Monday, May 17, 2010

Iron Man 2

I apologize for being away so long. I'm making a renewed commitment to update more often and I'm going to do more than just write reviews. Occasionally, I'll spill some commentary on entertainment in general, maybe report some news and/or trends. But for now, let's get to a review of the biggest movie of the year thus far.

The first Iron Man was about as close to perfect for a comic book adaptation as you could ask for. Robert Downey, Jr. brought a believeable mix of cocky, comic and charismatic to the role of Tony Stark and what made the movie is it truly was about Stark, not Iron Man. Tony is a "hero" because it suits his own personality needs...he's the anti-Batman...wealth and the desire to use it for good without the guilt or parental issues (well, not in the "they're dead" sense, at least).

As the keystone of the new Marvel film universe, a sequel demanded some expansion to Stark's world and the fans demanded a bit more of the suit, effects and explosions than Downey's snark. Iron Man 2 does a nice job of fulfilling demands without sacrificing too much of the first film's character driven charm. "Too much," I emphasize, because something is lost, but not enough to complain.

As the sequel opens, it's been some time since Tony told the world he is Iron Man and turned superheroics into a bankable commodity (and a government issue, shades of the comic world's Civil War there). He's a rock star (heavy metal?) in the public eye and he's living it up.

Naturally, enemies are waiting in the woodwork and they take two forms in the film...Iron Man's battle ready nemesis, Whiplash, a Russian scientist with a grudge against the Stark family and the technology to match...and Justin Hammer, Stark's business rival willing to dance with devils to get ahead. Whiplash is played with sneering menace by Mickey Roarke (anyone else think he doesn't really "act" is roles like this?) and Sam Rockwell takes on Hammer with his oft repeated manic angry dork act.

Tony's biggest enemy is himself, though, and the movie mirrors some classic comic book storylines regarding his alcoholism (which really could have carried the movie by itself), vanity and the "iron wars" sparked by his creation. Add in some intrigue regarding his place in the bigger picture, symbolized by Nick Fury (ah, Sam Jackson, your cred just gets better and better) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, sexy but where's the accent?) from S.H.I.E.L.D., and IM2 certainly feels like a piece of a broader canvas. At times it's a bit too much (but not in the Spider-Man 3 sense) and the final act of the film turns into a pretty emotionless actioner, but all things considered, the sequel does nothing to detract from the first or future films in the franchise and Marvel U in general. Next year features Thor and Captain America films further paving the way for The Avengers where all of these characters will unite. I admit, I'm excited.

Rating: B+