Despite some less-than-kind reviews, I was still very excited to see the IRON MAN sequel on its opening day. I left satisfied. This is a fine film, you just have to see it for what it is. What is it exactly? I'll get to that.
Most critics seems to be complaining about things that I wouldn't myself. It seems that the biggest issue with IRON MAN 2 is that it didn't quite live up to its predecessor, even the positive reviews made this assessment. I agree with that to some extent, it does lack a certain "zazz", but the sequel also had the burden of very high expectations that IRON MAN lacked. I think most people, myself included, didn't expect a whole lot out of IRON MAN when it was released two years ago. Who the hell is Iron Man anyway? Sure, he has his dedicated followers, but he lacks the popularity of A-list superheroes. The trailers looked good and I was excited by Downey Jr. being on the marquee, but I only expected a decent movie. What we got was a very good movie. I, like most of the film-going community, love to have my expectations surpassed. This resulted in an enormous amount of buzz and praise. Unfortunately, this has been somewhat of a curse for IRON MAN 2, at least critically. I expected IRON MAN 2 to be a very good movie, but the early reviews adjusted my hopes to just "good movie" and that's exactly what I got. Anybody expecting to be blown away is setting themselves up for a disappointment.
IRON MAN 2 is a good in-between film. It's apparent that Favreau is trying to make his own series that will stand apart from the other Marvel films to a certain extent. However, he cannot escape the current of the Marvel Universe. I didn't find this movie to be an advertisement for the impending AVENGERS film, like some critics did (I could have actually used a bit more of the Avengers plot), but it's certainly made itself part of the background. I'm psyched about this because it means that Marvel is serious about making their ambitious experiment in serial narratives work. Nothing like it has ever been accomplished. Crossovers with this level of detail and public interest are unprecedented. Sure, IRON MAN means a lot to them, both creatively and monetarily, but THE AVENGERS and the overarching picture means more. IRON MAN 2 might be a little scatterbrained for some, but I didn't mind. It's just part of a very elaborate puzzle. Whatever risks there might have been in making a film like this have most likely been justified by the impressive box-office it is doing this weekend.
I suppose I should note a few things about the film itself:
The performances are all good. Downey is great again as Stark. Mickey Rourke's blunt and violent Ivan Vanko is deviation from the cunning Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), but a welcome one. He certainly seems to be having a lot of fun with it whilst also taking the role quite seriously. Stark's new corporate rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), is humorously despicable and a nice addition. He's sort of a Tony Stark without any talent or genius intellect. Anybody who knows me knows how under-appreciated I think Rockwell is. Perhaps this will get him more of the exposure he rightly deserves. I didn't know what to expect from Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff. I thought she might be more of the villainous Black Widow, but her as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Tony Stark babysitter was fine too. It's hard not to like her. She's a nice juxtaposition with the physically reserved Pepper Potts. I didn't miss Terrence Howard as Rhodie, Cheadle makes a suitable replacement. The action was fun. The Nick Fury appearances were delightful. Vanko's appearance at the racetrack was just as cool as expected. There's a lot to enjoy about the film. If I had one technical complaint it's that there seemed to be way too many close shots. I would have preferred if the camera had been pulled back a bit on a few occasions. But on the overall I liked it, almost as much as the 1st film. Make sure to stick around after the credits.