Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau)

Mark V.

With the anticipation that surrounds the film as to whether or not it can live up to its predecessor and if it can really give 'War Machine' enough on-screen justice, "Iron Man 2" is a film full of pressures both as a sequel and as a build-up for a far greater thing: "The Avengers" (which is, as we all know, indeed great). Writing this review and knowing that the said ensemble superhero film is now considered as arguably the best superhero film ever made, the more I consider "Iron Man 2" as a mere front act to the real, larger-than-life Supershow. But then again, that does not mean that this film should be now rendered as entirely irrelevant; 'immensely flawed' may be the better description.

With Jon Favreau and writer Justin Theroux going semi-contemplative with Tony Stark's mortality for the better part of the film while at the same time being able to pull out a worthy (and more vengeful) enough villain from the deeper comic book pages to stand up against Stark and his 'world peace-privatizing' iron suit, "Iron Man 2" worked as a medium to channel Stark's true emotions and his response if faced by the idea of death and vendetta. Of course, being a sequel, it means that it will be less about seminal characterizations and more about how Tony Stark's character would be able to pull through for another film; trickier, really.

Now fully highlighting Stark's extravagant life and his brush with mortality, "Iron Man 2" should have been a film about emotions. While it may not be in the same emotional proportions like that of Batman's revisionist character arc, the film should have gone for something that is more existential in tone. "Existential?" You may ask. "Why fit in some heavy philosophical nonsense in a film built for nothing more than the usual thrills and entertainment?" You may follow-up. In all fairness, I've seen what the film has done, and that is to turn Tony, while in the process of finding a new element to combat the poisonous substance that the very technology that keeps him alive has been inflicting to his heart, into a self-destructive drunkard that recklessly goes his way through (what he believes), potentially, the final days of his life.

Yes, indeed that's what "Iron Man 2" has been quite successful in handling. But instead of giving us a more emotionally vulnerable hero that we can be able to care for more save for some of the disposable laughs, they gave us scenes where Tony Stark comes out as a total dickwad and not as a man suffering from mortal anxiety. Robert Downey Jr., as what he has always been, is very effortless as Tony, with the fast talks, verbal quips and all, but there's something in his Tony Stark now that is lacking. "Iron Man 2", evidently yearning for some emotional dimensions on Stark's part, may have written one funny sequence too much that is has made the film more of a transitional sequel rather than a follow-up that should have been more concrete in its emotional depth.

In terms of the cast, I really have no complaints regarding Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Lt. Rhodes, but there's something in Cheadle's eyes that tells me that he, playing Stark's best pal, does not want to be in it at all. While Scarlett Johansson, playing Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow here, is there to serve as nothing but a prelude to his infinitely more integral role in "The Avengers". Gwyneth Paltrow is entertaining enough in the role of Pepper Potts and Sam Rockwell is, with all the superficial swagger and awkward flamboyance that he has successfully infused into the character, perfect as Justin Hammer, Tony Stark's incompetent business rival. Samuel L. Jackson, on the other hand, is surprisingly a bit too ghetto as Nick Fury that I can't help but think of another infinitely more 'double-daring' afro (please tell me that you get the reference) character in place of his eye-patched one here, specifically in the scene inside a diner, where I just can't help but imaginatively replace RDJ with a long-haired John Travolta.

But then there's Mickey Rourke, who was able to convey the silent intensity necessary as the revenge-seeking Ivan Vanko/Whiplash that Tony Stark's character should have provided in the first place (I think the writing is the one that's at fault here, not RDJ's performance). Rourke has given, what I think, the second best performance in the film (first being Sam Rockwell's) and, if the Academy Awards have awarded him the Best Actor for "The Wrestler" instead of Sean Penn in 2009, could have started an 'Oscars' trend for the "Iron Man" franchise here.

"Iron Man" featured Jeff "The Dude" Bridges as the villainous Obadiah Stane, who won his first Best Actor Oscar playing a lost, worn-out soul bent on redemption in "Crazy Heart". And now, "Iron Man 2" featured Mickey Rourke, who has been nominated and should have won his first Best Actor Oscar for playing a lost, worn-out soul bent on redemption in "The Wrestler". Struggling to finish this review, I have instead arrived at that 'Rourke should have won the Oscar' sentiment yet again after all these years. It's a pity that I'm yet to be at peace with that. But then, coming back to the real film at hand here, it's also a pity that "Iron Man 2" came out as a bit forgettable, came up short with its true emotional potential and is even lesser in its action sequences compared to the first film. The climactic set piece is cool though.


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