rAnT THE MOVIES: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2

I got my gun at the ready, gonna fire at will…

Over the past few weeks, whenever I passed over an article about Iron Man 2, the band AC/DC seemed to keep catching my eye. Yet despite being a fan of the group, I lacked interest in discovering the why to their inclusion, so I ignored the rest of the text and moved on. Then the other day I was at a bookstore and saw the Iron Man 2 soundtrack and gave it a once-over. Well, actually, I saw the price tag and picked it up on reflex as I had to see what could possibly be worth seventeen dollars. Turns out AC/DC apparently loaned 15 or so tracks to the film. My first thought was, “Cool. I like AC/DC.” And my next thought was, “Holy shit! Is Iron Man going to fight the Green Goblin truck from Maximum Overdrive!?, maybe I DO have to see this movie!” So I went. And sad to say, the Goblin did not make a cameo. And weirder still, of all those AC/DC songs the soundtrack boasted, I only heard two. So I guess the cameo went to Angus Young and crew.

And sadly, much like the one appropriate song choice, this movie Shot to Thrill, Played to Kill, but had Too many Woman, with too many unnecessary scenes of poorly executed character development–or however that song goes. But first, let’s talk about the (Iron) Man of the hour himself.

You know him, you love him (even after The Soloist), and if you’re like me, you happily paid your $7.50 to see him once again this past weekend: Robert Downey Jr. Returning for his sophomore performance (if you don’t count The Incredible Hulk–I know I don’t) as the reclusive, eccentric, billionaire genius, Tony ‘I Am Iron Man’ Stark.

Picking up six months after the surprisingly entertaining events of Iron Man 1, we join up with Tony as he makes an elaborate CG entrance to his own personal World’s Fair. And we soon learn that A LOT can happen in just 6 months time: As mentioned, Tony has created his own Stark Enterprises Expo (the size of my home town) and filled it with scantily clad dancers and drooling fanboys. He’s developed at least 2 or 3 new Iron Man suits. AND he’s become deathly ill. SPOILER. As it turns out, having a prototype reactor embedded in your chest can cause some issues. Like blood poisoning, alcoholism and agreeing to appear in a sequel without script approval. Who would have guessed!? But these are just a few of many new obstacles for our hero to overcome in this 200+ million dollar issue!

He Is Iron Man

To be fair, Iron Man 2 was far less bloated than I thought it would be, but still, take a look at all the crap that has to be resolved in 2 hours…

– Tony must find a way to un-poison himself
– Tony must come to grips with his own mortality
– Tony must deal with his daddy issues
– Tony must fight an enigmatic villain with ties to his past
– Tony must outsmart the government and retain legal ownership of the Iron Man suits
– Tony must cope with/stay ahead of his competition in the Global Peace/Weapons race
– Tony must find a successor to Stark Industries, should something happen to him (see point one)
– Tony must deal with his hidden love for his assistant
– Tony must patch up his shaken friendship with Terence Howard Don Cheadle
– Tony must set up the inevitable Avengers movie
– And Tony must save everyone from Mickey Rourke’s idiosyncratic posturing

Sure, it’s no Spider-Man 3 shitstorm of overly complicated plot, but it’s no machine-gun robot-battle walk in the park, either.

And while a dense plot can be a good thing, I tend to believe it must first have two things: #1. Structure and #2. Good pacing. And this is where Iron Man 2 fails, in my opinion, as it lacks both.

Taking an odd approach, the filmmakers decided to make this sequel heavily character based, as opposed to the usual: Bigger, Badder, More Computer Graphics Than You Can Handle angle so prevalent in these Super-Hero flicks you kids today all seem to enjoy. An approach which I happen to think was a fantastic idea, especially since Downey’s performance is the heart and soul of this franchise. However… the story in which the character is wrapped up in was at best “loose” [read: flimsy as an Iron Man Halloween mask] and so poorly paced, I found myself wondering, “Soooo, when’s he gonna put on the fuckin’ suit and punch someone?” a feeling I previously would not have expected.

And it all seems to come down to typical sequelitus: too much shit, too little time. 99% of which = pure unnecessary filler. So much so, I equate Iron Man 2 to being the “Quantum Of Solace” to Iron Man 1. No, it wasn’t complete dogshit, but allow me to explain…

You know how the ending of Casino Royale (2006) had Bond, essentially BECOME Bond? He says the line, captures the badguy, the theme music plays, etc. And you remember how great that was? It’s the same type of feeling I got at the end of Iron Man 1. Tony’s origin is laid out, he’s in the groove and announced to the world, “I am Iron Man.” Cue Black Sabbath. Then, after the credits, they hint at Tony’s next step, joining up with SHIELD and becoming one of the pillars of Marvel’s ultimate super team. Now, back to Bond for a minute.

Aside from the #%*^%# shaky cam, the biggest issue I took with Quantum Of Solace, was that it seemed to put 007 two steps back. Not only did he not (really) catch the man behind his beloved’s death, he doesn’t get around to doing ANYthing about it until a minute and a half before the end credits. Thus making the entire mess in-between, essentially, fucking pointless. He doesn’t grow. He’s just angry and jumping off buildings. His resolve and ability to move on all comes from that final scene, which in my opinion, should have been THE START of the sequel. And I feel Iron Man 2 is in much the same vain.

With the exception of a kiss (more on that bullshit in a while), and a scene with Nick Fury, the character of Tony Stark is at exactly the same place he was back in 2008. Two minutes of actual story progression toward the Avengers (of which, SPOILERhe still doesn’t become a part of-END SPOILER) does not a worthwhile story make. One could argue that Tony works out some unresolved issues with the memory of his father, but really, who gives a shit? My main point being, the story was an almost complete throw-a-way. And a lengthy one at that. Not to mention, it’s terrible lack of any and all logic. Screenwriter Justin Theroux takes suspension of disbelief to the border of apathy and Independence Day. There is this one scene in which Tony is piecing together the clues of his father’s past work that, no joke, out does National Treasure by illogical leaps and bounds…


SPOILER-After finding out that his dead father somehow anticipated that Tony would one day have a need to create a new element to combine with his magnetic blood cleaning arc-light chest reactor, Tony sets about to piecing together the puzzle of finding his dad’s cryptic clues to salvation.

A couple minutes before the zero hour, Tony discovers a hidden ‘map’ left by his father by a shot-in-the-dark decision to scan his dad’s old Stark-Expo model. Which, luckily, happened to be in storage. And by storage, I mean sitting against the wall in Pepper’s office. Yeah. Then, after digitally removing 99% of the scan, Tony re-assembles the “buildings” into the genetic blue-prints for his lifesaving new element. Which he then creates by firing an electrical-laser looking current through what looked like a diamond. And, problem solved! The new element manages to suck out all the metallic shrapnel and poison from Tony’s bloodstream and… HUH!? This is shitty writing. I mean, they didn’t even use some bullshit term like ‘gamma-rays’ or anything. Nothing is explained even within the context of the super-natural world in which it is happening, and thus, I call bullshit.-END SPOILER

Back to that fucking kiss. So, SHOCKER, Tony and his sidekick secretary, Pepper Potts (once again played by the indie annoyance, Gwyneth Paltrow) end the pre-credits film with a big-ol’ smooch-a-roo. Aw, isn’t that sweet? Answer: NO. It’s horrible. Not only does it make no sense as she’s spent the last 3 days… to a year(?)(more on THAT, in a bit) essentially hating his guts for being so Tony Stark-esque, but her sudden turn-around to liking him makes her character come off as some kind of bi-polar nut-bar. And worse, this “love” scene completely ruins their well-established (and until this point, shockingly un-annoying),  flirtatious relationship. Which just sucks, you guys.

Rewind once again back to the story, so I can explain that whole “3-days to a year” thing. The bookends of the film both take place at the aforementioned Stark Expo. A year long event. Now it goes without saying that the filmmakers shot these two sequences back-to-back, so they are already obviously similar. But on top of that, both take place at nighttime and under the exact conditions. Compile this with Tony’s rapid, seemingly overnight large increment leaps in blood toxicity and the year-round sunny California weather and the film seems as though it’s taking place over the course of a long weekend as opposed to what I assume was intended to be many, many months. And when this feeling gets combined with the flimsy story the film feels both long AND rushed at the same time. It’s fuckin’ bizarre.

The only evidence to support a longer timeframe being closer to a year is Mickey Rourke’s character, Ivan Vanko’s arc. So let’s move on to that…

Immediately the word ‘pathetic’ comes to mind. Again, this is largely attributed to his, and every other supporting character’s weak-ass storyline, but Ivan’s is arguably the worst given that he is the supposed ‘main villain’ of the picture. Essentially Vanko is out for vengeance against Stark because their fathers were once partners, but when Vanko Sr. went apeshit, Stark Sr. sent his ass packing to Russia. Where, 30+ years later he died, penniless, of old age. You know, that old hat. But I didn’t have any problem with this. My issue with Ivan Vanko is far more shallow: I think he looks like a fucking asshat.

Ever since The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke has gotten entirely too much freedom to be crazy ol’ Mick in Hollywood, and I for one am not a fan of his comeback. Which is not to say I don’t like Rourke, this is not true. Harley Davidson and the Marlbro Man was pretty good. It’s just that Mickey is a tad bit left of the middle of my Acceptable Weird-Mother-Fucker-O’Meter. What started as the inclusion of his pet dog in Once Upon A Time In Mexico, has now become an eccentric nightmare. In short, he’s been allowed to interject too much of his punch-drunk, drug addled psychosis into his recent projects.  Just look at this guy…

Gay Pirate

– Blue-ish/Purple Shit locks.
– Gay 60s hippy shades.
– Gollum fingernails.
– An Iron Cross necklace.
– Prison tats.
– A skin-tight hoodie.
– Gold teeth.
– Goofy facial hair.
– And a fucking cockatoo.

Plus, he’s Russian. Why not just add a peg leg and lone him Nick Fury’s eye patch to complete the entire Fire-Island Pirate ensemble and get it over with. This was distracting and fucking silly.

Speaking of overrated actors… Scarlett Johansson. What can I say about her that hasn’t already been said about novelty super-model room posters. Both are sexy, expressionless, flat and really only interesting to pre-teen boys and dorm room douche bags. Sorry fanboys, but big tits only go so far. As far as I’m concerned, Woody Allen can keep her. Also, if you happened to see the trailer, you’ve already seen her entire performance, save for one scene with Nick Fury…

And as far as Samuel L. Jackson goes, well, he’s great. Who doesn’t love this guy? He’s even wearing his coat from Shaft, if I’m not mistaken. But one of his two scenes really stuck in my craw. Shortly after Tony hits his 2nd act low, Fury shows up to talk/shout some sense into him at a donut shop. If that’s not silly enough, Scarlett Johansson shows up and for no explained reason, is wearing a cat-suit. And the whole thing looks as though it was originally intended to be an animated segment. Kinda like the ‘Missing’ Funeral Scene in Clerks.

It's The One That Says, 'Bad Ass One-Eyed, Mother Fucker'

Then there’s Tony’s partner in anti-crime, Don Cheadle. Well, despite what his self-satisfying dialogue would suggest, he’s not much of a Bad-Ass. He’s more like a Don Cheadle. Only in a shiny metal outfit.  His scenes with Tony fall flat due to the fact the audience is not really given enough time to adjust to the change of appearance. Which is REALLY awkward during one of the lamer fights between War Machine and Iron Man at Tony’s birthday. That’s all I really have to say about him. I originally planned a whole comparison thing about the similarities between that sequence and Spider-Man 3’s Emo Dance segment, but then I read Vern’s review and he already claimed reference to it and made his argument against it. So now I’m not going to. But I still think they’re similar, despite Vern’s justification. So there.

You know, Terrence Howard may have been a chore to deal with on the set, but at least the guy was tall and stoic. Now I’m no studio executive, but I think Howard may have been worth the extra cost and trivial absurd requests like a brandy glass full of brown M&Ms or baby wipes or whatever else he may have wanted.

Lets see, who’s left… Ah, Sam Rockwell. Tony’s battle to retain Iron Man’s sole manufacturing rights and his feud with his lead competitor, Hammer, was oddly, the most interesting aspect of the film. Rockwell was practically a clone of his character in Charlie’s Angels*, complete with the goofy dancing, only better because this film didn’t suck balls. I really wish this had been the sole story arc, as it was easily what saved the film from dropping into the dogshit zone. A great choice to go toe-to-toe with Downy, Rockwell rocked the house. I would have even gone so far as to nix all the crazy action scenes in exchange for more snappy back-and-forth between these two. But, sadly, this is a summer blockbuster and the CG explosions are a prerequisite.

*Another comparison Vern beat me to. But fuck it, I’m leaving this one in. It’s not my fault I had to wait until Saturday night to see this damn thing…

While the action was overly animated and at times hard to comprehend, the scenes were few and far between, so they didn’t really bother me all that much. Instead, they just kinda made me feel indifferent. I did, however, find the final showdown to be a bit anti-climactic, and WAY too similar to the first film’s. SPOILER-I mean, do we REALLY need to have another battle between “Iron Man” suits?-END SPOILER

I realize how negative this review must be coming across, but I assure you, I didn’t hate this movie. I guess I’m just a bit shocked at how blazingly mediocre it all was. Back in ‘08, I decided to skip part 1 in the theaters. It was only after my trusted friend convinced me that it was actually a Super-Hero movie worth my time, did I balk and check it out at a matinee. And he was right. It was fresh, had a non-annoying origin story, and Robert Downey Jr. was a God damned marvel. It was smart, fast and funny. Three aspects I found to be in short supply this time around. The one thing director John Favreau did seem take from part one and expand on, rather than deplete with a sub-par story, was his performance of Happy Hogan, Tony’s chauffeur. I swear, he has more screen time than Mickey Rourke! It’s so weird.

The saving grace of the film is, of course, Downey. The guy was born to play this role. He’s so charismatic and lively, he instantly brightens every scene, making the film a worthwhile endeavor. It’s just a shame the story wasn’t more important, engaging and necessary to be told. Every problem is new and becomes resolved mere minutes later. It’s so concise and unnecessary, the character of Tony Stark moved but an inch, when he could have flown a mile. Plus they cut that funny helmet kissing scene with Tony and Pepper. What a bunch of bullshit. I’d say wait and catch it on video, but I know you won’t.  At least you’ll get to see Jr vamp like a pro for a couple hours and I’d say that’s worth the price of admission.

6 outta 10

Tastes A Little Peppery