Review of Iron Man 2
May 11, 2010
Even Iron Man is vulnerable to the double-edged sword of the past, and in Iron Man 2, Tony Stark feels both sides of the blade. Iron Man 2 is a thin layer of plot sandwiched between the thick layers of whiz-bang and kaboom, smeared with adequate acting and mediocre writing tapenade, and seasoned with a dash of sequel-diminishment.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man prosthetic has managed to muscle the world into peace. Tony’s friend, Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), tries to convince Tony to hand over the technology to the military, but his requests fall on deaf ears. His enemy in industry, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) lays in wait to take advantage of mistakes Tony makes. In a far, far away cave, Ivan Vanko (Mikey Rourke), stirred by a family travesty, makes a bold public move against Iron Man. Unwilling to hand over the technology to the American government, and unable to realize his own weaknesses, it is not long before Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and the world are forced to see his limitations.
To both its credit and its detriment, Iron Man 2 does not try to be anything more than a mindless action extravaganza. There is no deeper meaning, no introspective points about society or government, no finger wagging, no bladder-emptying moments of hilarity. What it does have is a smorgasbord of fight scenes, metal clanking, explosions, beautiful women in tight clothing, fictional pseudoscientific techno-babble, gizmos, guns, car crashes, and did I mention explosions? It’s cinematic candy.
I am all for a sweet treat, but without something savory (plot, theme, impressive writing) to really nourish, I only made it halfway through before I never wanted to see my beloved Dagoba Dark Chocolate ever, ever again. Instead of being impressed by the visuals, I found myself becoming more critical of minor mistakes the effects team made because there were so few breaks between those scenes. I realized about two-thirds of the way through that I was staring at the screen more than watching it.
The acting can best be described as “not bad.” There are no egregious twitches or flapping mistakes, but the actors do not seem to commit enough to make me suspend my disbelief. This is especially surprising when Robert Downey Jr. is playing, in essence, Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man series. This is not all the actors’ doing, though, as the dialogue written by Justin Theroux didn’t give them much to work with. It’s not horrible or fantastic; it’s just unexceptional.
Most frustrating about Iron Man 2 is that it relies on the audience’s dedication to the series to ensure a complete and satisfying plot experience. While I do think it is always a better experience to see the previous movie in a series, it should not be mandatory to do so to fully enjoy the film. The audience pays the same ten bucks for the sequel as it does for the first, so they should get equitable value for their buck. Iron Man 2 doesn’t bother to assure the value; it feels like it starts in the middle of a story. There is limited character introduction, inside jokes about the previous movie, and nearly no plot review. If you do not already know Tony Stark, Iron Man, and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), prepare to feel lost. In fact, seeing Iron Man 2 before watching Iron Man is a complete waste of money.
Even for all its faults, there is joy in letting your mind loose to gallivant through Iron Man 2. There is no risk of rogue self-examination or drowning in deep meaning. A viewer will not be knocked out of a self-imposed gasoline- and testosterone-filled movie coma if they really love that feeling. For the movie goer who only wants to escape real life and pretend he is living in a video game, Iron Man 2 is a great pick.
For everyone else, I suspect there will be a sense of disappointment when leaving the theater.
There is no great wrong or right with Iron Man 2. It did not drive me out of the theater or give me Stark-related wet dreams. It could be best summarized in one word: meh.
If you enjoyed Iron Man 2, stick around after the credits for a little glimpse of the future. Fanboys may squeal with glee.
To answer your question about Stan Lee before you ask: yes.