Film Review – Iron Man 2
I am savoring my feelings of pleasure over Iron Man 2. As I’m underwhelmed with many of the action offerings for this summer, I worry they may need to last. Seriously, how bad does Prince of Persia look, am I right?
Anyway: since I know I am behind the times, this review assumes you, dear reader, have seen the movie. No real spoilers, but no summary either.
I know there are plot holes. Maybe not gaping holes, but at least bits we’re meant to gloss over without noticing. Let’s just admit it, and move past it. What is Ivan Vanko so mad about, exactly? That Tony Stark’s dad never gave his dad credit on a project that never seems to have actually come to fruition during Stark Sr.’s actual lifespan? Why does Pepper go from saying “Don’t you ‘Miss Potts’ me!” and accusing Natalie of who-knows-what to appointing her her assistant a couple of scenes later? Why was billionaire Tony Stark’s birthday party pretty much the size of my own? I could go on, but why? I’m the girl who’s still watching Smallville. I can forgive a lot of logistic nonsense in my superhero stories if the action and characters deliver enough.
The fact is, Iron Man 2 improves on the action and characterizations of the first film. It has a disadvantage in that we’ve had time to get used to (and take for granted) the specific fun tone that part one established, so some might find themselves underwhelmed at times. But I still find the Iron Man/Tony Stark character as envisioned by Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. to be something special among superhero movies. The amount of sympathy I feel for this reckless playboy surprises me.
The lack of secret identity to work around gives the story much more room to maneuver when compared to its peer group of the last few years. What sort of insane set-up would we need to get Clark Kent or Peter Parker involved in a car race of any kind? Tony Stark, he can just waltz up and join the Grand Prix. The result of this is the most fun action set piece I’ve seen since Christopher Nolan thought it might be fun to vertically flip a semi truck.
The relationship between Tony and Pepper, so initially intriguing but ultimately dissatisfying to me in the original, becomes central to the plot in this second installment, to my intense delight. Pepper is a wonderful character, and seeing her actually have something to do made me inordinately happy. The rhythm of the banter between Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow also seems just that much more crisp and fun.
But wait! There’s another female character! And she is so, so satisfyingly badass. I frankly adored Scarlett Johansson as ‘Natalie’, and her big scene of kickassery made me want to start a letter-writing campaign to assure she’s in all Marvel films from now on. The rest of the cast is also completely unobjectionable. Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle: I thought they were all great (especially Rockwell—how fun must it be to play such a douche?).
Iron Man 2 is a success. I’m not sure what the deluge of people who’ve said something along the lines of “it’s solid, but not as good as the first one” actually saw in the first one that is superior to what we’re given here. The only explanation I have is that it’s impossible to repeat the novelty of that initial experience with the filmmakers’ approach to this material. From my perspective, they’ve only built upwards.