Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010)


2008's IRON MAN was an unexpected box-office hit during the crowded summer season. That movie was a reasonably entertaining though uneven comic-book movie, which is blessed with witty script and of course a tour de force comeback performance by Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. Not surprisingly, a sequel is immediately greenlit and huge expectation is running very high. But despite the return with most of the same actors and crew, the heavily-anticipated IRON MAN 2 is a bloated mess -- clearly a product of rushed production in favor to cash in the popularity.

At the end of IRON MAN, billionaire weapons manufacturer of Stark Industries, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) declared himself to the press as Iron Man. Six months later, Tony has become a superstar among the people, in which he has successfully bring world peace that made America a safe living place for the time being. But not so for Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), who is afraid that other countries might create similar body weapons and wants him to hand over his suit. To make things complicated, Tony is also facing competition with the arrogant military weapons expert Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who is particularly desperate to know what makes his Iron Man suit so powerful. That's not all -- Tony is suffering from worsening heart condition that will kill him if he does not invent a new healing system in time. As he struggles between his own mass popularity and personal downfall, he promotes his trusted assistant/love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to CEO of the company and hires the mysteriously sexy but tough Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) as a new secretary/consultant. Things goes bad to worse, when Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) seeks vengeance against Tony for the cause of his father's death.

Justin Theroux's script is no doubt heavy-handed, with multiple plot hanging everywhere in sight but nary a coherent whole. It's also overly ambitious to the extent of an annoying result, while Jon Favreau's "more-is-more" approach is obviously aping the same mistake Sam Raimi did before in SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007). But at least SPIDER-MAN 3 is marginally credible than this pile of scrap metal. Just about everything in this movie goes as broad, neurotic and schizophrenic as possible. Frequently annoying scenes like interplay between Tony and Pepper is now boiled with tension and arguments to the point of irritating manner as if they are acted in some Woody Allen's movie or a bad sitcom of sorts. If that's not enough, there is also a shockingly embarrassing scene where Tony and his best friend, James Rhodes, battling against each other in a armored suit to the score of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust." I kid you not. What Theroux and Favreau are thinking anyway? It's like as if they are spoofing this sequel into their own brand of parody. The pacing is also another major problem -- the movie spends the bulk of time struggling to find proper footing in many occasions, only to end up dragging into nowhere. 

On the other side, there are just too many characters Theroux and Favreau trying hard to lay focus it's simply feel too crowded for its own good. At the first glance, Robert Downey Jr. is magnetic and as charming as ever in his iconic role. Only this time his character is reduced to a garden-variety performance that doesn't make full use of his so-called conflicted role. In what could have been a great villainous turn by Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, he's all evil smirk and blank expression. Not only that, his appearance is more of an afterthought and looking like a caricature. It doesn't help either that he spends most of the time muttering in Russian and does little to progress his character further. Sam Rockwell's (a role originated for Al Pacino) flamboyant turn as Justin Hammer is nothing much to shout about. Though it's always fun to watch him tackling such familiar role, it's also annoying that his character is simply too broad for its own good. Gwyneth Paltrow fares less successful as the lovely Pepper Potts, who is now reduced to a thankless role. Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrence Howard, as James Rhodes, is forgettable. Last but not least, Samuel L. Jackson's extended cameo appearance as Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson's sultry role as Natasha are criminally underused.

Still, the movie is particularly successful when comes to action sequence. By recruiting renowned animator Tartakovsky as a storyboard artist, the action is nevertheless kinetic and very epic. Among three spectacular moments are the first Iron Man/Whiplash clash at Monaco Grand Prix; the climactic battle against an army of robots; and the acrobatic fighting scene between the skintight-clad Black Widow (Johansson) against a small army of security guards. Except of course, it's very disappointing to see the would-be exciting battle scene between Iron Man, War Zone and Whiplash is sadly anticlimactic to the point of laziness. Special effects, in the meantime, is a  solid improvement over the original.

So much for the so-called huge anticipation and if anyone is still interested enough, there is a secret ending after the credits where S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) discovers a certain hammer in a crater somewhere in New Mexico.

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