REVIEW: Iron Man 2 with Robert Downey Jr.

I’m normally not much of a movie reviewer, especially without a hard copy in front of me to rewind, review, and rewatch. I had a teacher in high school that beat critical reviews of movies into my head…..I still dislike her for that, she ruined the first Batman (with Michael Keaton) for me for life. But I’m not here to talk about Mrs. Bollinger, I’m here to talk about Iron Man 2 with Robert Downey Jr. Your summer blockbuster has hit, so how was it?

In short, it was amazing. To the point where I actually liked it more then the original. That’s right, impossible, you know? But it’s true. The story wasn’t as tight as the original, but that didn’t hurt the movie as far as I was concerned. While the original was all about the creation and growth of a hero, this one takes place about six months later and Tony IS the hero. In his own words he’s successfully privatized world peace, which of course has the government kinda pissed. I mean, that much it’s hard to imagine otherwise, like the US government would be happy with one of its private citizens wearing a billion dollar war suit, fighting bad guys and the like, and then not sharing the tech. Armor Wars in the comics stems out of that concept.

This of course leads to the introduction of two characters that I absolutely adored, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, and the always amazing Garry Shandling as Senator Stern. Stern was a minor character, but, and this might just be my fond memories of the Larry Sanders show talking, he was great. He was the DC prick that we’ve all come to know and love in movies over the years. Justin Hammer, however, was not at all what I was expecting. I think Justin Hammer, I think an old asshole. I don’t think of a young, arrogant, d-bag. So how was he as one? So much more interesting then I ever could have imagined. Sure, he wasn’t Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, but that’s hardly a bad thing. He’s Tony’s chief rival, not his arch-enemy. And Rockwell and Downey played great off of each other.

But how about the villain? Mickey Rourke played Ivan Vanko, who was supposed to be Whiplash (though they never outright call him that, which I like as the name is…..cheesy as fuck). I’ve been rooting for Mickey on the comeback trail since he played Marv in Sin City, and The Wrestler is a favorite of mine, so I was VERY excited to see him in this movie, but at the same time, I was a bit wary. I mean, Mickey is a bad ass, but he’s playing a guy with cyber whips. How bad ass could that be? Very bad ass, as it would turn out. Mickey Rourke is an amazing character actor, and his rendition of Ivan Vanko was spot on. In fact, the only curiosity I had going in is that, well, Whiplash isn’t Russian. In fact, Anton Vanko, the name of Ivan’s father, was , in the comics, the Crimson Dynamo. Though I felt the whips added a lot more to the fight scenes then yet another bad guy in armor would have, as last movie we had Stane as the Iron Monger, so the whips kept it fresh without just providing a fresh coat of paint. He was a well crafted villain, however, and I loved the look. This was a definite plus for me over the first movie, because as much as I love Jeff “The Dude” Bridges, and I enjoyed his rendition of Obadiah Stane, for some reason him flying around in armor beating up on Tony just didn’t completely click for me.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper was….I liked it, I mean, I’m not a giant fan of Paltrow’s work, but I liked it. She definitely played a Pepper Potts more akin to the way Matt Fraction has been writing her, and that definitely worked in her favor. She was relatively major in the movie, so it helped to make her more then Tony’s secretary.

Scarlet Johansson, on the other hand, was the definition of knock out. I mean, I was worried when I heard that Widow would be someone who I wasn’t sure would even do a Russian accent, but she pulled it off. Her role was a lot smaller then I was expecting as well, but I feel that worked in her favor. She got to look sexy, she got to look like a bad ass, and at no point were you left feeling like she was shoe horned in, which was another fear of mine, that her inclusion wouldn’t feel organic.

Another fear I had was when I heard that James Rhodes was being recast, since I did like Terrance Howard in the original, but then again, I mean, he was recast with Don Cheadle! Don Cheadle! He came in, he worked his ass off, and he made the role his own. He’s an amazing actor, and his work in this movie was just leaps and bounds above what Terrance Howard gave us, and hey, I like them both! His role was definitely expanded on for the movie, and it’s not a spoiler to say that he dons a suit of armor to become the (unnamed) War Machine. There was also a chemistry on screen between him and Robert Downey Jr. that was definitely missing from the original, as I truly believed that the two were supposed to be best friends, even when they didn’t get along. The most I got out of Howard’s rendition of Rhodey was that they knew each other and could get along. Plus, Cheadle’s version of “make with the funny” was so much better then Terrance Howard’s Rhodey running up to a suit of armor and saying “Next time!” like an excited five year old.

A little fanboy moment for me came when I realized that not only was Jon Favreau Harold “Happy” Hogan, but that he was Barry in “I Love You Man”. Love that movie, but anyway, yeah, perfect self use of a cameo for the director. He made a believable former boxer that’s currently Tony’s non-armored bodyguard. And if anything I came away from the movie sad that the comic book version of Happy is dead and because of that we won’t get to see Fraction have fun with him in the actual comic.

But alas, I’ve covered everyone but the man himself. Iron Man relaunched the career of Roberty Downey Jr. after several years of trying to rebuild his shattered career after nearly a decade of public substance abuse issues, so obviously Iron Man 2 is going to be considered one of his important roles. And it was treated as such, as Downey once again quite literally became Tony Stark for two hours. He’s a character actor, and it’s something I love about his, Don Cheadle, and Mickey Rourke’s styles. They become their characters, not just read lines off of a script with the right emotion like some people, they transform themselves into their characters and enhance whatever they’re taking part of just by doing that. RDJ had me watching the movie and feeling almost as if my comics were coming to life, I’m not phenomenal with words, so that is to say that there were times when I forgot he was an actor and not just Tony Stark. That takes talent, and the man most definitely hit a home run.

But what about the movie? Early reviews talked about too many jumbled plots forced together and yadda yadda yadda. You know what the problem is with early reviewers? They know that people will be able to go to them, and them alone, for said early review. Seeing a movie two weeks before release means that everyone who is excited for it and wants to read the early word about it will be seeing what you have to say. It makes your opinion important. Now, from personal experience, this makes being a dick REALLY easy to do. So I took those reviews with a grain of salt and forged the opinion on my own. Which I hope my readers will do as well.

Anyway, is there a lot going on in the plot? Yep, but it works. We’ve got the government trying to get Tony to sign over the Iron Man armor for the military, we’ve got Tony’s life saving chest piece not working right at all, we’ve got Vanko, we’ve got Hammer, we’ve got all sorts of things! But is it organic? It is. It actually feels like you’re watching a full story arc unfold. Everything has a nice flow to it and everything does come together to make the ending what it is. To be honest, this is the hardest part of the review, talking about how the movie is without spoiling it. So I’m not really going to say much else other than if you like the comics, you will love this.

The action was awesome. Like, really freaking awesome.

And by the way, hang out after the credits once again!



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