Who Does This?
Sunday, May 09, 2010
SAVE IT FOR THE MORNING AFTER: First thoughts on Iron Man 2. Contents may shift when I see it again!
1. I'll see it again. I liked it! And superhero movies usually grow on me.
2. Platypus. I liked Terence Howard as Rhodey so much in the first movie, you guys. I really think I gave Don Cheadle a chance, but maybe I didn't. Anyway his voice (and to a lesser extent his face) seemed so much less expressive than Howard's. I really wish they'd kept Howard, who struck me as weirder, thus more interesting.
3. Does Pepper threaten to quit once per movie? The gender stuff here was complex. It was (like the racial politics) better than the first movie, in which Pepper gets her claws out when another kitten steps onto her turf while being totally right (I love all Christine Everharts).
But her career storyline isn't resolved, which makes it seem unimportant. I'm pretty sure I'm at least as interested in Pepper Potts, CEO-or-not as I am in Pepper Potts, love interest. Both of those stories shed a huge amount of light on her character. And in fact I've seen it suggested here and there than genre fiction is often loved precisely because it makes the characters' jobs central to their identity. SF, fantasy, police procedural, etc are vocationally-focused in a way that many lit-mainstream novels aren't.
4. Demon in a Bottle. Why on earth is this movie's back half compressed like the film is wearing Satan's own Spanx? All the storylines and themes suffer.
Look: The entire point of having an Iron Man is consequences. His whole shtik is Sunday morning. And this movie fails to deliver on those consequences, again and again and again.
I'm guessing thousands died at the Stark Expo. No repercussions for our hero? No onscreen deaths? No guilt? (This is, obviously, one area in which the first movie radically outdoes the second.)
The bad guy dies. Tony wins at the end, which is especially notable because the bad guy's last words are, "You lose." The blowback is contained, the threat is unifaceted and you can shoot him in the head. This is not what I want from Iron Man stories.
And hey, maybe this is just strange and off-putting to me personally, but we see Tony Stark incurring what must be the world's finest hangover. He gets drunk and a) fights his best friend, b) destroys his house, c) alienates his love interest, d) endangers countless civilians, and e) therefore proves everyone right who wanted to take his property and corral him. And although Robert Downey Jr. plays the morning-after scene really adorably, there are still no real consequences for Tony's actions. After the first movie I seem to recall that Jon Favreau said the second one would do the comics' alcoholism/recovery arc, but I get why they decided not to go there. (I get it, but I don't like it--I would watch five hundred hours of Downey as Iron Man at AA, much as I would watch him dancing about making fake robots and banging on things, but I get that I am not always the target audience!) But I actually think some attempt at the alcoholism storyline would have fit with the Iron Man symbolic alphabet much, much better than what this movie actually did, which is handwave and postpone. It honestly doesn't even make sense in-universe. Somebody in Tony's life would have spoken with him after something like that--I hope.
I know we're getting more Iron Man, but each movie needs to stand on its own, and I think there are ways of postponing some consequences while making others really viscerally real. I think this movie chose "let him be awesome despite being such a complete asshole" 90% of the time, when 60-70% would have made for a better movie.
5. That said, Downey is so amazing in this role. Everyone else is at least good. The gun/fake-tech/fake-corporate porn is hilarious and pleasing. The ratio of character development to CGI robot fights is about what it was in the first one, and unlike in the first film, the dialogue does not suddenly become idiotic when the robot fights start. The Senate hearings scene is exactly as awesome as the trailer made you hope it would be, Scarlett Johansen is acceptable, and if you think you might like this I'd say you probably will.
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