Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 07 May 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
I’ll get this out of the way quickly. Iron Man was the bang. Iron Man 2 is the whimper. That’s not saying it won’t do well at the box office. It has a built-in fan base, and there’s that charismatic leading man…
Yes, he’s back, complete with metal bodysuit, glowing, chest plug-in palladium arc reactor and jet engines in his steel-toed boots. But this time, he’s got company in the form of a vengeful Russian adversary who feels his legacy has been stolen. This time the very gizmo that powers his heart (and his creation) is also poisoning his blood. Internal AND external conflict right off the bat – oops – wrong super hero.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is riding a wave of popularity so huge it eclipses that of a rock star/NASCAR driver/American Idol finalist combined. Iron Man’s become an international peace keeper, averting and resolving conflicts in an unprecedented manner. Stark and his creation have become so intertwined that he even hosts his own namesake Expo, making a spectacular superhero landing as the mega-metal marauder, backed by cheerleaders in a setting more conducive and grander in scale than the Olympics.
Bur even the swaggering, arrogant, ultra-smug Stark can’t stop his blood from its toxic metamorphosis. He wastes no time worrying, choosing instead to become even more reckless in behavior. The supremely wealthy and confident Stark can’t even be fazed by a subpoena to appear before Congress, where he’s reminded that he has detractors.
One of these is Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) a fish-faced naysayer who thinks Stark is dangerous and must be regulated. Then there’s the U.S. Army who wants to classify Stark’s suits as weapons and therefore property of the Federal Government. Next in line is weasel-like rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), also super rich and also in the weapons business, but with none of the Stark charisma or popularity - just failed copycat attempts at suit construction.
And then there’s Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian physicist (and criminal), whose father, Anton once collaborated with Howard Stark (Tony’s dad). Ivan believes the elder Stark stole ideas from his father and seeks revenge in the form of his own super-powered attire. He reveals himself to the world in all of his electrical, villainous glory at a Monaco racing event.
Stark has a few folks staunchly in his eccentric corner, like assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), military pal Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), covert organization S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division) operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and special agent Natasha Romanoff aka Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson).
Potts and Rushman specialize in high heels and tight skirts. The two frequently resemble twin letter “S” silhouettes when they walk, or more correctly, slink. Rhodes and Fury take alternate turns at trying to coax the unstable billionaire into responsible behavior. The four yell, persuade, cajole and threaten Stark, sometimes succeeding. Meanwhile, Hammer moves in to appropriate Vanko’s considerable skills against our intrepid hero.
The ensuing action centers around Stark’s fight to stay alive, battling forces both foreign and domestic; some as tiny as the tainted corpuscles running through his veins. There’s a lot to be sorted out and fast, loud ways to do it are never ignored.
Whether you like it or not may depend on your gender. Guys will find plenty to get excited about. Ladies may find the dialogue silly and the onscreen women even sillier. If you want explosions, destruction, battles devoid of consequence (no one can get hurt inside the suits so they can beat on one another ceaselessly and mindlessly) you’ll have a lot to chew on. Looking for anything of greater substance may leave you feeling like you’re going to bed without supper.
The vicarious kick-ass-ness of the testosterone-driven script will thrill kids and graphic novel fans, but may not impress those with attention spans that can accommodate more than hyperactive video-game play.
Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect chain mail (male) fit as the cocky Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson provide slinky window dressing and little else. Don Cheadle (replacing Terrence Howard) fits his suit comfortably and will probably fill it again. Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko held the screen captive anytime his metal-toothed intellectual/diabolical face was on it. Nick Fury needs to have a bigger role the next time around. Garry Shandling gives good monotone.
Director Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man) packs the badass moments so closely together that the screen gets too busy in places and there’s a dearth clever dialogue for diversion. Screenwriter Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) and Iron Man creator Stan Lee understand that the franchise isn’t word-driven as long as the visuals deliver. There’s a particularly vulgar line about a female reporter early on in the film that is most regrettable but very telling of the macho mindset of the genre.
Iron man did well as a big screen freshman. Unfortunately, his sophomore effort turned out to be nothing more than sophomoric. This is something, I imagine, that will be avenged in the future.