Sunday, May 9, 2010

Iron Man 2 - Needs More Iron

Amanda Marcotte didn't think much of Iron Man 2, which
had stupid jokes and seemed to back the idea that a privatized military would be preferable to one under the control of douchey politicians. (Even though Tony Stark gets drunk and runs the risk of killing people by goofing off in his suit.) The romance was tacked on, the acting was mostly tedious, and did I mention the jokes weren’t funny? The only thing that woke the audience up was Scarlet Johansson kicking ass for a short (and genuinely funny) scene, and that was about it. Robert Downey Jr. did his best, but there just wasn’t anything to work with. It was a muddled, stupid mess.
As "muddled, stupid mess" is about what I was expecting, so my somewhat more positive review amounts to the claim that it was a slightly less stupid and muddled mess than some movies I could name.

I thought the film failed in a rather unexpected way of doing more telling than showing: we heard a lot about how Tony Stark is a playboy, but didn't see much of that, apart from a single drunken outburst in a party in which the guests were all Victoria's Secret models; we heard much of Iron Man's single-handed deliverance of world peace since the end of the first movie, but saw none of that. How hard would it have been to insert a scene in which Iron Man flies in and breaks up a chemical weapons lab or suspends a bomb-making lesson somewhere that looks a lot like the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Yes, that would have been cheesily topical, perhaps, but it would have been the kind of thing one pays to see on a big screen, namely, a loud, action-rich spectacle that's more show than tell, and, if we're lucky, isn't utterly bereft of ideas.

Instead we had scene after scene addressing Tony Stark's fading health, interlaced with scenes of his business-romantic dealings with Gwyneth Paltrow and his lusting after Scarlett Johansson. And arguing with Don Cheadle, and arguing with Mickey Rourke, and arguing with his dead father, all over questions of dubious importance. We care that his father concealed the secret replacement design for his battery thingy in a scale map of a corporate convention? And that his father was unkind to the father of Mickey Rourke in their joint engineering ventures?

It's difficult to find an idea worth caring about in this mess, and as for the privatization of world peace, the film tosses out only long enough to show it refuted, or in any case, abandoned as Stark teams up with another iron man (Don Cheadle), who is not a privateering playboy billionaire but a high-ranking US military officer, to defeat the forces of whatever. Those being the ideas, we are left with action and spectacle, where it fell surprisingly short. I don't tend to say this about action films, but Iron Man 2 needed more Iron Man, and less of the tedious sidelines and back-story. It perked up when things were happening.

Something I say even less often: the missing action in Iron Man 2 made me appreciate Avatar. Whatever its many shortcomings, Avatar's scenes of over-wrought blabber were a mercifully small share of the run time. Something worth looking at was happening on the screen for nearly all of that span of hours (I lost count).

This is not to say Iron Man 2 is worse than Avatar, but it tried to be, and in a most unexpected way.

1 comment:

larryniven said...

Here is my two word review of I think 85% of Iron Man 2: "blood transfusion."

Also, in case you know it, the thing with his father was suspiciously similar to the dynamic between Rusty Venture and his father on the parodic Venture Brothers. But that's a tangent's tangent, so...