Sequels generally suck. This is especially true for Marvel super-hero movie sequels. It is almost like a rule – a Marvel adaptation quality is inversely proportional to the number attached at the end of the title. Think about it. Spiderman 3 was so bad I wanted to cry. Wolverine movie was possibly one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life (not the worst one, but close). All of these franchises run out of steam after an installment or two. The question I kept asking myself was: is Iron Man 2 going to fit this pattern, or is it going to become an exception.
The first movie was without a doubt one of the best comic Marvel comic adaptations released so far. Granted, it’s not like there was much competition on the market, but still. It was good. Topping that was not going to be a small task. But I was optimistic. Even with a sub-par script, you could bank on Robert Downey Jr. and Gweneth Palthrow to deliver stellar performances. This duo would carry this movie just like they carried the previous one – all the way to the bank. And that’s exactly what they did this time. Surprisingly the script was not sub-par. Wait, hold on – I didn’t say it was perfect. But it was surprisingly good for a Marvel adaptation.
I would say that Iron Man 2 was just as good as the first movie if not better. But just like it’s predecessor it lacks one key element: an awesome villain character. Mickey Rurke’s Whiplash is only marginally more developed than the Iron Monger played by Jeff Bridges in the previous film. He is rather bland and unimpressive. I guess it was an interesting choice to make the villain a quiet, aloof and stand-offish to contrast the bigger than life Tony Stark persona but it didn’t really work out. He is eclipsed an overshadowed by Sam Rockwell’s character: the unscrupulous Justin Hammer, who lives in the shadow of Tony Stark but fancies himself to be his nemesis. Great character: full of himself, envious, greedy ego-maniac hell bent on one-upping Stark. Sadly he doesn’t have trappings of an effective villain because he is made to be impotent. From the moment he walks on the screen you know this guys is a talentless poser more than anything else, and he can only threaten Tony Stark indirectly – by financing the real villain. Justin Hammer can talk the talk, but he cannot walk the walk. Rurke’s Ivan Vanko (aka Whiplash) is the exact opposite. Now if we put these two characters together we could probably end up with one interesting bad guy, instead of two defective ones. That guys should be played by Rockwell though – Rurke’s “quiet but strong” just doesn’t fit in the Iron Man landscape.
Speaking of characters: Robert Downey Jr. owns this movie. His personality fills the screen, steals the spotlight, and draws attention like a magnet. Everything he says is witty and charismatic, everything he does is either funny or awesome. I have no clue whether this is all scripted, or ad-libbed on the spot, and frankly I don’t care. He is Tony Stark – that is his role, and no one can take it away from him. He has undeniable chemistry with Palthrow and the dialog between their characters is one of the strongest suites of this movie. Seriously, even if the whole move was just Tony Stark and Pepper Potts bickering just loudly enough for us to hear them over the buzzing current of sexual tension that exists between them, it would still be fucking entertaining.
The only two actors who don’t seem to step up to the plate are Mickey Rurke, and (surprisingly) Scarlet Johanson. It almost seems as if her EyeCandy McWhatsherface character was added to the final cut just to fill the the tits and ass quota. I’m not complaining – I like watching Scar do stuff on the screen. Seriously, I don’t even care what she does – she can do whatever she wants up there, and I will still be happy to watch her. But her character plays such a minor role that it is almost seems like a waste of money and talent. 90% of the movie she just stays in the background and then at the very end, she gets a very awesome fight scene. It’s as if the producers suddenly noticed that they paid top dollar for A-list actress to wiggle her butt and make coffee first for Tony Stark and then for Nick Fury. Of course to her credit, that fight scene in the final act is probably the best choreographed martial arts sequence in the whole movie.
I should probably give you a fair warning that the movie does include some pseudo-science and “if I type really, really fast I might actually hack this system” moments. There is also one scene in which Tony Stark builds what looks like a makeshift particle accelerator. This is pretty much the whispered conversation we had as that scene came up:
“Holly shit! He is building a particle accelerator!”
“I know! Fucking AWESOME!”
“I think I just got a large hadron…”
But don’t get excited, it is not. It is just some big laser. He shines a laser beam on a metallic triangle to create a glowing triangle to replace his glowing chest-circle, because everyone knows that triangles are more powerful. They are also made out of some new exotic element that cannot be synthesized, unless you happen to fire a laser beam at a triangle. Anyways, it doesn’t really matter. They don’t dwell on the details and it only hurts the your brain for a few seconds, and then they show you Gweneth and Scar walking up the stairs swaying their behinds in perfect synchronized motion to distract you.
What I’m saying is that this movie gets my official seal of approval. Go see it, and stay through the credits to see the obligatory teaser that heralds the arrival of another member of the Avengers.
Skip the rest of this post if you don’t want to read about the teaser
Guys, tell me this is just me. I’m almost 99% sure that a Thor movie they are hinting at is going to suck big time. Something tells me they will fuck it up because it just doesn’t fit with everything else. So far all the Marvel adaptations completely denied existence of magic. But Marvel universe has a whole class of magic-powered superheroes such as Dr. Strange or Thor who is actually a Norse god. An actual god who came from Valhalla and sometimes meets other gods. So it will require some really clever writing to make this work – especially if they want have him in the Avengers. I have this feeling they will cop out and make him into something else – like an alien, or a mutant who just happens to have a Thor like power set. What do you think?