Monday, May 24, 2010

A to B Back and Forth Review: Iron Man 2, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or offer advice before you head out to the video store. So let's get to our eleventh review - Iron Man 2.


My main man Brad!

It's been a while since we've "gotten together" to review modern cinema, so it's high time we jumped back in the saddle. We hadn't yet started these reviews when the first Iron Man hit theaters (even overseas), but we have reviewed recent output by the film's two headlining stars, with Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler getting far superior marks to Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes. So without further ado, let's dig in to Iron Man 2!

It's only fitting that in yet another of our reviews, the movie began in Russian with subtitles, challenging us yet again to practice our local languages. Though since it was just Rourke and his dad sadly muttering through vodka-enhanced grief, I suppose that it wasn't so hard to follow. But that's just the intro as the movie immediately transports us to the most exciting of settings - testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I couldn't help but think of The Godfather, Part II and how the only reason it doesn't surpass the first chapter is because of the fascinatingly boring Senate hearings. This is where director Jon Favreau wants to begin in order to take things up a notch? Sure, Downey made things a bit interesting by the end, but I felt like we were already off on the wrong foot.
This is the theme to Garry's hearing; the theme to Garry's hearing. Gary thought he'd start the movie off with something boring.

It doesn't help that during the same scene we realize (after a few minutes of screen time) that Terrance Howard has been replaced by Don Cheadle. This proves to be a curious decision and Cheadle brings nothing to the role, only standing out by being boring. The story proceeds in a linear manner, adding characters who are each either 100% good guys or 100% bad guys and meanders its way to a climactic fight scene. Along the way, we get a series of action sequences that are hard to follow and possess few remotely new ideas. Aside from some decent moments at the Monaco Grand Prix, I found myself just waiting for all the flying and bullets and missiles and explosions to end.

The movie simply lacks the thrill of the first one. The Tony Stark character is no longer new, and the efforts to make him seem more fragile only serve to make the character less interesting. Those criticisms aside, there remains a lot to like about Iron Man 2. The jokes really work, even better than in the first film. Rourke makes a frightening villain, even if his motives, methods, and abilities are wholly ridiculous. I know. This is a popcorn movie and I shouldn't take it seriously. Believe me - I'm not. I wasn't hoping for The Godfather, Part II. I was hoping for a suped up Iron Man. The only problem here is that Favreau brought the corn, but we never got the pop. Still, I do like me some corn.
Not mere sprinkles, Downey Jr. does brings the levity by the dozen.

So let me know, did Iron Man 2 keep the peace for you?


Hey, hey, hey Andrew!

Last night I saw Tony Stark, louder than live, catching Iron Man 2 at the Amsterdam IMAX theatre. I was excited to see my first IMAX movie since childhood. Really, I can’t believe how different IMAX is than I remember it. As a kid I remember the screen being enormous!!! Really, that’s about all I remember of it. A screen so huge I could not see all of it at the same time. This time around the screen seemed big certainly, but enormous? Certainly not. So right off the bat, I was greeted with a downer.

However, what the screen lacked in footage, the speakers made-up for in decibels. At times, it was so freaking loud I was longing for ear plugs. This also reminds me that at long last I finally caught She & Him last week at the Melkweg theatre. As an A2B favorite, and all around highly rated hottie, Zooey Deschanel delivered the goods -- those goods being looking hot and pouty simultaneously.

On the subject of hotties, Iron Man 2 has two offerings; one old and one new. Returning for the sequel is Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her role as Virginia “Pepper” Potts. New to the action is Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff. Paltrow has basically put her career on hold since marrying Coldstar crooner Chris Martin, appearing in only one small film since the last Iron Man film. At first glance she looked quite a bit older and more tired then I remembered. Perhaps she was just in character, as her Pepper Potts' main duty is to clean-up Tony Stark’s booze-fueled messes. Not helping Paltrow's cause was the new addition of Johansson, who frankly looks waaaay better in this movie then Paltrow. Fit and energetic, Woody Allen’s muse does a nice job advertising Marvel’s upcoming The Avengers flick (really her only purpose in the film as far as I could tell). What was your take on the ladies in this one Reed?

As is well established in comic adaptations these days, the bad guys have all the fun. This time around Mickey Rourke is great, playing the mad, drunken Russian physicist role. By the time we learn of Rourke’s motivation for wanting Stark dead it no longer matters, and we just accept that this is a movie with some good people and some bad people. As an aside, this topic of all good/bad characters reminds me of a fantastic film I saw last week, Green Zone. If you are interested in a flick with moral ambiguity, this is the one for you. It's the opposite of a comic book.

Anyways, wrapping up the Rourke talk, don’t you think that with his recent credits as Whiplash in this flick and The Ram in the Wrestler, he has really prepared himself for my proposed re-make of The Running Man? He would make the ultimate stalker!
But what would Ben Richards say upon killing Whiplash? Probably "When a problem comes along, you must whip it."

This is not a film of any consequence, and that’s OK. An hour into the movie I asked myself, “is there a plot yet?” I suppose in the end, the plot of Iron Man 2 is so simple that I just could not see it: Tony Stark must save himself from dying and the world from evil-doers.

As you state, this one is for the popcorn crowd and to that end it delivers the butter. Still, I want answers to my questions. What say you?

Come back tomorrow for Part II where we will take things up a notch as that's what you're supposed to do with sequels.

Previous A to Bs:
Sherlock Holmes
500 Days of Summer
Inglorious Basterds
Public Enemies
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
Star Trek
Terminator 4: Salvation

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