ocean's 12, which also relied on the charisma of stars hanging out, running the show in no hurry to get anywhere, and getting it on film.

C Lue Disharoon had the following to say:

From grimy setting of the opening, to the spectacular dive with AC/DC blaring that leads to Tony Stark's Techno Caesar entrance on stage at the massive Expo, those first ten minutes really took me there and stimulated many curiosities that will follow my free time studies in days to come.

I loved the strong women characters, whose roles were written as credible possibilities for brilliant human beings. While a suggestion that Scarlett Jo's Natasha Romanova might have an intellect for evaluation, hacking knowledge, take-down style martial arts and a head for languages fits the superficiality of the action plot, they do glamorize capabilities that real women achieve. The best moments of Paltrow's Potts role take your mind off the modern-minded gender switch to reflect a competent woman effectively running "behind the scenes" actualities, albeit with Tony's renegade penchant there to make a difficult job almost impossible!

The villain side is a really fun pastiche of believable elements in classic Iron Man stories, while generating new characters in place of fragmented analogues of these best ideas. The Whiplash (an ex-con) accoutrement to the Crimson Dynamo's mythos by way of a central film theme, legacy, gave him a hook. Mickey Rourke's intelligence-fueled climb from the neglect heap through the terrors of prison life and his father's exile and poverty makes him sympathetic and motivated while never sacrificing his scarring and ethical perversion. The military/ industrial complex's dark side is played up for its incompetence and greed, reprising the classical antagonistic Senator role from Stan Lee's 60s comic. The weaponeer entrepreneur played with condescending and ignorant relish, Justin Hammer, from Layton/ Micheleine's 1980s run. Rourke's main villain was greatly inspired by the actor's study of a much-maligned and infamous Butyrka Prison

Scott had this to say

Iron Man 2 might, in fact, be the ultimate (no pun intended) example of the Marvel superhero that we have seen thus far on film. From the very beginning, what always set the Marvel Hero apart from the DC hero was the fact that, with Marvel, the person behind the mask was just as important as the mask. With the notable exceptions of Superman and Batman, whose origins and secret identities are essential to who those characters are, most DC characters were relatively interchangeable: the person behind the mask didn't matter, the Flash can be anyone as long as that person runs fast and behaves heroically.

So that brings us to the character of Iron Man and, as Iron Man 2 shows us, there is no better way to showcase the Marvel concept of Superhero than through this character. First of all, theoretically speaking, ANYONE can be Iron Man; all they have to do is put on the suit (unlike with, say, Spider-man; where everyone can't be bitten by a genetically modified super-spider). However, ANYONE isn't Iron Man; Tony Stark is Iron Man and, a question posed throughout the movie, is that maybe, just maybe he isn't exactly the best person to be inside the armor: he's a reckless, compulsive egomaniac. After all, wouldn't the dutiful James Rhodes be a much better person to wear the armor? But he's not the one we, as the audience, want in the armor; we want Tony Stark. Why? Because he's a lot more interesting and he represents something that is at the heart of Marvel's best superheroes; They're imperfect. And, it was this concept that was the birth of the 'revisionary superhero narrative'; the idea that superheroes don't always necessarily have to be the nicest, best people in the world, that they can be just as flawed as the rest of us, yet still behave heroically at the end of the day.

I read a review that slammed IM2 mostly because the reviewer saw Tony's behavior in this film to be 'backsliding' from his 'awakening' in the first film; that is, they seemed to feel as though, in the first film, that Tony had learned all his lessons and was now going to be only a responsible, upstanding member of society. Because that's how it works in real life, right? Bullshit! Yes, Tony learned to be a bit more responsible in how he runs his company but does that necessarily mean that he has to join a monastery and donate all his money to war widows? Of course not, he's STILL going to be that same, aforementioned reckless, egomaniac that we all find so much fun. Downey Jr Himself can probably tell you that a single life-shattering event does not change who we are innately as a person.

That's why we love Tony Stark, because with someone like him in the armor, no matter how flawed we are, we're all a little bit closer to being superheroes.

But as I said on Twitter my very favorite thing about the movie was Rourke in his intellectual glasses. Just a great detail that made the whole movie for me.


James said...

Too much antics 'n' mugging in this one, for me. The first one was surprising and charming in its irreverence - Iron Man 2 aggressively chases that tone and ends up looking desperate. I zoned out entirely from the moment Iron Man is scratching a record on a turntable (whacky!) to around when Tony Stark is distracted by Pepper's executive toy (geniunely funny). It's a shame, because there's a lot of good in the movie, but I couldn't take the forced swagger.

The script wasn't really any better than the first one, despite Favreau & co. being involved from day 1, where the first film was supposedly rewritten on-set, on a day-to-day basis.

Teebore said...

@Geoff I totally liked it, but also find myself without that much to really say.

Ha! That's pretty much been my reaction. People ask "what'd you think?" and I say "Um, I liked it, and..."

Though, I felt the whole Stark/Rhodey birthday battle was a bit over the top and superfluous. I understand it served a narrative purpose (showing the further downfall of Stark and getting an Iron Man suit in the army's hands) but I would have preferred those points to be handled in a slightly less over-the-top way.

Interesting thoughts about how the intrinsic nature of Marvel superheroes make for good movie characters as well.

Oh, and I can just say how glad I am the movie is just called "Iron Man 2."

No, "I2" or "Iron Man: The Iron Age" or "Iron Man: Rise of War Machine" just "Iron Man 2".

Beautiful in a simplicity we don't see very often anymore, especially with summer blockbusters.

cease ill said...

It is true, we want the imperfect hero, with heart, making it up as s/he goes along. I enjoyed the showcase comment.
I'm glad you dug the movie, Geoff; yes, it IS a blockbuster that raises issues without pontificating or bumming us out! Interesting "time period" point; I felt much like I was reliving the early '80s hero I sought in so many back issues. Not to mention all the Silver Age callbacks!
My friends over at "adventures of wyatt earp 2999" thought there was a lack of clear villain, but I thought it right that on every side are antagonistic forces. I think Stark's flaws are germaine to a public, self-invented hero. I liked Rourke's care in inventing the Vanko character. I liked his point about providing an Achilles heel to Iron Man in the minds of the public.
The legacy part leading into Stark's atom was pretty neat.
A more poetic light in the next script and direction would be greatly appreciated. But the elements were classic Marvel.

Reposting, post haste :-D

scottmcdarmont said...

Now if we can just get the 'charisma of stars hanging out' thing work for The Avengers we'll be set... Maybe Soderbergh should direct...

scottmcdarmont said...

Actually, just looked it up... Whedon is set to direct... possibly even better...

James said...

Whedon's not official yet, despite every online media outlet squawking like he is. I'd be all for it, though.

Fence said...

Strong women? in Iron Man 2? I must have missed them. I mean yes Romanov had brains and kicked ass, but why did Stark want her around? Because she looked pretty.

And Pepper Potts spent the entire film screaming and acting totally and utterly ditzy. She was about as far from a competent business person, man or woman, as it is possible to get. And at the end she couldn't handle the stress and quit.

I'm not really seeing the strength of these characters.

finsof72 said...

'Inglourious Basterds' got away with about 2 hours of just talking. I agree that with charismatic actors, you can make a movie with about as much dialogue as a play entertaining. However, if we could go back in time and rename things, let's rename the first Iron Man 'Stark' and make Iron Man 2 simply 'Iron Man.' I don't know a thing about the Avengers, except that my mom's broke down like three times before she got an Altima, but when I Wikipedia-ed it, I just feel like it's one of those concepts that should stay in comic books.

scottmcdarmont said...


Under the Wikipedia entry, look under 'alternate versions' and 'Ultimates' ... this would seem to be the direction that they're trying to go with the movies, which is more workable (I reccomend borrowing the first two volumes from your comic geek friends and reading them). Granted, given the size of the endeavor, it could be a grade A Clusterfuck- an Ishtar in Tights....

Mutantville Productions said...

Am I the only person that really hates the idea of Samuel L. Jackson as a Nick Fury impostor? He's a completely different character who's only resemblance to Nick Fury is that they both wear an eye patch - but something tells me that Samuel Jackson's version can choose which eye he covers.

I put a mini-rant about this in my Iron Man 2 review. That said - I still really enjoyed the movie.


finsof72 said...

I still think the whole 'Avengers' movie initiative is based more off of studios scraping the bottom of the barrel to suck every last drop from the comic book movie nipple.

scottmcdarmont said...

Yes, and there is reason to be hesitant, after all, the only other series to be released thus far in the Avengers franchise has been The Hulk, and that was pretty mediocre-- I mean, what if Thor and Captain America are both terrible? Captain American in particular doesn't have the best history when it comes to cinematic adaptations-- (Fun Fact! The actor who played cap in the early 90s adaptations was Matt Salinger, son of reclusive author J.D. Salinger!)-- however, if they can get it to work-- it might be the greatest supehero movie ever made, or at least the greatest spectacle-- or it might be a disaster of Waterworld-like proportions.

scottmcdarmont said...

If I could take us on a different, but still relevant, tangent:

I just saw the new Robin Hood and, like IM2, there was a lack of big set action pieces-- the problem was whereas we hardly seemed to notice in IM2 since it did such a good job of keeping us interested in between, Robin Hood did not-- It made the mistake that Nolan's Batman films have made of taking itself too seriously-- only moreso. Whereas, at the end of the day, Nolan Batman films are still 'fun' and, in the case of the Dark Knight, almost too action packed-- Robin Hood was not... in short, it was The Dark Knight without any of the fun stuff and, like any good Batman movie, any good Robin Hood movie should be fun. And, as hard as it is to believe, on that front, Costner's Robin Hood totally beats Crowe/Scott's.

James said...

I cannot stand Russell Crowe's awful mouldering potato face. So I found this especially gratifying.

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