Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Man Advertises More Than His Irons

Iron Man 2

There was a moment in the middle of Iron Man 2 where I thought to myself “man, this feels like an origins film and not a sequel.” Instead of taking me on a new journey with the characters I loved in the first film. This particular film felt like it was trying to give me a Coles Notes version in preparation for a course I never signed up for. In short, Iron Man 2 tries hard to recapture the magic of the first film while also trying to promote the upcoming The Avengers movie. Unfortunately is falters on both fronts.

Tony Stark has just told the world that he is the superhero Iron Man and his life is about to get more complicated. A local senator, Stern (Garry Shandling), and a corporate rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), are pressuring Stark to share his technology with the government. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) are keeping tabs on Tony for their Avengers initiative. Stark is also struggling to keep his health issues hidden from his closest friends, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). If all this was not stressful enough, a Russian by the name of Ivan Venko has made it his personal mission to destroy both Tony Stark and his legacy.

Now I understand that The Avengers film is a very ambitious project that has the potential to be a huge windfall for both Marvel and the film industry in general. Yet at some point the line needs to be drawn between marketing and product. Half of Iron Man 2 feels like one big advertisement for a movie that will not be out until 2012! If you take away the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff (e.g. Nick Fury, Black Widow, Stark Sr., etc.), there is nothing really left in way of story. Either call the film an Avenger’s prequel or stick to including teasers for The Avengers at the end of the closing credits. The teasers shown at the end of the original Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and even Iron Man 2, have all done a great job of building up anticipation for The Avengers film

Iron Man 2 would have been better served without The Avengers tie-in, and with more focus on developing interesting characters like Ivan Venko (aka. Whiplash). Yes, though the themes are similar, the character of Whiplash is different in the film than he is in the comics; but that did not bother me on bit. I thought casting Mickey Rouke as Venko was a brilliant move. It is shame that director Jon Favreau did not but more faith in Rouke’s abilities. Instead of fleshing out the character of Ivan Venko more, Favreau opts to give more screen time to the annoying one-note character, Justin Hammer. Venko is treated like a meathead henchman for the majority of the film. He barely gets any significant lines of dialogue. Yet it is obvious, to us and to Tony, that Venko and Stark are more intellectual equals than Stark and Hammer are.

While Whiplash may work as a secondhand character in the comics, it does not translate the same in a two hour movie. Hammer is not as interesting on the big screen as he is in the comics. Frankly I found that Rockwell went from amusing to downright annoying by the end of the film. The Whiplash/armored wars storyline is being sold as the main event yet it did not even feel like the mid-level card. Not only is Whiplash second to Justin Hammer’s arc, but he also falls behind Stark’s health issues, the avengers stuff, and the ridiculous War Machine arc.

As mindless summer movies go, Iron Man 2 is not the worst thing to hit theatres. If anything it is just really disappointing after the success of the original picture. Robert Downey Jr. is the main reason that the film is even watchable. Similar to the first film, Downey Jr. brings a nice balance of swagger and humanity to the role of Tony Stark. His interactions with Rouke, including the fight scene towards the end, are easily the best moments in the entire picture. I can only hope that the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies are more than just one long The Avenger trailer.


  1. The advertising for this movie was so crazy, that it was basically was like they were saying, "Just watch this movie, its gonna be action-filled and everything".

  2. I liked Rockwell. He's got the sleaze thing down pat.

  3. I felt very similarly to you about Iron Man 2 being a feature-length trailer for The Avengers and said so in my own review. I think the plot is there and is OK-ish but whenever an Avenger character comes in to the fold (Fury, Romanoff) the plot stops completely to introduce something that presumedly will be important further down the line but has no bearing on the IM2 plot, which often seems a side thought. Like you I felt it was just about OK but if Thor is like this then I won't be going to see it.

  4. @Cmrok93 - I forsee the advertising going even further once Thor and Captain America hit theatres

    @Simon - Rockwell does play a good sleaze but the character would have been better in small doses.

    @Film Intel - You are spot on about the plot stopping everytime someone new came in. I am hoping that with Kenneth Brannagh at the helm, Thor will focus more on character development.


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