Avengers Month: ‘Iron Man 2’ Review
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg
Plot: With mounting political pressure to release his Iron Man technology and threats coming from competing weapons designer Justin Hammer and the mysterious Anton Vanko, Tony Stark begins to crack under the pressure.
Review: Expectations for the Iron Man sequel where pretty damn high. The first film defied expectations for both critics and the box office and, well, it was damned awesome. Everything was looking set to repeat the success. We had two very different villains who were each more colourful than the Iron Monger was in the first film, an extra Avenger in the shape of Black Widow, the repercussions of publicly outing yourself as a superhero and hints that we’d get into the alcoholism character arc that was defining aspect of the character.
Instead what happened was an overload of ideas that pile up on each other to the point where few of them go in depth enough to be interesting or reach any real resolution. Let’s make a quick list of plot threads here…
1. Tony Stark is a celebrity superhero.
2. The US government wants Stark to hand over the technology due to fear of an arms race.
3. Justin Hammer, a rival weapons designer, has a government contract to build his own robot suits.
4. Anton Vanko has turned himself into Whiplash as revenge for the perceived theft of his fathers design.
5. Tony Stark is suffering from a largely unexplained condition as a result of the implant.
6. Rhodes is frustrated with Stark’s behaviour and eventually becomes War Machine.
7. Stark has a strained relationship with Pepper Potts and the running of his company.
8. Unable to live up to the image of his father and feeling stressed, Stark descends into depression.
9. SHIELD leader Nick Fury and his operatives Black Widow and Coulson are interfering with Stark’s life.
10. Hammer and Whiplash are teaming up to bring Stark down.
Way, way to much. The movie gets of to a very strong start with Stark’s entrance into the expo setting the right tone, the beginning of some interesting ideas such as the global situation and some very cool action at the Formula 1. With Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell joining the team as Whiplash, Black Widow and Justin Hammer respectively – each with a good introduction – we’ve got plenty of new characters to follow along with. The problem is that half the movie is spent introducing all these elements and the second half is spent concluding them with no middle ground.
Here’s what we should’ve happened. Drop the entire sub-plot about Pepper being made CEO (especially as she gives the position up after two scenes), drop the techno-virus thing whatever it is and drop the entire sub-plot about his father leaving the instructions for building a new element in an old model. Bring the arms race story to the fore, with more screen time given to Hammer and Whiplash pooling their resources to compete with Stark. Wind back Nick Fury’s role right back, make him a background presence – someone who supplies Tony with the extra technology to beat Hammer (instead of his father). Show a more realistic descend into depression and keep Rhodes around for it. Don’t reveal Natalie Rushman’s real identity until after her assault on the Hammer compound.
All the basic story elements, none of the feeling that time was wasted. The new characters will feel like they serve a purpose/pose a genuine threat instead of just standing around. This is especially important for Whiplash…after his initial attack he doesn’t seem as threatening. During the final battle he gets dispatched quicker than the army of drones in spite of initially appearing more powerful. If more time is spent building him up, maybe turning on Hammer earlier in the piece, the final smackdown between Whiplash, Iron Man and War Machine would be more exciting.
It’s a shame that the convoluted narrative and nonsensical plot threads drag the movie down because the rest of the film is pretty damn solid. Downey is born for the part but we want to see him get really stuck into the role. As already said the rest of the support cast is very cool, with Cheadle bringing some acting to the part of Rhodes. The entire movie looks fantastic with plenty of imaginative set pieces and set-ups. The action scenes take things up a notch from the previous film – every fight is a fun, well shot and imaginative sequence. When the movie gets going it’s pure awesome.
But…the rest of it is borderline boring. We go from one plot thread to another in the blink of an eye and nothing has any weight to it. Plus it has Gwyneth Paltrow in it, which brings the quality of any film down a star. I hate Gwyneth Paltrow.
Score: FIVE outta TEN