Get comfortable kids, I can already tell this is going to be a long one. Not necessarily because it deserves a super long review, but I have a feeling I am going to start rambling and going off on a few tangents, so don’t say I haven’t warned you. How awesome was the first Iron Man movie? Well, I will tell you, it was really awesome. It was really similar to the first Spider-Man movie, where they really had a great mixture of action, humor, and fun. Robert Downey Jr. was perfect as an egotistical playboy millionaire, like he had years of practice or something. Gwyneth Paltrow was just the right mix of sassy and sweet as Pepper Potts, while Jeff Bridges was surprisingly convincing as Obidiah Stone, and then later as Iron Monger. They really set the bar high for Marvel, so everyone had high expectations for the sequel. The biggest concern for me was how many new characters/actors were being incorporated and I was nervous we would suffer from Spider-Man 3 syndrome. Considering it had mixed reviews, I went into this movie with low expectations, and they were definitely surpassed. I’m going to break my traditional review format this time around so that each character can be addressed with the strengths/weaknesses. Plus, considering how much money it made this weekend, you either already saw this movie or are on your way to see it, so I won’t go into detail about the specifics of the plot.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
In the first film, he was pitch-perfect as a narcissistic genius. He had the right humor and confidence for the role, and I think no matter how high your expectations were for him as Tony Stark, he still managed to exceed them. We aren’t going to have scenes quite like Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man where he is really awkward and bumbling around with his powers, RDJ instead handled every accident or mishap with a cool swagger, as if he knew that was supposed to happen. So here in Iron Man 2, he does just as good of a job. One major development in this film is the fact that the hardware implanted into his chest is actually leaking into his body and poisoning him, and there are multiple scenes of hm just wallowing in his own self-pity. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t counteract that by getting shitfaced and putting on the Iron Man suit at his birthday party, because he does. For as depressed as he has to get in some moments, he also has to juxtapose that by being even more cocky when it is called for. And as far as the suit goes, the cool thing about Iron Man is he is always upgrading his suits to be capable of anything they need to be capable of. It might be cheating, yes, but it works for the character that he is also fine tuning and tweaking the best ways to make the suit better or more adaptable for any given obstacle in his way. Also displayed even more in this movie is how much of a genius Tony Stark really is. It’s easy to watch the first one and say he’s a smart guy who inherited a lot of money, but in this film you really see just how smart he is when it comes to developing tech, manipulating computers, and even creating a brand new element. Another job well done for RDJ.
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Another great performance as Pepper, combining the sweet and innocent Pepper with the cold, calculated, take no shit from Tony Stark Pepper. She was the moral barometer for the film, and you knew that if Pepper was mad, you should be mad. If Pepper was sympathetic, you should be sympathetic. Her role in this film isn’t as large as it was in the first film, but still, she did a great job.
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
This could also be read as “Sam Rockwell as Sam Rockwell”, considering he is pretty much the same character in every film. However, it’s a character I love watching and have been a fan of since the first time I saw Charlie’s Angels. If you like Sam Rockwell, I recommend checking out Confessions of a Dangerous Mind as well as Moon, but don’t hurt yourself trying to see Choke. The character he plays is generally someone who thinks they are smooth talking, but really isn’t, yet they still manage to find success. In this film, Justin Hammer is the financial supporter of the villain Whiplash, who is clearly trying to take down Iron Man. Since Justin Hammer is a rival weapons contractor, he obviously wants Tony Stark to go down in flames. He’s cool when he needs to be cool, and a dork when he needs to be a dork. You could probably put Sam Rockwell in any movie as any character and that movie will instantly be more entertaining.
Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
Honestly, what more needs to be said about Mickey Rourke? He was quasi-popular in the 90’s, then disappeared into obscurity, and had a huge career boost thanks to Robert Rodriguez and Sin City. Since he played Marv in that film, he has been the quintessential middle-aged ugly guy that you feel like you know, and he even got nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Wrestler. Imagine everyone’s excitement when you found out he was going to be a villain in Iron Man 2, and that it was a Russian convict covered in Russian prison tattoos who has weird lightsaber whips as weapons. Yeah, it doesn’t get much more awesome than that. He was obviously as awesome as anticipated, despite the fact that he had weird blond streaks in his hair, as well as just not being used enough. I mean, he was used enough to successfully scare the shit out of Rampaige, but that’s not too challenging.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Considering the Ultimate Universe (which I will discuss later) version of Nick Fury was based on Sam Jackson, it was impossible for him to fail. He was gruff, stern, sarcastic, and just fun to watch. And he has a nine picture deal with Marvel. NINE MOVIES. Who does that? Granted, he will probably just have a couple of scenes in all of those movies, but still, pretty awesome. Without giving away too much, it seemed like the main reason he was there was to set up the Captain America, Thor, and Avengers movies that will all be coming out in the next few years. In case you didn’t know these movies were going on, there were some fun hints at their existence, but if you are a huge dork like me, you are following all of their developments and those hints were no surprise.
Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes/War Machine
War Machine. That name right there says it all, if you ask me. I don’t think there was necessarily anything wrong with Terrence Howard‘s portrayal of this character in the first movie, he was just kind of there. He existed, and responded to that name, but that was about it. I kind of assumed the same of Don Cheadle in this movie, because both are great actors, but if you don’t write the character correctly, there is only so much an actor can do. And it turns out, Don Cheadle did a lot more than expected. Obviously the main role of this character is to be a sidekick/best friend and help out Iron Man when he needs it, and that’s how the character was developed. Along the way, he certainly developed more of an edge, considering he is a soldier, so there are times when his priorities are towards his country rather than just being buddies with Tony Stark. This was played into more in this movie, in the fact that Rhodes put on one of Stark’s suits to beat him into submission when he was in a drunken outburst, which also happened to have a soundtrack of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock”, which was pretty awesome. Cheadle gave Rhodes/War Machine a voice of his own, and you can totally see him having a movie on his own, or at least being involved in other films without Tony Stark standing right there.
Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
I saved the best for last. Seriously, I mean that, I wasn’t just avoiding talking about her. And to be completely honest, this was a character that I had the most doubts about as far as casting was concerned. I have never really been a big fan of Scarlett Johansson, or at least of her acting anyway. I mean, I can watch her in everything, which might be why I own The Nanny Diaries on DVD (don’t judge me). As far as her acting chops, I’ve just never really been impressed. I knew she would look good in the suit, but whether or not she could pull off the attitude of the character was questionable. Surprisingly, the reasons why I generally am not impressed by most of her roles were the reasons she worked as this character. She showed little emotion, didn’t really talk all that much, and always had a hidden agenda, so she always seemed a little detached. Based on this character in the comics, you knew ScarJo would be a spy, wear black spandex, have red hair, and have a Russian accent. I suppose three out of four isn’t that bad. She made up for the Russian by kicking total ass. As cool as it was when Iron Man fought people, I was even more shocked by all the crazy flipping and kicking and jumping that Black Widow was doing.
Wolfgang in his War Machine outfit.
So guys, what does the future hold for our heroes? Well, we’ve got Thor currently being filmed with a 2011 release, Captain America: The First Avenger is about to start filming with a 2011 release, and an Avengers movie slated to be released in 2012. Any details about these movies would just be conjectures at this point…so here’s my own personal conjecture! I am going to have to take a trip in the way back machine to 2002 before we get started…
Oceanic 815! Get it? Like, travel back in time, and LOST has tons of that shit going on? Shut up.
The X-Men movie was released all the way back in 1999, and was a financial success. It was able to sell movie tickets, toys, memorabilia, all that stuff. If it wasn’t for the success of this film, Spider-Man wouldn’t have been possible. One area that didn’t see a huge financial surge were the actual comics books. It was difficult for someone seeing the movie to run to their local comic book store and pick up the most recent issue, because they wouldn’t know most of the characters or plots of what was happening. So in 2002, with the release of Spider-Man, they started a new line of comic books called the Ultimate Universe, starting with Ultimate Spider-Man. They started at issue number one and retold the character’s origins, as well as made things a little more contemporary. This way, when people left the movie, they could go start buying more comics. This led to Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-Men, as well as a title called The Ultimates, which was a revamped version of The Avengers.
The Ultimates were originally consisted of Bruce Banner (the Hulk), Hank and Janet Pym (Giant Man and the Wasp), Tony Stark (Iron Man), and Thor (Thor, the god of thunder, I just wanted to put something in parentheses), and were run by Nick Fury. Nick Fury was always a hard-ass with an eye patch, so what was the best way to convey to an audience unfamiliar with his character his magnitude of badass-ery? Draw him like Samuel L. Jackson, and the people will know what he’s all about. The plot involved finding Steve Rogers frozen in the Atlantic Ocean and thawing him out, and of course he joins these Ultimate Avengers as Captain America. Down the line, these Avengers receive help from other superheroes, most notably would be Black Widow. Six out of the eight characters I just mentioned have either appeared on-screen or have been cast and are already filming, I am going to go ahead and predict the films have been following the structure of this Ultimate Universe. This means that the Camptain America movie, entitled “Captain America: The First Avenger”, will primarily take place during World War II, involve him fighting the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, already cast), who is a huge Nazi bad guy, and then being thrown into the Atlantic, only to be thawed out in time for the release of the Avengers movie the following summer. And I know what you’re thinking…what about the fact the Edward Norton was so displeased with the last movie, why would he do another one? Well, in the first Ultimates storyline, Bruce Banner actually takes a whole bunch of steroids and adrenaline to hulk out and destroy everyone, so that the Ultimate Avengers had someone to stop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the part gets cast by some nobody and the Hulk is only involved as a CGI aspect. But that’s just this man’s opinion.
This doesn’t have much to do with Iron Man 2, but who is going to complain? Correction…who is going to complain that is NOT my girlfriend?
What were we talking about? Oh yeah, I saw Iron Man 2. It was a lot of fun, not as surprisingly fun as the first film, but still extremely enjoyable, and served it’s purpose of building up more hype and anticipation for Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Wolfman Moon Scale