Saturday, April 21, 2012

Iron Man 2 - Could Use More Engineering

Two years after The Incredible Hulk, the next movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would be released, known as Iron Man 2, which also serves as a direct sequel to the original Iron Man. Since I really loved the original, I felt hyped before watching it in theaters for the first time. At the same time I also remember liking it that time, but not as much as the original. After watching it again on Blu-Ray as a build-up for The Avengers, I still feel that way now.

After the events of Iron Man, the world at large is now aware that Tony Stark is Iron Man, a hero that will protect America from danger. Not all is well however, as somewhere in Russia a man named Anton Venko (Yevgeni Lazarev) is on his deathbed, telling his son Ivan (Mickey Rourke) that it should be him in that position instead. When Anton passes on, Ivan is inspired by both the Iron Man suit and leftover blueprints to create a weapon of his own. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is busy convincing the government that his technology is not a weapon as they believe, but also that he is the only one in the world capable of creating it the way he did. He is also simultaneously in danger from the miniature arc reactor that's keeping him alive, since the palladium core within is poisoning his blood and he has yet to find an effective substitute. As the movie continues, he must not only worry about keeping himself alive and keeping his tech to himself, but also a nasty revenge scheme created by Ivan Venko, who is out to destroy the Stark name.

While the story was still pretty enjoyable, it didn't feel as fresh as the first entry, sometimes almost as if it's going through the motions. Even then however, it doesn't fail to deliver something exciting to the screen. Robert Downey Jr. still gives a fantastic performance that reminds me just why he was cast in the first place. He perfectly reflects the emotions that Tony is going through, even in some of the most subtle ways, especially how he handles the fact that he might actually die. This justifies the actions he takes regarding Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who still manages to give a good performance for her part, and Lt. Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle). While Cheadle doesn't have the same appeal as Terrence Howard when playing Rhodey, he manages to bounce off Downey Jr. pretty well when onscreen and brings a certain personality to the character that I can't really complain that much about. S.H.I.E.L.D. also has a more prominent role here than in any other MCU film, with interesting looks at Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) most of all. Scarlett Johansson, while fun to look at in a fight or standing still, seems mostly to be there for eye candy to the audience, though I would like to see where they go with such a casting decision; I am unfamiliar with what Black Widow is like in the comics, so it'll take me a while to form my opinion of her. Nick Fury on the other hand is such an enjoyable character that I wonder when they'll make a movie out of him.

The villains are another story. This time around there are two more prominent ones in Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Venko. Both of them want to make Stark look bad, the former even hiring the latter to help him out, though both of them want to go to different lengths to get there. Hammer in the movie is a man struggling to keep up with Stark Industries, and what we see reflects that very well in both the body movements and level of confidence in his voice. Mickey Rourke's role as Ivan however is a bit more interesting to me. Not only does he look the part of a physicist that can only exist in comics, he plays one very well too. Ivan has a legitimate grudge against the Stark family and it's interesting to see just how bloodthirsty he can be while getting closer to his ultimate goal, even backstabbing Hammer to do it. When he's Whiplash, he shows some interesting skill with his weapons, but when he's the Crimson Dynamo, it doesn't look like he needed to do very much to fill the same role. In any case, I was satisfied with Rourke playing the main villain.

One thing I really enjoyed was the action scenes. I don't want to sound like someone who only watches this sort of movie for the action, but it seems that the mixture between action and story was more imbalanced in favor of the former. It seems that Genndy Tartakovsky storyboarded the project very well, since the well-framed action impresses on all counts. The awe-inspiring visuals are all well-paced and adrenaline-filled, but that doesn't help make every fight completely satisfying. After Whiplash and an army of drones, Crimson Dynamo's fight at the end is cool to watch, but is too short and arguably very anticlimactic. When all is said and done however, I can't wait to see how Iron Man 3 will top the sequences here.

Technology and special effects are something else to consider. While the effects were spectacular, especially on the electro-whips and Tony's scientific endeavours in the second act or so, the various armor used throughout is also fun to look at and spot every detail. I especially loved the design of Tony's suit in the last half hour of the film and how War Machine was weaponized to give a distinct but realistic sort of look. The most exciting part however would be the suitcase version of the Iron Man suit, which I can never get tired of watching unfold.

The original score was also interesting to hear due to it matching up very well with what was going on, though it is a little forgettable. Licensed music on the other hand was perfectly selected and used appropriately. The songs played by the late DJ AM during the fight at Stark's home, appropriately including Robot Rock by Daft Punk, and AC/DC's Highway to Hell at the end are all perfect matches and I enjoyed every second of them, as well as AM's mixing skills.

Following up to Iron Man is something that seems a bit hard to do and the first sequel tried admirably to reach that same standard. Unfortunately, the story isn't as fresh and doesn't hold up as well, but the unique blend of humor and character development is still present and the action doesn't fail to deliver great thrills. While everything in the film basically gets an upgrade, it seems best to see this as the second movie in a planned trilogy rather than merely a sequel in order to view it better. I would still recommend a viewing, mainly because it helps to further establish the MCU and lead properly into Thor.

No comments:

Post a Comment