Posted on 6/02/11 08:11 PM
I'm always happy with a sequel that's fun, though not quite up to the original's standards, and competently continues the story. I came into Iron Man 2 knowing its reputation and expecting to have good time. But much to my surprise, though I did indeed have a good time overall, I sympathized with the negative reviews a little. I think it's because the story wasn't entirely competent. (Spoilers)
It would have been disappointing if Tony wasn't still, first and foremost, the shameless party man, so that was a good call. But still, I have to wonder why the government and other countries trying to gain control of and/or replicate his suits doesn't bother him. Isn't he worried that, when his design is recreated (in 10 years at longest), the problems he found in the last movie will start again? What about when Ivan, the son of his dad's bitter former partner, shows that he has it right now (in an attempt to kill him)? Has he resolved to be at peace with the world and its weapons with peace established for now? (If that's true, fine, but let us know!) We only see that he's not worried, though Pepper Pots and his friend Colonel Rhodes are, and happy to be the media star.
But he does have a problem with the device that's saving his life also poisoning his blood (which explains his behavior, though still not his original resolution, as his other problems persist). This brings in a subplot, also not without its faults. With no apparent solution, he tries to live up his last days. He gives Pepper, whose role as a love interest is developed only a little better than Tony's newfound beliefs, his job and drives her crazy with his thrill-seeking. (Somewhere along the way, he suggests they vacation together.) He crosses a line while drunk at his (last?) birthday party, leading to a fight in Iron Man suits with Rhodes and to Rhodes (who feels betrayed after sticking his neck out for Tony) flying off to give the suit to the army. By now we feel bad for Tony and want to see his complete comeback.
I respect that Iron Man 2 doesn't want to let us off with the usual cliches. It deliberatly sidesteps the moment where Tony and Pepper would've reconnected with a Hollywood heart to heart talk and fallen into eachother's arms. And the climax begins at the part that, without a better idea, would have been Tony's obligatory triumphant return as a new man. But, come on, it should give SOME KIND of resolution! Instead, the problems just sort of fade away, and the angst we felt isn't entirely resolved. Tony's heroics against Ivan's robots, built with the resources of Tony's underhanded buisness rival, just reassure everyone. The end. The one thing that does get a nice resolution is Tony's impending death. Nick Fury steps in and tells a beaten Tony there is a way to save his life. It turns out Tony's dad cared about him after all and started creating an element for Tony to finish, which can power Tony's suit and not kill him. (There's a strech.) The dad he never really knew saves him (and wasn't a bad guy after all).
The cast does well enough. Samuel Jackson's usual authoritative presence is the perfect answer to Tony's collapse. The best friend role is filled adequatly, creating the character Tony has the best moments with on screen (not to mention a good old tag team fight at the end). Mickey Rourke brings a presence to Ivan and his limited development. He's menacing as he cloaks his work in mystery from the man desprate enough to break him out of prison and employ him ("Hammer"). Hammer, a whiney Tony Stark wannabe, could be a little more subtle, but some of the funnier moments come from him. And I've liked Pepper Pots so far. She's a refreshing version of the love intrest character, complete with a memorable (odd) name. It's a shame the movie didn't try to find a smart, deeper scene to reconnect the two of them. Instead she simply overhears that he was dying. Then, when Tony saves her, they argue bit before just falling into eachother's arms. We simply assume they figure everything out. Not bad but not good either. As for Scarlett Johansson's character, I know she was in the comics, but I'm not sure what purpose she serves here, apart from doing extra stock character jobs and making Happy Hogan look bad. Maybe they thought Hogan couldn't fill out a scene on his own. But maybe I'm wrong and her scenes would have been worse without her. And of course, Robert Downey Jr. is the only one I'd want to play Toney Stark.
I pretty much liked Iron Man 2. The action, for all its logic gaps, was great. The suits and droids battle it out with inventive weapons and gadgets that we never get tired of watching. Tacking on another point to my score would still be an accurate reflection of the experience. But I have to say, movies with lower t-meter scores have left me more upbeat and satisfied.