Sunday, 2 May 2010
Iron Man (12A)
It is unfortunate that two years after the surprise delight that was Iron Man (2008), Marvel’s metallic wonder is now showing a few chinks in it’s armour. Not that Iron Man 2 is a bad film, but it’s hard to imagine anyone who won’t be clamouring for the original’s simple pleasures come the closing the credits.
Director Jon Favreau could definitely have benefited from the maxim, Less is More. Whereas Stark’s first foray into the world of heroics was a light-hearted origin story, the sequel suffers from a plethora of cooks who, despite good intentions, cook up a broth with far too many flavours. Anyone familiar with Harry Potter press junkets will know that cast and crew love to big up how much darker the latest addition to the franchise will undoubtedly be and the same is true here. Although it still retains its good humour, Iron Man 2 clearly wants to emulate The Dark Knight (2008)'s critical success, the most notable example being a hero/villain face-off followed by a prison breakout which reeks of the Joker’s far more impressive escape two years earlier. Undoubtedly the story meetings were an exciting process, but their translation to the screen is kind of, well, sloppy. The main plot involves Tony Stark (whose former self-confidence has now been replaced by a rather unappealing arrogance) who appears to be dying but for some reason fails to inform those around him. Had the film dealt with the comic book arc of his addiction, this struggle would have been a compelling concept, but as it stands there appears to be very little challenge for him to overcome. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad if it was not continually vying for attention amidst a sea of other unfinished subplots; Stark’s bizarre are they/aren’t they relationship with Pepper Potts (whose damsel in distress role has become decidedly Mary Jane-esque); a father/son reunion which has very little bearing on Stark’s character and best friend Rhodey whom despite being recast is once again painfully underused.
Speaking of wasted talent, Mickey Rourke’s turn as Whiplash smacks more of cameo than a top tier role. While his performance is expectedly great, his character spends so much time on the sidelines that he provides very little menace for our protagonist. With a backstory involving his father and a subsequent quest for vengeance, Whiplash lacks any real motivation, resulting in a one dimensional baddie who appears to come straight from a Saturday morning cartoon. Although a promising tete a tete with Stark suggests a deeper complexity to their relationship, Whiplash soon becomes a lackey for Sam Rockwell’s far too likeable Justin Hammer. As terrible as all this sounds, Iron Man 2 remains a highly watchable film. For all that a major blockbuster budget allows, Favreau thankfully avoids Transformers territory by keeping the action to a minimum, although a plodding second act and anti-climatic finale will disappoint those expecting a bit more bang for their buck. The inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson and stupidly sexy Scarlett Johansson as Avengers agents also add a bit of charm to the proceedings even if one can’t help but feel that the series is becoming just a marketing machine for that 2012 release. (See: Post-credit sequence).
All in all then a welcome sequel, if slightly indulgent, but a decent start to the Summer season. Let’s just hope the third one makes a bit more sense.
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The Incredibles (2004) ***
Spider-man (2002) ****
Spider-man 2 (2004) ****