Film Review: “Iron Man 2” ★ ★ (2/5)

When “Iron Man” was released two years ago, I remember leaving the theater hungry for more. Now that Jon Favreau has come up with the sequel I can’t help but want less. By less I mean less of a lot of things. Less characters, that’s for sure. The film introduces so many new characters without taking the time to develop them, it becomes almost repetitive.

I constantly found myself saying “Oh, there’s Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow; Mickey Rourke looking badass as always. Wait a minute Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard? Sam Rockwell is in this too? Oh looky here, it’s Samuel L. Jackson in yet another below average superhero movie.”

Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against ensemble casts, as long as each character has purpose, is well-developed and supports the overall flow of the film.Unfortunately, this is not the case here. Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters did nothing for me. They were both unnecessary to the plot and quite frankly felt like characters from another movie who just happened to run into the set of “Iron Man 2”. I have no problem with Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard though, he stayed true to Howrard’s performance in the predecessor. While Rourke needed more character development, Rockwell was the surprise  showstealer.

Less storylines and more focus is another thing this film needed. Favreau should’ve focused on one basic storyline instead of losing grip of the direction of the plotline and wasting what could have been a great sequel. The film starts with Ivan Vanko also known as Whiplash (Rourke) witnessing the death of his father. We get that Tony Stark is somehow responsible for it and so in an attempt to avenge his father’s death, Ivan builds his own cheap electronic vest. Meanwhile Tony Stark is busy trying to prevent the US army from getting their desperate hands on his suit. We also learn that the arc reactor attached to his chest is both keeping him alive and killing him.

After completion of his vest, Rourke takes a shot against our hero during a Formula 1 race. Yes, a Formula 1 race. Why you ask? Well, apparently we need hundreds of people watching as Rourke stands up against Stark, in addition to that, there also has to be some explosive action like cars flipping into the air and crashing into one another. The location is a lame desperate excuse to make the standoff a fireworks show. The “he did it to show people Stark wasn’t invincible” is a stupid argument. Did everyone forget about Jeff Bridges using Iron Man as a metallic frisby?

Suddenly, the story switches focus from Whiplash to Stark’s main business competitor, Justin Hammer (Rockwell). Hammer is sick of living in Stark’s shadow and so teams up with, well you guessed it. The main villain becomes a minor one and then returns once again to the center of attention. In addition to all that you have subplots including a childish fight with his best friend, Col. Rhodes (Cheadle), Pepper Potts (Paltrow) getting promoted, Stark (Downey Jr.) coming to terms with some Daddy issues, and an introduction to the Avengers.

Another negative aspect in “Iron Man 2” is the over use of far-fetched technology. It was fun in the first film but they overdid it with the sequel. It was almost an in your face display of the bigger budget. Part of what made “Iron Man” so special was the relevant theme of terrorism, which is absent here. Also, in the first picture, there was something about that suit that made it unique and special. However, “Iron Man 2” introduces so many different armour suits with special attachments, our hero’s suit only becomes less impressive. In fact, we get so many suits in this film, I’m surprised they didn’t just title the film, “Iron Men”.

Now that I’m done discussing the negative aspect, I’ll point out that the action sequences were somewhat impressive in terms of editing. Thank God, this wasn’t filmed in 3-D because it would’ve resulted in me adding another paragraph to my negative review.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks, Wael. You saved me ten bucks. 🙂

    Reply

  2. The film felt a lot like a series of extended cameos. Mickey Rourke had a dozen scenes, tops, and about as many lines, half of them delivered in (garbled?) Russian. The entire point of Scarlett Johansson being there was that asskicking sequence towards the end. And yes, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is awesome, but he needs better material to work with. What’s most disappointing is that the Rhodes/Stark relationship was pretty promising but, due to the overabundance of characters, had to be dealt with in a very rushed manner.
    That being said, I still enjoy Robert Downey, Jr. being Robert Downey, Jr. immensely. The man’s got enough charisma to pull of being a cocky bastard in 95% of his scenes…

    Reply

    • It did feel like a sereis of cameos. I think it would’ve been a lot better had they focused on Rourke’s storyline. The sequel lacked the personal tension between hero and villain that was so evident in the first one with Jeff Bridges. Robert Downey Jr. is always a joy to watch but when everything around him turns to rubbish, you’d rather watch him somewhere else. I recently learned that he turned down “Iron Man 3” for “Sherlock Holmes 2”.

      You nailed that part about the film being rushed. It’s as if they thought this would be their final “Iron Man” film and decided to just stick everything they knew into the screenplay. In the comic-books, after the events of the first movie, Tony Stark deals with a drinking problem. That would’ve taken the film into a darker direction, and this may not be the best way to appraoch a superhero film (Spiderman 3 failed that way) but it could’ve maintained humor alongside an internal battle.

      I loved how in “Iron Man”, we got to watch Tony Stark become “Iron Man” and how he had to build the suit to escape terrorists. It gave the film the feel of a personal journey, from this kidnapped multi-millionaire to a loved super-hero.

      Reply

      • To be fair, Spider-Man 3 didn’t fail because it was darker than the two movies that preceded it; it failed because someone forgot to include a plausible storyline and develop the characters. I mean, The Dark Knight was a seriously dark movie (no pun intended), but it made a killing at the box office because it was a great film.

        The rest of the comparison sounds apt, though, as Spider-Man 3 included three bad guys, two damsels in distress, and even two Peter Parkers! Conclusion: there were too many threads running through the movie. Plus, Peter seemed to be one dimensional, i.e., he was a jerk for most of the film. Sounds like Iron Man 2 also tried to include too much. It’s a shame, too, for the original Iron Man was great, from the scenes with the terrorists to the scenes between Downey, Jr. and Paltrow. In the same way, Spider-Man 3 was a disappointment after the great Spider-Man 2.

      • Yeah but “Batman Begins” was dark too. Every Batman film is more or less dark and what Sam Raimi attempted to do with “Spider-Man 3” was to make it darker than the other two. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s like suddenly having a slow-moving Bourne sequel. I do agree though that it tried to include too much. “Iron Man” was very good. I’ll go as far and call it one of the best super-hero movies out there. It’s a shame everything that made it so good is nowhere to be found in the sequel.

  3. Wael,

    In theory I agree with your analysis, although I haven’t seen the film yet (maybe I’ll like it). If “Iron Man 2” is in fact suffering from “Spider-Man 3” syndrome, it must be because it’s working with these rich characters with big profiles and no storytelling depth. “Spider-Man 3” fell flat in this respect. Villains like Sandman, Venom, and the Hob-Goblin, even Gwen Stacy rest on the combined gimmicks of big name actors and dark implications to make them prolific, then rush them out of the picture to introduce something else that’s just as underdeveloped. Glad to read critics who are placing the weight of their reviews of superhero films on characters and not just action and aesthetics.

    Best,
    Max Weinstein (http://reeldealmw.blogspot.com)

    Reply

    • Thanks Max. Yeah too many characters, too many subplots, and completely out of focus (story-wise). I just read your piece about Women in Scorsese films. Excellent! I’ll tweet it to my followers right away.

      Reply

  4. 🙂 Thanks, man. Also pleased to discover you made your way out to Ebertfest, after all. I just came off a similar experience (sans volcanic ash) with Tribeca, having to wait some time through scheduling before finally attending the screenings I wanted, so I can only imagine that kind of frustration. Still, it made for a great blog, heartfelt and inspiring. I’d love to make it out next year for coverage. In the meantime, I streamed much of the discussion myself, and made it priority to see “You, The Living”. Really engaging stuff following that screening.

    Reply

  5. I saw it last week during the long rest after Ebertfest. Although I was not bored and had some fun, I found it a little disppointing. The story loses its steam during the second half except the climax and I wished they would have solely concentrated on their story, not others’. But, Downey is still entertaining to watch, Rourke makes a big impression despite the shortcomings in the character, and Rockwell is amusing to watch as jealous No.2 . I don’t much like the first one(2.5 stars out of four), and I don’t have much love for this movie, either(2.5 stars out of four).

    When the movie makes you question about the physics in the world on the screen without laugh, you know it’s not a excellent one. I still wonder about how Paltrow’s character remains unhurt near the end. And in case of the creation of new member of the period table….. Well, My neighbors of the Physics or Chemistry department will have a good laugh when they watch that.

    Reply

    • I agree that new element thing was too far fetched. The process of creating the element was a waste of time too. I was very dissapointed by this sequel. I like the first one though, it was much more focused and watching Tony Stark become Iron Man was very entertaining.

      Reply

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