(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Heavier Metal

I wasn't all that impressed with 2008's first big-screen adventure of the classic Marvel Comics character Iron Man, but was looking forward somewhat to its just-released sequel due to the cast additions of Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson (Don Cheadle is also new, replacing the reportedly too expensive Terrence Howard).

I was pleased to find Iron Man 2 an improvement in almost every way, most notably in a better screenplay (by Justin Theroux) that takes things more seriously and not as jokingly as I felt the first movie did to its detriment. While Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is still able to slip in plenty of one-liners and double entendres, his character also has to confront his through-the-roof narcissism, worsening dependence on alcohol, and the increasingly short life expectancy of his super-powered heart.

Cue Rourke as the villainous Ivan Vanko, the vengeful son of a Russian physicist who was discredited and died in squalor thanks to Tony's late father, Howard. The elder Stark is shown in Super 8 flashbacks as a Disney-esque designer planning a "City of the Future" not unlike Epcot (to drive home the allegory, one half of Uncle Walt's songwriting Sherman Brothers wrote the project's theme song, which is played in full over the movie's end credits). With the aid of energized whips that can slice through anything, Vanko first crashes a Monaco auto race in which Tony is driving and later, with the assistance of smarmy weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer (a gleeful Sam Rockwell) and an army of destructive drones, the massive Stark Expo that Tony has built largely as a tribute to his dad.

It's a nice, recovery-oriented touch that Vanko wears a helmet that reads "Intervention" as he makes mincemeat of Tony's car during the race. He indeed serves as a rude wake-up call to Tony to start getting his life together. There is some largely unnecessary, heavy-handed dialogue between the two about fathers and legacies scattered throughout the screenplay; these powerful nemeses have enough internal demons to contend with after all.

Rourke is great and seems to be having fun in his big-budget bad guy turn. Also fine is Johansson (who is knockout gorgeous to boot as a personal assistant/secret agent keeping tabs on Stark) as well as his former assistant — and new Stark Industries CEO — Pepper Potts. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper, and was presumably happy to find her character better developed this time around and her interactions with Tony more intelligent. Paltrow is also more beautiful here than she's ever been.

The larger-scale special effects also seem an improvement over the first Iron Man and, while there is no shortage of explosions and mayhem during the sequel's climax, our hero comes across here as less violent and more truly devoted to peace.

While fanboys and kids may be disappointed by the more complex, somewhat cerebral goings-on in Iron Man 2, I have only words of appreciation for the filmmakers. They've achieved what ought to be the hallmark of all sequels: a deepening of the characters and their relationships rather than an audience-pleasing "more of the same."

UPDATE: Iron Man 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.


  1. I completely disagree with your assessment. First, Tony's heart is not "super-powered". The arc reactor is a power source. It just happens to power the MAGNET that keeps the pieces of shrapnel from piercing his heart and also powers the Iron Man suits. Next, how did Mickey Roarke's Whiplash know that Tony was driving in the Gran Prix? It was a last minute decision so unless he had planned on destroying Tony's car just to get revenge, this scene makes no sense. Next, Tony's board of directors would never allow him to promote Pepper to CEO. They tried to freeze him out in the first film for his bad judgment. You think they are going to let this slide? And the Stark Expo would be more like the World's Fair or ComiCon than EPCOT seeing that it is only an annual event. Rhodey could never have stolen the Mark 2 armor because there would be no power. Each suit is powered by Tony's arc reactor which is referenced in the first film when he asks JARVIS if how the Mark 3 armor is doing with the old arc reactor after Jebediah steals the current arc reactor. This also proves the point of how Tony says "the suit and I are one. You can't have it." Because no one else can wear it unless they want to put an arc reactor in their chest! This is only the beginning in a long list of HUGE plot holes in IM2 (and Tony is not relying on alcohol it's chlorophyl which helps metabolize the toxins in his body from the corrosive element in the arc reactor) so I suggest you take a closer look at the linear logic first. And fanboys do appreciate the more cerebral side of these films (and I find that statement completely insulting), seriously look at "The Dark Knight", we also want them to make sense internally and logically. I believe your "more of the same" statement should be reserved for Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay.

  2. Oh my! Sorry to offend, akirakid, though not to disagree. I caught at least one of the inconsistencies (the race attack on a last-minute Tony) you mention, but the first "Iron Man" was hardly a masterpiece of internal logic. For instance: How was Tony able to build his first Iron Man suit while under 24-hour surveillance by his apparently inept captors? At any rate, "Iron Man 2" is definitely a more serious, emotionally-resonant movie than the first, which is my main point.

  3. i agree with akirakid on almost all counts.. tony could promote pepper now cos it was obadiah who was causing problems in the first , not the board really. They couldve have put in a little more detail on that though.. but this is just minor.. there are quite a few big plotholes in IM2 like akirakid pointed out. One more that i found was how the hell could mickey aka ivan make the arc reactor so easily. Fine , he had the designs , what about the palladium.. i dont think it is so easily attainable considering tony had to break through a dozen missiles to get his prototype done. Speaking of which there wouldnt be so much of a problem making a suit under that kind of captivity in IM1. The henchmen were pretty much illiterate and just assumed they were making the missile.. but thats just my analysis. They could have plugged in the holes in IM2 and also tightened the script , esp. where fights are concerned. Tony just seems to coast through fights and problems. Despite all these problems i would still say IM2 was quite good. I managed to find these inconsistencies while watching but even so , not a moment of boredom. Entertaining all the way.