Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010)


Plot Summary: Billionaire Tony Stark must contend with deadly issues involving the government, his own friends, as well as new enemies due to his superhero alter ego Iron Man.

Before 2008, who really knew about one of Marvel’s minor characters, ‘Iron Man’? Who even knew of the director, Jon Favreau? Very few, that’s who. Even Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t broken into the Hollywood big league yet. The release of Iron Man changed all of this, earning almost $600 million at the international box office, as well as being critically lauded and making overnight stars of everyone involved. Although when the inevitable cries for a sequel were heard, things quickly became troubled.

Favreau’s unlikely to return as director, oh no, he’s back. Terrence Howard has been fired; he’s to be replaced by Don Cheadle. Emily Blunt’s been cast, oh wait, she’s off the project. With all the issues over whom gets paid what, production schedules and casting, it’s a minor miracle that Iron Man 2 even saw the light of day at all. Thankfully, Iron Man 2 has come out at the other end of the tunnel retaining all the wit and exuberance of the original and is overall a worthy, if not spectacular, successor to Iron Man.

The film opens with, somewhat strangely, the worst scene in the entire film; the introduction of Vanko tending to his terminally ill father in Russia. This scene is filled with so much over-the-top Russian stereotyping (Vanko drinking vodka from the bottle in a snow drenched, crummy apartment building) and hammy acting (Mickey Rourke’s Darth Vader moment) that it’s embarrassingly bad. After this false start, however, the film picks up its feet and begins proper as we’re dropped headfirst into the Stark Expo along to the blisteringly energetic sounds of AC/DC.

The original Iron Man wouldn’t have been nearly as good if it were not for the characterisation of Stark as a man with an egotistical, eccentric yet brilliant mind and Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect fit to embody such a mind. The enthusiasm and maddening determination Downey brought to Tony Stark made the film and it’s no different this time around. Just as before his performance in Iron Man 2 is ridiculously enjoyable to watch, and this is not meant as a criticism, but so much so that he’s probably responsible for at least half of the films overall entertainment value. That said, the new additions to the cast are themselves particularly impressive.

Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes, outdoes his predecessor by miles. Not just because his character is given more narrative prominence but because Cheadle is the all-round better actor; bringing a greater sense of authority and, when needed, comedic charm to the character. Mickey Rourke (save for the aforementioned emotional outburst) brings just the right amount of weird to his villainous Vanko and manages to deliver some of the best lines in the film. Meanwhile Sam Rockwell excels as the tragically comic Hammer, a man desperate to outdo Stark but without the means necessary, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a surprisingly kick-ass (not to mention easy on the eyes) turn as Tony’s new assistant, Natalie Rushman.

Favreau hasn’t lost his knack for fun, kinetic action sequences either. The director has always injected his fight scenes with a sense of humour and these moments elevate IRON MAN 2 from just being men in robot suits smacking one another. It’s the films first outburst of flames, during Stark’s eleventh hour decision to compete at Monaco, which really stands out though. Whiplash enters the course on foot, tearing up race cars left and right with a thoroughly frightening sense of determination, all shot in brilliantly realised slow-motion. It’s during this moment that we most fear for Stark and it’s a truly breathtaking piece of cinema. Scarlett Johansson also gets in on the action later on when she infiltrates Hammer’s facility. We watch as she effortlessly cuts through security guards one by one, like a hot knife through butter. It’s an impressively choreographed and memorable sequence which will surely leave audiences with their jaws resting firmly on the floor.

The special effects are also well worth a mention. The CGI in Iron Man was definitely up to the task but there were a few rough moments which unfortunately took you out of the moment. With Iron Man 2 this is not the case whatsoever. The technical and visual achievements in this sequel are some of best to date and make every scrape, blow and explosion that bit more believable. This is not to say that the film relies solely on its visuals as the script is as sharp as ever. Stark’s witty banter with his detractors continues to be a highlight of the Iron Man franchise as Stark goes toe to toe against Senator Stern and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson gets a lot more screen time round and the film is all the better for it) in two particularly hilarious scenes.

Pacing, on the other hand, is not the films strongest point. The narrative is propelled well to begin with but after Whiplash’s first attack on Stark the film becomes a little muddled, scattershot and dare I say it, boring. At the mid-point in the movie there are several plot points developing simultaneously, none of which are exceptionally interesting or well developed, and it almost feels as if you’re just waiting for the climactic battle sequence to begin. When it does arrive it’s highly enjoyable but, and just like the first film, is over far too quickly.

This leads me to my next criticism; lack of threat. There is one point, and one point only, in which the audience are under any real doubts as to whether Stark will make it out alive and that’s near the beginning. After that the film becomes very predictable as you realise that none of Iron Man’s opponents are going to put him in any tangible danger whatsoever. However, both these issues are forgiveable in the face of the larger picture, that of a fun, amusing and exciting slice of blockbuster superhero cinema.

Final Verdict 8/10

1 comment:

typejunky said...

can't wait to see it.