Friday, April 30, 2010

*EXCLUSIVE* Iron Man 2 Review

First of all, I'd like to welcome the thousands of my fellow Iron Man fans from as far afield as those in the United States, who won't see this movie for another week.

As regular readers will know, I greatly enjoyed the original Iron Man movie, presenting it with the much coveted "*****+" rating, which basically means "greater than the average 5-Star movie." The precision with which director Jon Favreau and lead actor Robert Downey Jr. treated my most favourite comic book hero of all was simply amazing and deserved to be rewarded. Now, the same team has returned exactly 2 years later with a sequel to enhance their celluloid vision of the Iron Man legend.

Tony Stark is back wearing the magnificent suit of red and gold armour that transforms him into Iron Man. His ego has grown exponentially since we last saw him and that's not without reason as he's "successfully privatised world peace" becoming a nuclear deterrent, a shield that can literally prevent entire countries from being belligerent. Despite the world enjoying the longest period of peace it's ever had, there are are still threats; The US government is unhappy that control of the most powerful weapon on the planet is owned and operated by an impulsive millionaire playboy with a god-complex and seek to take control of it. Justin Hammer, Stark's foremost business rival is doing his best to create a copy of Iron Man to sell on government contract and Ivan Vanko, a disgruntled son of a former Stark employee, desires a revenge that only Tony's death will sate. When you add all this onto Stark's latest health problem in that he's slowly being poisoned by palladium needed to power the Arc Reactor in his chest, you'd be quite right in thinking that the deck is stacked against our hero. But it's not so, Tony is not in this alone, he has his friends close by, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan return to help him as does Stark's sinister friend from the end of the first Iron Man movie [the ending you saw if you stayed and watched until after the credits that is] Nick Fury, The director of SHIELD and of course, no Iron Man story would be complete without Lt. Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes.

Thankfully, Favreau packed as much story as he did characters in here so that everyone had an important role to play and no one just tacked on for the sake of it [well maybe just the obligatory appearance of Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, playing himself this time for about 1.5 seconds in a blink-and-you-miss-him cameo]. Writer Justin Theroux drew from some of the best stories from the Iron Man comic, adapting elements from the saga known as "The Armor Wars" as well as a new take on the debilitating effects of wearing the armour that threatened to take Stark's life in the mid-'90's. The special effects wizardry has been increased by a factor of 10 to render Iron Man, War Machine, Whiplash and the drones glimpsed in the movie's trailers that come together to create one of the most impressive and explosive climactic battles ever witnessed. John Debney surpasses even Ramin Djwadi's superb score to the original by crafting some new themes to musically illustrate how much the franchise has improved.

Downey Jr. naturally is what makes this movie what it is and his continued representation of Stark is utterly flawless in execution, blending the perfect amount of humour, levity and desperation that the plot requires as he firmly maintains his place as the most perfectly cast super hero ever. Not a part of me misses Terence Howard after seeing Don Cheadle as Rhodey/War Machine, he fit like a glove into the role, and was most welcome. Gweneth Paltrow remains "satisfactory" as Pepper Potts and thankfully the romance is kept to a minimum [there's too much stuff goin' on in the movie for anyone to be concerned with that anyhow]. Favreau increased his own role as Happy Hogan mainly in a heroically humorous context and rightly so. Samuel L Jackson's performance as Nick Fury may not have action scenes but he's certainly got a lot more time to advertise the forthcoming Avengers movie. A new face [and what a face] is added in the super-sweet, most outstandingly delectable form of Scarlett Johannson, with the trademark auburn locks of SHIELD spymaster Natalia Romanoff, the Black Widow, who steals each and every moment she's on screen. It is however the sheer superiority of both Mickey Rourke as Ivan "Whiplash" Vanko sporting Russian prison tattoos over his scarred body, mumbling in Russian and just plain "looking evil" as well as Sam Rockwell's utterly brilliant performance as Justin Hammer, Stark's corporate nemesis that drives this movie above the original. Do watch out for Clarke Gregg reprising his role as SHIELD Agent Coulson, Leslie Bibb returning as Christine Everhart, Gary Shandling as Senator Stern and Whopper Award Nominee 2008 Kate Mara as a U.S. Marshal.

Sequels are always a worry, I always remind people of the fact that Aliens was far superior to Alien but Predator 2 was a crock of shit in comparison to Predator. While it's easy for a movie to follow the Highlander or Robocop path to successively shit sequels, there have been many triumphs in the past decade, and most 0f them are super hero movies - Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Blade and X-Men had pheonominal sequels in comparison to their originals, which is something it would have been very difficult for Iron Man 2 to achieve as it already had a pheonominal original. But it did, absolutly it did.

Final Verdict: Jon Favreau took all that was great about the original and actually enhanced it somehow. It's both contradictorally funnier as well as darker. Adding so many explosions, weapons fire, a redheaded Scarjo and the baddest black motherfucker in town, Sam Jackson to the threats represented by the actions of Rourke and Rockwell's characters was so genius, I'm left wondering did Fav actually make this movie just for me?

Colonel Creedon Rating: EXEMPTION GRANTED [No amount of stars can be used to rate the movie, it is above flawless]

*And by "exclusive," I may not mean that this is the first review of the film anywhere in the world.


Civilian Overseer said...

I'm left wondering did Fav actually make this movie just for me?

Let me get this straight Colonel, you believe that Iron Man 2 was a gay love letter from Jon Favreau to you?

Former Grunt said...

OOOOO! A nice touch to reveal Stark is responsible for Captain America's shield! What other "inside" references are there Colonel?

Lieutenant General Creedon said...

@ Civvy: Yes

@ Grunt: Excellent question, lad. Well obviously Fury's presence was just to advertise the Avengers and the appearence of Mjöllnir reveals the coming of Thor, there are also some subtle references internal to Iron Man lore for obsessive fans like me.

1. Stark jokes to Senator Stern about being names SECDEF, a position that he held in the comic book in 2004.

2. Whiplash in the comic book never had a real name, nor was he regionalised. But in the movie they gave him the name Vanko which was the name of the first incarnation of the Russian armoured hero Crimson Dynamo, so Rourke's character is sort of a blend between both characters. I'm not 100% sure about this but in the quick look we got at Vanko's fake passport, it looked like his alias was "Boris Turgenov" who also wore the Crimson Dynamo armour.

3. If anyone who saw the movie after living in a cave since 2008 but had read all of Black Widow's comic book adventures; would have known exactly who "Natalie Rushman" really was as she used "Nancy Rushman" as a cover name.

4. As Stark enters Pepper's office you hear him thank her secretary Mrs. Arborgast and he even recalls her first name "Bambi isn't it?" in an effort to placate the irate woman. Bambi Arborgast was of course Tony Stark's comic book secretary for many year from issue 118 in 1979.

5. In the Cap's shield scene we see a newscast at the aftermath of the on-campus battle between the US military (with pre-Abomination Emil Blonsky) and the Hulk.

I've no doubt that I missed more such nods to Marveldom, but I'm sure I'll see them the next time round.

Civilian Overseer said...

People, please attend, I am proud, Damned Proud!, of my good friend, Whopper, it takes real guts and a certain level of confidence with your own sexuality to publicly admit that the sheer creativity of Mr. Jon Favreau makes you completely Gay Bones.