It's a little bit ironic... (Iron Man 2 - A review) [contains spoilers]

Published by Banzai in the blog Banzai's blog. Views: 59

[Copied and pasted from my external blog. Please do take a look. I'm trying to update regularly, every few days or so]

It’s actually not ironic at all, I just wanted to make a bad pun on ironic. And now that I have, we can all pretend that I didn’t, and get on with the review…

I went into this film with a some trepidation, having read a number of reviews that said this film wasn’t any good. Whilst my first response to that was annoyance, in retrospect, it probably improved my experience of it. Why, I hear you ask? Because it was a very good film. The critics clearly either don’t know what they’re talking about, watched a different film to me, or don’t look for the same thing as I do (i.e. entertainment value). But possibly, by entering the theatre with lower expectations, I was more pleasantly surprised by the end product.

I really enjoyed the first Iron Man film, and to be honest I haven’t enjoyed a lot of the more mainstream super hero films of late. Batman Begins was good, but The Dark Knight suffered from a combination of second-film syndrome and Christian Bale syndrome. All three Spiderman films have fallen short of greatness and been nothing more than whiny rubbish (largely due to Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst; though Willem Dafoe and James Franco have been pretty good throughout). And the less said about Superman Returns the better. But Iron Man was a welcome break from that. It wasn’t whiny, it wasn’t over-serious; it blended fun action, with witty humour, and some fantastic acting from Robert Downey Jr (who really was only playing himself).

And now the second film, following on from the unconventional billionaire’s admittance of superhero-ness, but now instead of a bald Jeff Bridges, we have Mickey Rourke channeling Jaws from the Bond films, and Sam Rockwell. It kicks off fairly sedately, with characterisation and plot rather than straight-off action. But whereas this was the downfall of the Batman and Spiderman films, it works here, because of the character of Tony Stark. An easy-going playboy billionaire, lacking Bruce Wayne’s stick up his arse, much in the way of morals, and with a wicked sense of humour.

And the darker turn that the plot takes is less jarring than Spiderman 2 and 3‘s introspective emo bull****. This is probably because the self-destructive course Stark takes seems inevitable, even without handy plot device of his impending death. He turns to alcohol and self-absorption with the sort of extravagance that someone with money to burn would, and his redemption from this is believable (relative to the believability of the whole thing, which I’ll touch on later) as well as being slick and witty as ever, as well.

Part of the fun factor of the Iron Man films is due to the fact that it’s accurate in terms of people. Stark is Iron Man not because his morals require it, not because he wants to avenge his parents’ death, but because it’s fun. And while he does have a moral element in wanting to change the world, his superhero-ing is clearly more of a playboy enjoyment sort of thing.

One of the criticisms I read about Iron Man 2 was that it focused too much on Stark to the exclusion of other characters. I don’t agree with this. Mickey Rourke was devilishly good as the Russian equivalent of Stark, and Gwyneth Paltrow surprised me with an incredibly human Pepper Potts, trying to deal with Stark’s extravagance without understanding where it comes from. True, Downey Jr’s character is always at the centre, but the film is about his character, and the others are secondary to that.

However, of my complaints, one of the major ones involves the secondary characters. Firstly, Don Cheadle as Rhodey. Now, don’t get me wrong, Cheadle is a great actor (anyone who has seen the harrowing Hotel Rwanda can testify to that), but as someone who went into this as a fan of the first film, it wrong-footed me for a moment that he had replaced Terrence Howard for no reason I could discern, as Howard was great. With some retrospective googling (surely a phrase that would fit the Doctor to a T), I can see that it’s hardly as out of the blue as I had thought, but still. Also, Scarlet Johanson as Black Widow felt…unneccessary to the plot. I understand she was intended as eye-candy, but I thought she looked bland and fairly uninteresting. Perhaps that’s a personal criticism.

The other criticism is more trifling. When Stark places his newly-invented “triangulum” (my name for it) into his chest piece, it instantly reverses the blood poisoning that has been spreading since the first film. This just doesn’t seem at all feasible, and though I don’t really think it’s any more unlikely than the rest of the billionaire with an indestructible suit of flying armour plotline, it stuck out like a jutting nail to my mind.

But petty criticisms aside, it was a very enjoyable film, with all the witticisms and action of the first film, with a bit of added plot depth. Despite what the critics thought, I loved it. And this is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t much experience of superhero comics, but knows what a fun film looks like. And the soundtrack kicks ass).

(And I realise this marks the second consecutive blog post where I’ve blathered on about something I loved. Next week I promise I’ll rant about something I hate. Probably revision. Or the Tories.)
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