M. Giant's
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010  

Heavy Metal

It's impossible to see, let alone review, a sequel without comparing it to the original, but I'm trying to get around that by comparing Iron Man 2 to the last superhero comic book film I saw instead, which was Kick Ass. By that standard, Iron Man 2 holds up much better.

Yes, the protagonists of both films were guilty of spiraling into self-pity, but since Tony Stark a) solves his problem more or less on his own, b) manages to confine most of his destructive impulses to his own house, c) is not insisting on narrating all of it for us at punishing length, and d) is actually dying, Tony's is more forgivable. And obviously it doesn't hurt that Robert Downey, Jr. is a hell of a lot more charismatic than that Kick Ass kid whose name I can't even remember (and I'm freakishly good at names). To the point where RDJ's obnoxiously babbling on in lame self-justification like his character in Two Girls and a Guy at poor, implacable Gwyneth Paltrow and I'm thinking, "Come on, give him a break, lady."

I enjoyed the rest of the cast as well. Sam Rockwell was perfect, except for how he made me wish he was still in as many movies as he used to be. Mickey Roarke was believable even as a guy who wielded plasma whips that can cut through anything but Iron Man and whatever ground surface they happen to be resting on at the moment. I'm glad Favs gave himself a little more to do. Even ScarJo gets to play to her biggest strength, which is being a complete blank. I didn't really follow the behind-the-scenes controversy about the recasting of Rhodey, especially since the role is so undemanding it doesn't really call for a Terence Howard or a Don Cheadle in the first place. They could have gone with Ernie Hudson as far as I'm concerned, if he'd fit in the suit.

My half-baked theory about the success of the Iron Man movies is that they go out of their way not to remind us we're watching a comic-book adaptation. I read in advance that this film would feature characters like "Whiplash" and "Black Widow," but if those character names were ever spoken aloud, I didn't hear it. The only comic-booky parts, aside from other, more unavoidable character names like "Pepper Potts" and "Nick Fury," are the action scenes, and every other action scene in every other action movie is comic-booky anyway, so they don't really stand out here.

The main problem, obviously, is that Iron Man is indestructible. The comics bill him as "The Invincible Iron Man," right? That makes it hard to generate a sense of jeopardy in the action scenes (I'm going to depart from my lede here to say that the boss battle in the first film was a lot more tense than this one). As a result, things feel a little upside down due to the fact that Tony's biggest battles are internal. In fact, the scariest thing in the whole movie was the terrifying spectacle of the Botox-balloon that Garry Shandling's head has become. That shit's eerie.

In short, I think it's a decent sequel, even if it suffers from high expectations when the original probably benefitted from low ones. There's definitely one clear winner, though, and that's AC/DC.

* * *

I've been considering the idea of giving these movie reviews some kind of catchy name, like the recurring feature I'm trying to make them into, but all my ideas are dumb. So I'm opening up the suggestion box -- use the comments to post your dumb ideas! If I use yours I'll…uh…review a movie of your choice if it's still playing in theaters by the time I get around to it. I know, my generosity is making you weepy. One caveat: yes, I know The Room is playing at the Uptown this weekend, but I'll be out of town then.

posted by M. Giant 9:08 PM 3 comments


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