A Droid Premiere – Iron Man 2 (2010)
I’m not sure if you guys have heard of this one as it’s kind of sneaking into theaters around the world, but that’s why you have me. Of course I jest. Unless you’ve spent the past year in a cellar in Austria, you’re well aware of the sequel to the Marvel superhero film ‘Iron Man’ and have been anxiously awaiting it’s release like you anxiously await the next day ring sting from a deliciously spicy curry.
Following almost directly on from the original, which saw mega rich weapons industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) become a superhero in a shiny red robot suit, the sequel begins with government goons led by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer, trying to get hold of the Iron Man technology. While racing in the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, Stark is attacked by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian scientist with inside knowledge of the arc reactor that powers the Iron Man suit, and a hefty grudge against the Stark family. Through a series of shenanigans too boring to explain, Hammer facilitates Vanko in the creation of a robot army, Stark stumbles upon the cure for his deadly illness, Rhodey (Don Cheadle) becomes War Machine, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes CEO and Natalia Romanova (Scarlett Johansson) hangs around the edges of the film not really doing much besides providing us with some much needed eye candy.
Let me state this clearly, just in case that plot description has failed to illustrate this films biggest issue. Nothing happens. Yes, of course “things happen”, but nothing ever feels as though it really means much in the grand scheme of the Iron Man world. It’s all noise and fury. Stark is dying, but voilà! A plot development skirting painstakingly close to a deus ex machina drops out of nowhere at the start of the third act. The film takes ages to get anywhere, and instead of spending precious screen time developing a decent story or creating an interesting villain, it instead dedicates itself to setting up useless characters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Johansson) and the SHIELD organisation.
At least thirty minutes is exposition and set up for an Avengers film. Which is fine, if it was creatively blended into an interesting story about Iron Man. But the film isn’t very interesting. It succeeds as much as it does on the strength of Robert Downey Jr, and on the admittedly impressive special effects. But the problem with the action sequences is that while fantastic looking, they’re empty flying, punching, whipping, exploding, bashing and crashing. There is never any feeling of danger when Stark is in the suit. You expect Iron Man to triumph, and without fail he does. This removes all tension and drama from the film and thus we never get caught up in the story.
Robert Downey Jr is a fantastic screen presence, and here he creates a character virtually out of thin air, with the help of what we already know. Stark is never developed any further than he was in the first instalment, apart from his relationship with Pepper which gets a little third act nudge. Rourke looks ridiculous with his grey flecked shoulder length hair, and is never allowed to do any more than look broodingly at Rockwell and Downey Jr. Cheadle is fine, but again, he has nothing to work with. Paltrow is much more irritating this time round. Johannson looks good, but her character has zero personality, and if they’re really serious about doing a Nick Fury film, or making his role a big one in The Avengers film, then they really need to do something quicksmart about Jacksons character. He may as well be called Basil Exposition, because Fury is mind-numbingly uninteresting and his only purpose is to move the plot along and to set up future films. Apart from Downey Jr, the only decent performance is from Rockwell, and again, at the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, it’s because Rockwell is a really enjoyable screen presence and has nothing to do with the writing.
Jon Favreau returns to direct again and he has once again done a serviceable job. He stages the action well, and apart from the choppy editing to try to make it look like Johansson is flipping and spinning during fight scenes, it’s a decent effort. The score is more of the same from the first film, with the addition of several AC/DC songs to tie in with the AC/DC
Best Of official soundtrack.
But again, and I don’t mean to harp on it, the screenplay, written by Justin Theroux, is completely devoid of character. We don’t care what happens to anyone in the film. Admittedly, this is probably not entirely his fault. It would have been a tough task to create an interesting screenplay with Marvel breathing down his neck demanding extraneous screen time dedicated to advertising the Avengers film.
Basically, I think that this film is intended to educate the non-comic book reading audience on the “Marvel Universe”, and to set up spin off films. Which I think is a massive kick in the teeth to their dedicated fans, because even I, who doesn’t read any of their comics and is only vaguely aware of their universe, found it offensive that they would stop the film for scenes involving periphery characters.
In short, if you choose to skip this one, which is my recommendation, you won’t be missing anything.