Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 Movie Review

Has there been a better casting choice than deciding to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man? To be fair, I've never read much into the Iron Man series so I wouldn't be able to vouch for how closely he resembles the Tony Stark of that medium, but just as Heath Ledger took the Joker and made him his own, Mr. Downey seems to have masterfully tailored the character to fit his acting strengths like a form-fitting suit, yet still seems to appease to the comic book fan base, which, like all nerd fan bases, can be very volatile.

Lets get right down to it, Iron Man 2 is fun, it's bright, it's flashy, it's clever, and it's action packed. This is the archetypal superhero movie refined to a near flawless degree. It isn't Dark Knight, that's certain, but it isn't trying to be. It doesn't strive for the in depth social commentaries, the visceral imagery, or the outright horrifying dilemmas that made the Dark Knight great. It, instead, is focused on two things, coaxing you to get on the roller coaster with its flashy presentation, and then making sure you have a damn good time while riding with its character development, clever dialogue, and strong conflict.

Said conflict is engaged by two men, Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer. Both of whom seem to attack Tony from two separate fronts. Hammer attempts to overthrow Tony's technological empire by upstaging him at the Stark Expo replicating and improving on Stark's Iron Man design; Ivan attempts to take a far more direct approach and simply tries to throw as much firepower and weaponized units, including himself, at Tony in an attempt to tear him limb from limb. It's actually somewhat brilliant in the fact that Tony needs his resources to be Iron Man, since someone has to pay for all his fancy gadgets, and of course Tony can't run his company if he's dead.

The ensemble cast is very strong, Mickey Rourke gives a gorgeous performance as the filthy, brutish, yet ultimately brilliant Ivan Vanko. While Gwyneth Paltrow's character isn't as involved, she still does a good job of not vanishing into the background despite her somewhat minor role. Scarlett Johansson as the vicious, yet gorgeous and sophisticated Natalie Rushman is a great example of how to do sexy right. To be frank the only actor I seemed to have a problem with is Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. I can't point out any tangible flaws, but something about his performance came off as very awkward and to be frank, annoying. I think they showed one too many scenes of him trying desperately to catch ahold of the spotlight after Tony Stark stole it from him, which had the effect of making him seem more like an annoying pest instead of a diabolical serpent like Obadiah Stane was in the original.

Like Hammer, the final battle also seemed to have fought desperately for all the screen time it managed to obtain. To say it felt rush would be a understatement. (Spoiler) While it begins strong with multiple drones, and a hacked War Machine, chasing Stark throughout the Stark Expo, allowing for many scenes of wanton and glorious destruction, the final confrontation with Ivan couldn't have lasted more than two minutes. If I might speak freely, I don't think they should have even bothered to bring Ivan because he was outright pitiful and his defeat ultimately deflated him as a villain and made him seem much weaker than originally portrayed. I think the film would have ended much stronger if they simply had him vanish from site, which could have been accomplished with cutting his final appearance and shooting maybe a single new scene to reveal the characters' recognition of his disappearance. I wouldn't be lying if I said I didn't feel a bit robbed by the climax.(End of Spoiler)

Overall, while the film did stumble now and again (I would also like to state that I think Mr. Rhodes acted a bit prematurely when he grabbed the suit and began wailing on Mr. Stark), it was overall a strong film and an enjoyable one at that. It managed to surpass the mindless popcorn flick with its clever dialogue and strong character development, but still held onto the crisp, bright, and action packed atmosphere of any summer blockbuster. 

Dr. Boll Approves

Grade Sheet for Iron Man 2

Presentation = A 

Ensemble Performance = B+

Plot = B+

Narrative Flow = B-

Climax = C

Overall Grade = B

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