Monday, October 11, 2010

New on Blu: Iron Man 2

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Iron Man 2 is one of the worst movies I've seen all year. I was bored to tears with this, desperately hoping something interesting or exciting would happen but to no avail. The excuse idea that this film was rushed is not acceptable here nor ever, especially to someone who staunchly supports Marvel's many forms of media. X-Men: The Last Stand was given the rush job but it was at least somewhat palatable while this was completely bland, boring, and not even close to even a Michael Dudikoff B-movie. I look forward to these blockbusters every year because they're around my birthday and I couldn't be more glad that I skipped Iron Man 2 when it was in theaters.

The problems, many as they are, root from the script. There is no distinction between acts, the first act running right through the second, providing scene after scene of an unmasked Iron Man doing this an an unmasked Iron Man doing that. Jon Favreau, from his close personal relationship with RDJ, let him do whatever he wanted and the results were annoying and indulgent. It's absolutely bewildering to me as to why the successful fusion of Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men) and Arthur Marcum and Matt Holloway's scripts was discontinued and placed in the untrained and unworthy hands of Justin Theroux. I'm sure some great chemistry happened between RDJ and Justin on the set of Tropic Thunder, which Justin also wrote, but this change of gears did not work.

Sam Rockwell had a completely wasted performance in this film. He is sooooo talented and, similar to Hugo Weaving in The Wolfman, he had absolutely no character to work with. His character, Justin Hammer's, depiction as a rival to Tony Stark has no arc and is one of the many points of erosion in Iron Man 2's armor. A bumbling technological rival who isn't even funny as half of the conflict in the script? No. Sorry. Did not work. Even the scene with Sam's amazing dance moves served little to cover up the film's failure in capturing my interest. Just as ill developed is the conflict of Tony's palladium core keeping him alive and killing him alive at the same time. This was posed so poorly constructed that I couldn't have cared any less about it. And how does the film resolve this conflict? Instantaneously when his new atomic number 118 core is placed, which took all of 2 minutes to create! This notion of having to accept super hero movies as these flashy movies where nothing really happens is so condescending, especially when there is so much source material to work with and ideally improve.

The fight scenes amount to a whopping THREE and all are SO short: one where Iron Man fights War Machine, one where Ivan Vanko (another snoozer villain) attacks Tony in Monaco, and one where both Iron Man and War Machine fight some drones. The first one is so unwarranted. A million reasons or villains could have been used to have a fight scene with Iron Man, the star of the film, but what's the motivation: Rhodey needs to cool Iron Man down. WTF?!?!?!?! This so strongly stinks of machismo and does absolutely nothing for the plot of the story. The second one provided at least some drama, having Tony out of his suit but the battle is over as soon as he suits up. Why can't the drama be created when he's in the suit? The final fight scene, when Iron Man and War Machine get to show off in all of their technologically advanced mechanical glory is shown in a brief three minutes. I have absolutely no investment in the scene because 1. they're machines that don't even look cool and 2. because the film has didn't set up any attachments or feelings for me to feel.

I absolutely hated the portrayal of women as lapdogs for their male counterparts in this film. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts was so unbelievably naggy in this film. A woman of education, power, and beauty is still nothing but a blabbermouth in the end according to this film. Even Gwyneth's idle dialogue that opened some scenes sounded very forced and unnatural, which is hard to stomach being a fan of hers. Scarlett Johansson did what she could but the misdirection and poor editing sank whatever potential she had. On paper, Justin Theroux may have thought he was making her a character to be admired: multilingual, well-educated, trained for combat, etc., but the focus of her role is always at tthe whim of men. Even her fight scene left much to be desired. A good edit could have saved her but it was so unbelievably awful. During Black Widow's main fight scene, there are so many cuts for such a small amount action.

Just to let me rant for a sec, Garry Shandling had SO many injectables in his face I was surprised it was moving at all during the panel scene in the beginning of the film. The distance from Tony may have saved him a little bit but the last scene of the film where he smiles between Tony and Rhodey has some frightening closeups. Looking young and good for the camera is one thing but to the point where the result is horrific is not good for the film. Jon Favreau should have seen this.

The only redeeming element to this film was Samuel L. Jackson. His presence is stoic and restrained, with lines to match his presence and body language. Nick Fury's scene time across all of the Marvel films can be counted in seconds yet I found his character here to have the most development and purpose. In retrospect, that's unbelievable since Pepper, Tony, and Rhodey all had a whole - and might I add good - film's worth of development to rely upon.

Even the high resolution of Blu-ray was not enough for me to enjoy this film/piece of garbage. I'm honestly heartbroken by its severely low quality. I can remember some years ago, feeling enthralled and inspired by Jon Favreau's humor and insights when he hosted Dinner for Five but this film let me down at almost every point. Maybe that man still exists somewhere but Iron Man 2 has to be one of his biggest failures in quality to date.

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