Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010) – Review

Iron Man 2 is full of sleek visuals, large action pieces and humor, and yet the film’s narrative is poorly structured – leaving it with noticeable peaks and valleys. Mostly the film works, the cast is great and the technical aspects of the film are generally good – the film is entertaining and most will be quite satisfied. The issues with the film arise from its story and overall structure. The film drags noticeably in parts and seems as if it was pieced together from a series of ideas rather than flowing seamlessly throughout. Thus, the film plays wonderfully in moments – there are a number of memorable lines, performances and scenes – but it is not cohesive. The timeline of the film, while seemingly to take place over a number or days or weeks, is muddled in that logically the events more likely take place over the course of a full year, but there is no sense of the passage of time – everything is immediate yet there are clues that large gaps of time rationally must have passed. The story itself is average, the villain is a bit weak, and his motivation and character not nearly evolved enough to make the viewer care. Another issue with the film is in the characterization of Tony Stark. While Robert Downey Jr. is good again in the role, the film seeks out to dive more into the character, yet for those that have seen the first film the character is well established and thus here in this film he feels more like a caricature of himself than a real person. This leaves the viewer disconnected during moments of character development, because since the character is not real or does not feel real (aside from the film being fictional, of course) the viewer does not have a stake in the outcome, in the journey, and thus the film drags. Sure, the viewer will still enjoy the action and laugh at the humor, but for the film to be great there must be a bond formed between the characters, especially the lead, and the viewers (and this is not asking too much of a blockbuster or comic based film, see Spider-Man 2 or Christopher Nolan’s Batman films for reference). These aspects of the film leave the narrative pacing slow (in a film that is not that long), which hurts the film as a whole. But there is a lot to like here too. The action scenes are big and well constructed (though there does seem to be a lot of casualties of innocents that are not referenced). Jon Favreau does have an eye for fun yet cinematically interesting action, which is nice to see amongst many other films with often overly generic and boring action (the final action scene in the Japanese garden is pretty awesome). The best part of Justin Theroux’s script is the humor. There are a number of very funny scenes and lines throughout, and this humor mixed with the awe of the action saves the film from mediocrity. Like with Iron Man, this sequel is mostly good but again suffered from a poor structure, should Favreau return to helm a third, hopefully he can produce a film that flows well (which is really the hardest thing to do in filmmaking). Technically, the film has many triumphs – the score is not one of them. John Debney’s work tries to hard to be like other superhero films (noticeably like a mix between Batman and Spider-Man), it does not have its own identity, and thus not memorable. It is lost to the background instead of enhancing the film. Matthew Libatique’s lighting was both good and awkward (something I noticed more the second time). The sets were lit very well and the Iron Man costumes looked great too, the use of shadows in many of the action scenes was great (and Scarlett Johansson looked great, so I am sure she appreciated the lighting too). However, some of the actors did not fair as well. Sam Rockwell in the hanger scene looked beyond tan (if you look at his hands they look like they are caked in mud), meaning that Libatique’s use of the white scale in the scene was either a bit off or he intended the characters to look like they had spray on tans. J. Michael Riva did a wonderful job with the production design. The sets were great. The film had an overall slick look to fit with the character of Iron Man, and thus Tony Stark. The visual effects are also top notch in the film. The cast was fun and there were a number of solid performances and great bits too. As stated above, Downey Jr. was good, though his performance was hindered by the story a bit. Don Cheadle is every bit as good as Terrence Howard, bringing a lot of the same feel to the character. Mickey Rourke plays a Russian version of himself and his character is vastly undeveloped. Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson are all good and fitting for their parts (Jackson has a great stare in the film). And, Sam Rockwell is up to his zany goodness. There are also a number of small enjoyable segments featuring John Slattery (always awesome), Favreau, Kate Mara, Leslie Bibb, Clark Gregg, and Garry Shandling. Iron Man 2 is a lot of fun and full of entertaining moments, no doubt, but sadly it is a step below the best blockbusters and superhero films. 7/10

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