Monday, November 21, 2011

The Muse Reviews: Iron Man 2

A quick and dirty review of Iron Man 2

Starring the ever-handsome Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the first Iron Man movie was a successful combination of charm, wit, and pathos, with some great action scenes. But the sequel, Iron Man 2, came out in 2010 to mixed reviews. There was some debate about whether it had the punch of the first movie, complaints were made about the father-son motif, and questions were raised about the casting (Mickey Rourke played the bad guy, while Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Stark's military friend, Rhodey).

I worried that the sequel would disappoint me, so I didn't rush to see it in theaters. But having finally seen the movie on DVD, I can say I didn't have too much to be worried about. Sure, Iron Man 2 suffers the fate of many sequels; it simply can't be as new as its predecessor, so it loses that element of surprise which, frankly, makes a lot more movies work than you might have noticed. But still. Iron Man 2 was a lot of fun too.

The action scenes were nicely shot, and in a superhero movie, that's half the battle (pun intended). Iron Man 2 didn't disappoint in that arena. The plot had a few bumps in it, but not in the father-son relationship that other reviewers critiqued. I liked that part, actually.

For me, the plot problem (small as it was) came from Stark's industrial rival, Justin Hammerplayed by Sam Rockwell, who has the thankless job to have to portray a lousy Stark-wannabe. Rockwell does a fine job of it, but the character as written is too stupid to be believable. He's a caricature of a jealous spotlight hound, and worst of all, he breaks a psychopath out of prison to help him and then expects loyalty out of the guy. I hate when writers do that to a character. It's so boring.

Good news, though. The bad guy, Ivan Vanko, is played to perfection by Mickey Rourke, and is just different enough to be engaging. Somehow, Rourke makes Vanko a little more than the average psychopath, and his performance balances out the poor writing around the Justin Hammer character.

It was a little hard to get used to Cheadle in Terrence Howard's old role, mainly because the character comes across as so much more serious under Cheadle's performance. It's almost like Rhodey is two completely different people from the first movie to the second. I missed the humor in Howard's acting, though it's hard to fault Cheadle for that, since he has fewer opportunities to show any humor. I fault the writing for that, not the acting.

Some good humor does come from Agent CoulsonClark Gregg should be nominated for supporting actor sometime; he's perfect.

The final bump came with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who inexplicably seems less self-assured and slower on the take than she did in the first movie. Again, I fault the writers. Or the director. Because Paltrow didn't have a problem in the first film. It was puzzling to see her lose her spark in the second movie.

All in all, Iron Man 2 is a decent sequel. It's not perfect, and it's not better than the original. But it's still pretty darn good, and worth a DVD rental.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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