Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie Review: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 is finally in theaters and at last, our long wait is finally over. I don't mean the wait for the movie to come out, of course; I mean the wait for me to review it. I'm sure the last week has seemed like an excruciating eternity for most of you, but fear not, for I am finally ready to let you know what your opinion should be.

Iron Man, you may recall, was a totally badass movie two years ago thanks in large part to Robert Downey Jr. being a charismatic and funny and the plot being lean and mean. Which in Hollywood terms means, short. Unlike most comic book movies, Iron Man wasn't bogged down with angst and giant, ponderous fight sequences that lasted for twenty minutes of tedious CGI nonsense. The movie was fast and fun.

So how does Iron Man 2 size up? Well, it's longer. And it has multiple bad guys. And other good guys too, kind of like sidekicks. Plus there are several unconnected plotlines. In other words, everything bad about comic book sequels gets jammed into Iron Man 2 as well. And yet... somehow, it's still kind of fun.

That fun quotient can be explained in four words: Robert Downey Jr. And Avengers. That's the fourth word. Of course, if you're not a big Avengers fan, you may not like the movie quite as much as I did, but on the other hand, if you aren't a big Avengers fan you probably aren't reading my website to begin with, so yeah. Squares who don't like Avengers can get jammed, amirite?

For his part, Downey Jr. is still charismatic and still funny even though the movie does stick him with an angsty sub-plot about his blood being poisoned by his robotic heart (which is so 1969 of them). This poison kind of turns Tony Stark into a giant douchebag (again, maybe just a little too close to the source material this time), yet despite this we still want to see more Tony, because that means more Robert Downey, which in turn means that the movie is being fun and not bloatiferous.

When he's not on the screen, though, the movie's attempt to jam a half dozen unrelated storylines together begins to slow things down. There's Whiplash (or Crimson Dynamo, whichever) and there's Justin Hammer and there's the government trying to get the suit tech from him and there's this poison blood thingy and there's SHIELD and the Avengers Initiative... yeah. It's a lot. I mean, a lot lot lot. And considering how little any of these plots have to do with each other, they do a pretty decent job of tying them together(though the resolution of the poison blood thing is literally laughable).

Still, as much as I love the Avengers, I have to admit that the SHIELD stuff in the movie was probably a bit extraneous. Chances are you're going to go one of two ways, as I said before: if you're an Avengers fan you'll eat it up. If not, you may be left wondering if the movie wouldn't have been a lot better -- tighter, faster paced, more logical, more exciting -- if they had cut all of that stuff out entirely and just focused on the Hammer/Whiplash plot instead. For me, I'm on the fence; I think it would have been a better movie without the Avengers clutter but I personally wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

Overall, then, this serves as a nice setup for the upcoming Avengers franchise while also reminding everyone why they loved Iron Man to begin with. What it isn't, unfortunately, is a great movie. But compared to the other tedious nonsense that Hollywood so frequently passes off as summer entertainment, I have a feeling this will still end up looking fun by comparison. Just not by comparison with the original Iron Man movie.

My grades: The Avengers parts get an A+++ for being awesome, but only a C for having any relevance to the story. The best I can really do for the movie as a whole is a B-. There were just too many odd decisions shoehorned in (like, if Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko is going to end up in a suit of armor at the end of the movie anyway, why turn him into Whiplash for basically one scene? Why not just leave him as Crimson Dynamo to begin with?). The film could have used a firmer editorial hand.

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I agree that the Iron Man movie was really great. I really enjoyed how Robert Downey Jr. portrayed Tony Stark really well. The final battle with Whiplash was a little lackluster though. But one thing is for sure, I can't wait for the Avengers movie.