Iron Man 2
What do you when you've invented all-power armor and saved the world? How do you follow that up?
If you're Tony Stark, you make a splash entrance at your own expo, tell a Senate subcommittee that they can't have your armor, and basically act like a glorified frat boy. Which is, not coincidentally, how Iron Man 2 starts. (OK, it actually starts in Russia, but I think you get my drift...) Tony Stark is essentially the superhero equivalent of Spencer Pratt - an obnoxious egotist who not only sees himself as the center of the universe, but who sees himself as the creator of his own universe. And it's in that spirit that Iron Man 2 kicks off a very unusual - but action-packed - comic book movie.
Iron Man was a surprise hit several years ago - surprise in that it was the first Marvel movie to be made in-house; surprise in that it was a "second-tier" hero (although I would argue he's like Batman but with better technology), and surprise in that it held pace with the strongest Dark Knight movie to date. If anything, Iron Man 2 surprises only in that it takes the superhero movie to some interesting places, focusing not just on slam-bang action, but also on issues around legacy, leaving something for the future, and how one's past can shape one's present.
Taking the best elements from Armor Wars and Demon in a Bottle , Iron Man 2 tells a very streamlined - but complicated - story about a Russian (Mickey Rourke) seeking vengeance against the Stark Family, and Tony (Robert Downey, Jr) in particular; James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) caught in a slightly adversarial relationship with Stark; Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who suddenly finds herself thrust into corporate life; Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who is like Tony Stark in attitude, but not in morals; and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) who actually gets to do some cool stuff.
It's easy to heap praise on a movie like Iron Man 2, but there's much more going on underneath than in your usual superhero flick. First, there are obvious Easter Eggs and foreshadowing of a later Avengers movie (complete with obligatory post-credits tag)...and I have to say: is it just me, or is the post-credits tag becoming cliche? And the Easter Eggs...well, they're not so obvious. One is a little more blatant (and makes for a nice chuckle during the movie), the other is much more subtle, but important if you've seen any recent Marvel films, especially ones with big green guys punching stuff..
But what director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Thoreaux manage to do is give the movie a nice emotional core, speaking to the heart about how the past influences the present. It's hard to describe without spoiling, but we learn that Ivan Vanko and Tony Stark share similar experiences in their past...but while one was able to channel that into more positive efforts, the other had experiences which led him towards the darker side. For a movie about "Batman with better technology", Iron Man 2 manages to hit some strong chords. We see how someone's ego might prevent them from connecting to the people who care about them. We see someone else meet a key challenge, and find the leader within. One finds himself torn between duelling interests, and manages to negotiate a tricky situation. And we see Happy Hogan beat up a guy.
I don't know about you, but that's all I look for in a movie.
Many of you might find Iron Man 2 the weaker of the two films, but in a way, that's not a bad thing. It takes a few more chances, actually allowing Downey to act (and although I think he makes a horrible Sherlock Holmes, he nails Tony Stark), giving Mickey Rourke's character a little more color, and providing a form of sibling rivaly between Stark and Hammer. It's a movie that, surprisingly, takes a lot of emotional chances with material that is primarily action-oriented...and it pays off.
Of course, the action sequences are pretty darn cool. When you see Iron Man and War Machine finally team up (hinted at in trailers), the result is...well, you have to see this.
(Also, you might want to consider spending the extra cash to see it in IMAX - even though it wasn't filmed in the format, it gives the film much more depth and immedacy).
So for this edition of TV Party, consider this an enthusiastic endorsement of Iron Man 2, being well worth shaking down a fifth grader for their lunch money.
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As always, keep watching!
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