Two years ago, when the trailer of Iron Man first came out, I thought it was just ridiculous and juvenile that I had no interest in seeing it. Not sure why I ended up seeing it but let’s just say I absolutely loved it. It was such a fun and enjoyable flick from start to finish and Robert Downey Jr. in the title role carries the movie with his effortless charm. It’s irrefutable that the sequel became one of my highly anticipated flicks this year, and the buzz and trailers only enhanced my enthusiasm.
So? Does it live up to the original?
The short answer is: not quite. Yet, the movie is not completely without merit
This sequel picks up exactly where the first left off when billionaire inventor Tony Stark declared to the world that he is indeed the man inside that Iron Man suit. Borrowing from fellow Marvel superhero Spiderman: ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ thus the mounting pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his weapon technology with the military. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also revealed early on that the chemical element used in his arc reactor – the one used to keep him alive after the shrapnel wound – is toxic to his blood and the seemingly-untouchable hero is dying. That is, if the vengeful Russian physicist Ivan Vanko doesn’t destroy him first. Seriously, is every single Russian bad guy has to be named Ivan?? As someone married to one bearing that name who doesn’t happen to be Russian, I resent that!
The film veers off Transformers territory at times with the noisy clink-clank sounds of metal clanging with each other, and the only thing that reminds me this wasn’t a Michael Bay flick is the presence of the RDJ and the strong supporting cast. He is able to elevate the hedonistic, egotistical Stark from being an utter and complete jerk because he is just that charismatic. But yet, there’s barely any emotional connection with any of the characters. Despite his health condition and daddy issues though, it’s tough to feel sympathy for the ultra-flamboyant Tony. At times I feel like the secretary-turned-CEO-plus-covert-love-interest Pepper Potts who’s constantly exasperated by his boss’ antics.
Potts is just one of the few familiar faces that are overrun by too many new characters with no real arc. Even the returning character of Capt. James Rhodes feels new because Don Cheadle takes over from Terrence Howard – who I thought was terrific in the role. Cheadle did fine here but I still much prefer Howard, but it doesn’t bother me as much as the completely wasted Samuel L. Jackson as the much-hyped Nick Fury (he appeared in the end credits of the first). His role just comes across pointless and forgettable, which is a shame because SLJ isn’t a ‘forgettable’ kind of a guy. I mean his abrupt death scene in the shark thriller Deep Blue Sea was far more memorable! Scarlett Johansson as the supposedly va-va-voom Russian spy doesn’t have much to do besides slinking around flaunting her curvaceous body on screen.
The poor narrative also makes the film feel disjointed, it doesn’t move from scene to scene in a cohesive fashion. Screenwriter Justin Theroux couldn’t decide whether he wanted to make an Avengers prequel or a follow up to Iron Man, so by trying to fit in the two, he falls short on both counts. I agree with Castor that “… this movie feels more like an Avenger prequel than an Iron Man sequel.” Last but not the least of the movie’s problems is the last battle scene, which lacks a sense of real danger for the protagonists, despite being surrounded by lethal droids created and controlled by Vanko. It’s also far too brief that it really undermines the buildup of what Mickey Rourke did with his villainous role.
Now, despite all the low points I mentioned, it’s still quite fun to watch this movie, and the one liners did make me laugh. For the fun of it, here are what I think are the five best things of the movie:
- RDJ – the only reason I’d even watch the original and he’s still the reason this one is so enjoyable despite its flaws.
Sam Rockwell as Stark’s rival Justin Hammer – it takes a formidable actor to outshine RDJ, but this massively talented actor did just that and stole every scene he was in. I LOVE the hilarious weapon demonstration scene, I’ve got to admit I really like his character almost as much as Tony!
- The briefcase armor – This scene alone is worth the price of admission … well ok, perhaps a matinee admission. Man, it was such a high watching the cool red and silver armor slowly envelopes Stark’s body just by kicking the case open. Freakin’ awesome!
- The Monaco action sequence. The location itself is breathtaking, but as soon as Rourke’s Whiplash shows up looking all menacing and uber bad-ass, I was ready for an exhilarating, full-throttle action and Favreau delivers! I think this is the best battle scene in the whole movie and every once in a while, it’s nice to see a hero – or god as Vanko calls it – bleed.
- Mickey Rourke makes for a menacing, sinister villain, but some of his scenes are funny as heck. I almost choke from restraining my laughter in the whole ‘I want my bird’ scene that left Rockwell mystified.
Ivan Vanko (thick Russian accent): I want my bird.
Justin Hammer: Yeah sure. We can get you a bird
Ivan Vanko: You don’t understand. I want *my* bird. *My* bird.