SVEN: I’m a big fan of Iron Man. And by Iron Man I am referring to the 2008 franchise-launching action film, an infinitely watchable, incredibly fun superhero flick featuring a refreshingly endearing protagonist. I don’t know much about the source material or other iterations, but Iron Man was great. Sure, it didn’t set its sights very high, but it nailed everything it went for and was a sweet, sublime ride. Iron Man made me feel like a kid, and I wasn’t the only one, as the project was a massive success.
Inevitably, this meant sequel. Fine. There are good sequels. Heck, there are good superhero sequels, and most superhero concepts lend themselves well to franchise-ization. I have no problem with the idea of an Iron Man 2. Bring it on, I say!
Well, they did, and I watched it. I sat there for two hours. I smiled at parts. I enjoyed myself mildly throughout. The movie finished. Iron Man beat the bad guys. My response? So what.
That is all I was left with. Where Iron Man made me feel like a kid, Iron Man 2 made me feel like a movie critic. That’s not a good feeling. I root for movies. I want to like movies. I don’t go into a movie thinking, “Heh heh heh, I hope this movie sucks so I can go to the internet and bitch about it.” I hope every movie I see is the best movie ever. All I want is to have a good time. But this movie has so many “well, that’s dumb” and “why is this scene here?” moments that by the end I couldn’t help but look at it from that discerning perspective. I left the theater not with excitement, but with a list of bullet points:
-This movie ends in exactly the same place it starts. The Tony Stark character is not challenged in any interesting way and does not change one iota. The world of the movie starts in symbiotic harmony with Iron Man and finishes the same.
-What the hell is Scarlett Johansson doing in this movie (apart from selling action figures)? Seriously, someone tell me. First, she’s horribly miscast. Her action moments are absurdly implausible. Second, the character adds nothing and does nothing of consequence. In her big scene she busts into an office building, beats up a bunch of security guards, and bursts triumphantly into a computer room to… talk to Tony Stark on the phone. Everything she says to him (“Tony! There are guys chasing you!” “Tony, the final boss is coming!”) could have been handled by a camera angle displaying Tony in the foreground and the appropriate obstacle in the background. Iron Man 2 could be reedited to omit Johansson seamlessly.
-New element. What? Why?
-Samuel L. Jackson’s scenes add nothing and serve only as the half-assed artistic justification for the impending merchandising supercommercial that will likely be titled The Avengers.
-Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is the best thing this franchise has going for it. Watching Stark be Stark is just as captivating as it was the first time around. But there is so much bullshit in the way this time. ScarJo. Sam Jackson. Stark Senior. Gobblegook McGuffin Element. There are times when ten to fifteen Tony-less minutes pass. Unacceptable. And though the Tony-being-Tony moments are just as delectable (the Senate hearing is a particularly satisfying scene), I can’t stress how much not giving the character any kind of challenging journey hurts this movie. Check it: In Iron Man, Tony is a gung-ho hawk weapons dealer. He gets captured, sees war firsthand, escapes, has a crisis of conscience, rededicates himself and his empire, then has this decision challenged by the suit-wearing supervillian. In Iron Man 2, Tony is Iron Man, then he’s Iron Man at a car race, then he’s Iron Man a little bit more, then he’s Iron Man against the suit-wearing supervillian. Pardon me while my ass fans out from the edge to encompass the entire seat.
Iron Man 2 does a lot of things wrong, and the “right” is just so obvious. Which makes me feel like a movie critic. And I don’t like that feeling.
JAI: I liked it. I didn’t love it, but it always LOOKS right even though the movie semi-tragically lacks meaningful substance in a few other (Very important) departments. I guess that went a long way — that, and the great cast (Although only three of them get to do anything worthwhile: Robert Downey Jr., Sam Rockwell, and Mickey Rourke).
It is unfortunate that Johansson had such a meaningless role. With Iron Man holding such an unbeatable hand in every contest he enters, you can’t help but think “Iron Man would have just walked through these guards” when Scarlett’s character is trying to shine (By, as Sven noted, not actually accomplishing something helpful).
And, really, that would be my one gripe about the movie… Stark’s unbeatable hand. It makes for a boring story, weak plot, and less-than-thrilling conclusion. His only true adversaries are that he thinks he’s dying (Not a big threat, since it makes him nicer to people) and his friends are fairly mildly disapproving of his actions (Although he holds cards that would trump their concerns and actions easily — so why should we care?).
A very lightweight character “arc” follow-up story for an overwhelmingly strong protagonist. What is this, Superman Returns?
CHRIS: My problem with the film is that it had the potential to have these amazing boss fights, but they took less time to finish than me balls deep in the Black Widow.