Artificial Continuum

Sunday, May 9, 2010

(Apologies. I saw this film opening day, but have been unable to post a review until now.)

Arguably the most anticipated film of the summer has landed, Iron Man 2 hit theaters last Friday, and has already had one of the largest openings for a film ever. Does it live up to the hype?

Opening six months after the first film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. )is now settling into his role as the metallic crusader Iron Man. He has more then doubled his stardom and lowered his image at the same time. Stark is now seen as a protector of people as well as the playboy industrialist that characterizes him. Stark soon draws the attention of the US government who demand that he hand over the Iron Man suit to the military. Joining the side of the government is rival weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who is secretly creating his own robotic weaponry. Luckily, Stark has the help of Air Force Captain Rhodey Rhodes( Don Cheadle) and his new CEO Pepper Potts ((Gwyneth Paltrow). Yet things spiral out of control when an enemy from Stark's past, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) rises to challenge the now unstable hero.

Iron Man 2 is a perfect example of a sequel that just cannot quite find its footing. While it excels on many levels, it sputters along at things that it should be accustomed to.

The story itself is crowded, but for the most part well executed. Unlike comic book films such as Spider-man 3, Iron Man 2 manages to juggle numerous plots without feeling disjointed. Despite the wide range of plot aspects and numerous villains, director Jon Favreau manages to keep all the elements connected and relevant. The real problem is in a lack of pacing. Iron Man 2 is fun and exciting for the first third, boring and disjointed in the second, and finally returns to from in the final act. Despite this the ending feels hackneyed and forced, leaving numerous plot points with poor resolution.

The acting in Iron Man 2 is phenomenal throughout. There is hardly a poor performance in the entire cast. Downey Jr. and Rockwell work as perfect counters, playing each others weaknesses and strengths. The two have great chemistry and deliver some of the films best laughs. Paltrow is just as strong as in the previous film, but feels overshadowed by the explosions and effects. Cheadle plays the role of Rhodes well, but struggles with some of the more humorous scenes. Rourke also feels like his character has fallen by the wayside when compared with other plots, but manages to add a great level of menace and evil. However, these are minor complaints in an otherwise spotless cast of actors.

One area that has improved from the first film is the level of action. Many viewers and critics (myself included), felt that Iron Man truly suffered when trying to show more intense action sequences. The sequel improves on almost every level. Despite a rather disappointing early scene on a race track, Iron Man 2 uses its sense of humor and spectacular special effects to create exciting and creative action set pieces. The final twenty minutes of the film are so well crafted and choreographed that it almost makes up for the numerous narrative short comings in the films middle act.

However, where Iron Man 2 truly fails is in delivering that spark that sets it apart from the numerous other blockbusters and comic book films being released these days. While it certainly a very good comic book film, it lacks the shine of the original. Neither does it have the gritty realism of the newer Batman movies, or the romantic charm of the first two Spider-man films. The first Iron Man excelled of its political commentary, great acting, emotional story, and charming humor. It even was listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2008. However, its sequel just cannot seem to live up to that. In the end, Iron Man 2 is simply a very good summer movie.

Score: B+


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