The UnPopular Opinion: Iron Man 2
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
I remember getting home from the midnight screening of IRON MAN 2 and immediately updating my Facebook status to something approximately along these lines: “Listen up, true believers! Marvel has done it again! IRON MAN 2 is fantastic and fun filled and definitely worth the watch. Go see it, sooner rather than sooner.” And I can guarantee that those first two lines are both word-for-word correct and exactly how I still felt upon re-watching this movie.
IRON MAN 2 is just a very fun flick, definitely more so than either THOR or CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (my review here). I’d even go so far as to rank it above IRON MAN or THE INCREDIBLE HULK. The action in IRON MAN 2 is escalated to an exciting and suitably larger-in-scale place, Tony’s journey is one even more gripping and essential to his character than that which we saw in IRON MAN, and the movie’s tone as a whole works equally well both as a comic book movie and a movie in and of itself. Everything in IRON MAN 2 is just bigger, better, and more bombastic in the very best of ways, something for which I could not be more thankful.
"You come from a family of thieves and butchers. And like all guilty men, you try to rewrite your history, to forget all the lives the Stark family has destroyed."
First off, IRON MAN 2 is impressive on a technical level. The art design is great, helping the colors to be constantly vibrant and alive. The framing, lighting, and camera use are great as well, with nary a wasted shot or frame of careless scene construction. Director Jon Favreau put his budget to good use, sparing no expense to help engage us with a world where a hi-tech superhero is not only a possibility but a reality. And there are small touches to be found in almost every scene that showcase the fantastic technical quality of this movie, with my favorite example (of many) being the how the camera is slightly shaky as Vanko escapes from his prison cell and kills a guard. This directorial choice allows us to key into the deeply destabilizing force that Vanko is, and shows Favreau’s increased command of his craft.
"I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one. To turn over the Iron Man suit would be to turn over myself, which is tantamount to indentured servitude or prostitution, depending on what state you're in."
Insofar as the story goes – I’ve heard complaints that Tony Stark just acts like an asshole to everyone until a sudden third act reversal, as well as complaints that the story beats found in IRON MAN 2 are simply a retread of the first movie’s events with a fancy big-budget varnish. Which, to those people making such complaints, implies that IRON MAN 2 therefore brings nothing new to Tony’s story. If you can’t already guess what I’m going to say, I disagree with all of these complaints.
Of course Tony is going to act like an even bigger asshole this time ‘round – he’s dying. Tony is in a situation that he can’t control and confronted with a problem that his genius intellect cannot solve, and so he lashes out. He is unsure, afraid, and unable to muster the courage to admit that he doesn’t know what to do. And that’s the brilliance of continuing Tony’s story this way - part two doesn’t find him a reformed man. His character was so distinct the first time ‘round that it would be crazy to expect a full conversion, and so instead we are shown the story of a man grappling with the tectonic plates shifting within his soul.
"There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you."
Now we come to the villains of IRON MAN 2, and I wish to use this as a link with which to hearken back to my 300 review from last week. What I tried to articulate there, and what IRON MAN 2 does so well, is that a good villain can be destructive and threatening while still being real. Someone (or something) can be a fascinating foe because of the text they speak and the strength of the actor and the way they play aagainst the hero, rather than because of fangs or a hunchback or a big metaphorical sign saying “this guy’s gross and evil.” We see Vanko threaten Tony purely with his knowledge and his skill, with his actions and his white-hot hate.
Not to mention how he receives one of the coolest reveals in my recent movie memory. The camera work, the design, and the score are all spectacular. Really, the only way that scene could have oozed more cool would be for Steve McQueen to have played Vanko, and that’s saying something considering how Mickey Rourke’s acting ain’t exactly shabby. And yes, maybe Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is a bit wasted in the general scheme of things, but Rockwell plays him with enough slimy desperation that I found him a nice counterbalance to Rourke’s roughness and violence.
"This lone gunslinger act is unnecessary. You don't have to do this alone!"
Another part of the awesomeness of IRON MAN 2 is that it ably demonstrates the dictum that “a superhero must create their own villain." We get to see what it’s like for someone who thought they had power and control and everything of that nature to be suddenly confronted and brought down by the very qualities they thought to be gifts. As Vanko says early on: “If you can make god bleed, then people will cease to believe in him.” There’s no huge arch villain plan here, just one pissed off man with sorrow in his heart and rage in his veins. Could the final face-off have been more inventively staged so as to be more than just another suit-against-suit fight? Perhaps yes, though I personally find it plenty satisfying as it is considering Vanko's additions to his suit.
To put it plainly, IRON MAN 2 actually has much more interesting characters in a much more fascinating story altogether than the other solo Marvel movies. We get to witness Tony discover what it means to be a superhero, we explore with him as he confronts that which he most fears and least understands, and ride right alongside as he at last becomes the man he has it in him to be. And then, when Iron Man says “I need a sidekick” to Rhodes, it’s not just a cute callback to an earlier scene. This a moment where Tony Stark finally begins to become aware of what is really important, what is really worth fighting for, and the way in which he has to express his feelings. So when Stark then finally kisses Pepper, it isn’t just out of the blue but rather his way of exploring this new awareness. IRON MAN was about Iron Man, but IRON MAN 2 is about Tony Stark. And that’s exactly what this series needed.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to email@example.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
|Extra Tidbit:||My Marvel Movie List: THE AVENGERS IRON MAN 2 THE INCREDIBLE HULK IRON MAN THOR CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER|