I want one of those super computers that create 3D images in real space that you can interact with — expand/collapse models, move them here and there, zoom in for close look and then out again for a macroscopic vantage — not because I actually have anything important to do, but because Tony Stark spends more time with one in Iron Man 2 than he spends battling super villains (or any villain at all for that matter). And it looks like he has so much fun with it.
I suppose I should also say I want one of those armored suits too but I’m not much of a fan for confined spaces.
Anyways, picking up where Iron Man left off, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) now outed as the armored superhero, is living the high life with more paparazzi, parties and willing women (I contemplated using the “p” word there) to contend with than the most famous of celebrities. It takes its toll; he loses focus instigating the ire of his longtime aide Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his business adversary Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and the US military, which uses his longtime friend Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) to its advantage. So many antagonists to please, so little time to please them within.
With so many conflicts that require different resolutions, Iron Man 2 had promise going for it. Then, inexplicably it goes nowhere. Fast.
Before you realize it, half of the movie (that’s one hour, folks) has gone by with little to no action to speak of (a boil that irritated the hell out of me in the first film even though I understood the need to develop the characters). There is, quite literally, one scene during this period of time where new bad guy Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke with a thick, nearly untranslatable Russian accent) makes his awesome debut cutting up a Formula One car like cheddar cheese that raises the heart rate a bit (you’ve seen it in the trailers). Other than that it’s all talk. And more talk. Silly, flirtatious banter between Stark and Pepper and Stark and Pepper’s new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson); inflammatory boasting and put downs between Stark and Hammer; and incessant, cocky narcissistic yap between Stark and anyone and everyone else in earshot. Writing witty and off-the-cuff is fine, just know when to say when and get on with the doing — it’s what everyone paid to see.
And when the doing finally does come to fruition in the final act, it ain’t of the earth shattering variety one would expect for a film of this much hype. It looks good — a big pat on the back to those CGI wonderboys who spend hours upon hours modeling and animating it — but it is all roughly the same sequences witnessed in 1998. Same mechanical bodies fighting one another with the same laser pulse weapon thingies. Same outcome too.
The biggest shiver down my back came from the reinforcement that incredible advancements in science can be discovered with little effort and high-tech weaponry and gadgets can be created in poorly outfitted locales. This is a work of science fiction, I know, but it’s possible fiction — the things presented in Iron Man 2 may, in my lifetime, become a reality. One simply cannot, or rather should not be asked to, shut off their brain and be expected to believe a new, all powerful element can be formed in a single day. It’s lazy writing, plain and simple.
That being said, it’s not all bad.
Downey Jr.’s performance is spot on. He may not look like it, but he’s got swagger. He’s also got great chemistry with all the on-screen personas too, lighting up the screen, especially when they’re dulling it with less than inspired performances. Johansson looks great in her black body suit (probably a good fit for this top 10 list). I think fanboys of the Marvel universe will like the tie in with S.H.I.E.L.D. (yes, even I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury reprisal). However, I think they’ll especially like the two other unexpected Easter Eggs more (no I’m not giving out spoilers).
While I have no doubt Iron Man 2 will make a boatload of money this weekend (most Americans, sadly, are media driven lemmings), it doesn’t deserve to. A weak sequel like this doesn’t deserve much of anything . . .