Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Iron Man 2 **
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle
Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson
Garry Shandling, John Slattery, Clark Gregg
Iron Man 2 is an unapologetically American snapshot of current times. It's unapologetic because it shows no caution in glorifying excess; from its convoluted plot, to its thinly disguised allegories about politics, economics and society, almost every element proves to be cringe worthy and deluded.
When the film opens, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) appears in front of a huge crowd to unveil his company's grand world fair.
Surrounded by perky cheerleaders and massive screens he's a combination of Steve Jobs, an evangelical guru and Barack Obama. As he gloats about how he "privatized world peace" while his fans roar excitedly, he's a disturbing reminder of a time and age where politicians have become more rock stars than actual politics professionals.
When Tony's father (played by Slattery) appears on a screen in all his Walt Disney like glory, it's impossible not to chuckle at its direct aim at American culture icons but also expect the movie to deliver much more.
If the screenplay, written with slight strokes of cynicism by Justin Theroux, had explored this more thoroughly, perhaps the movie would've resulted in something more interesting and compelling.
Instead after this, the movie becomes an amalgam of Freudian issues, lazy character development and superhero movie clichés.
It turns out that Tony is dying; the palladium in his arc reactor is poisoning him and he chooses to live his last days in decadence.
He hands out his company to loyal companion Pepper Potts (Paltrow), disregards Congress' wish to use the iron suit for the military, enters a public feud with rival Hammer industries (Rockwell plays CEO Justin Hammer) and embarks on a partying binge that leaves disastrous PR repercussions.
While Tony desperately seeks for attention and throws technologically aided tantrums, an evil plan is forming across the world.
Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Rourke) has decided to seek vengeance from Stark Co. believing they stole his father's iron suit technology and destroyed his life.
Ivan and Tony then create a facile dichotomy: they are both trying to solve unfinished business concerning their fathers, they represent polar ideological differences (the film's juxtaposition of a McCarthy-ian hearing featuring "good guy" Stark, with cuts of the evil Russian building his own war machine are tacky to say the least) and in a fourth wall breaking way, they embody a tête-à-tête of two of the most fascinating comebacks in recent Hollywood history.
With so many things to choose to concentrate in, Iron Man 2 chooses them all and becomes an uneven spectacle that sometimes drags, sometimes excites but rarely engages.
The film is built from many parts that don't work well together and for a film about a man made out of iron, this technological mishap metaphor can't help but feel ironic.
It's a pleasure to see Downey Jr. in action though. Reminding us why choosing him to play Stark was a genius casting decision, he delivers his lines with enough snap and wry humor to evoke Cary Grant.
He's one of the few actors who can make snark seem lovable and his scenes with Gwyneth Paltrow are the best thing in the movie. Their chemistry is delightful and might be the one thing you want to see more of.
The rest of the cast does satisfying job, Rourke is effective, if not memorable while Cheadle and Johansson are vastly underused (they are supposed to have bigger storylines in upcoming sequels) and Rockwell delivers his best Tom Cruise on cocaine in the 80's impression to make Hammer the most annoying character in the film.
All the parts never amount to much and the entire film relies on stereotypes that the first installment refreshed.
When it comes down to capturing the film in a single moment, a scene comes to mind that's both pathetic and unsuccessful: a drunk Tony Stark pees the iron man suit after which he proceeds to dance to no other than Daft Punk's Robot Rock.
If the song choice isn't wildly imaginative, it's the sense of trying so hard to impress that makes this Iron Man a tin can in dire need of a repair.