Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux
Release Date: May 7, 2010 (USA)
Iron Man 2 should have been great. Robert Downey Jr. has proven he's the perfect actor to play charismatic billionaire Tony Stark, and with the predictable origin story out of the way, the sequel was free to move forward in any number of directions. So what went wrong? Iron Man 2 does present a number of new changes and challenges for Stark, but they are jumbled together to create the kind of story you can find in an average (not extraordinary) comic book. The lull that sets in during the middle of the movie could be explained as a dark period for Stark, but this is a Marvel movie; any kind of seriousness is undercut by inherent corniness. Humor does have a place in the Iron Man franchise, with the best comedic moments coming from RDJ's dialogue as the always witty Stark. It's unfortunate that Sam Rockwell's character, Justin Hammer, shoulders much of the comedic weight in Iron Man 2. One-liners just don't have the same impact coming from a Tony Stark-lite.
There are more shortcomings that can be singled out (including the Black Widow), but lets just sum it up. Iron Man's adventures aren't as fun the second time around, and the sequel's complexities don't amount to depth. Since the first Iron Man has been the most promising Marvel movie to date, the mediocrity of Iron Man 2 makes me at least a little less excited for the Avengers movie that Marvel loves to tease us with. At least there is one thing that Iron Man 2 gets very right - War Machine looks like a complete bad ass.
Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Mark Fergus, Matt Holloway, Art Marcum, Hawk Ostby
Release Date: May 2, 2008 (USA)
After Spider-Man 3, I lost faith in Marvel movies. But when I first heard about the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark I couldn’t help but become excited for Iron Man. Downey Jr. seemed he would make the perfect Tony Stark; Stark is, as comic book readers know, a natural born genius with a quick wit. That description could go double for Peter Parker, but Stark is also the rich head of a corporation, a philanderer, and has battled alcohol addiction, placing him somewhere between Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is the best casting there has ever been in a comic book movie. Downey Jr. conveys the nonchalant attitude of Stark wonderfully, but those close to him (such as the viewer) know there’s more to Stark – an inherent goodness inside. In the hands of another actor, this multidimensional aspect of Stark may have slipped by, leaving onscreen a womanizing ass in place of the real Tony Stark. The performance of Downey Jr. alone is worth the price of admission for any comic book fan who would like to see how Iron Man would look and act if he leaped off the comic book page. My only minor gripe with Downey Jr. as Stark: he’s a bit too short for my liking. But I can’t knock Downey Jr. for that one.
Here’s where I kill space by giving a brief outline of the movie. Tony Stark is head of Stark Industries, a major U.S. weapons manufacturer. Stark himself is technologically brilliant, and his skills with machinery are well known around the globe. After a weapons demonstration in Afghanistan, Stark is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build them “The Jericho,” the powerful missile Stark had just demonstrated for the U.S. military. Alongside another captive Stark instead builds a suit of armor and escapes his prison. Stark then realizes the devastating impact his weapons company is having on the world, and he begins working on an updated suit of armor, a metallic peacekeeper. There are only a few individuals close to Stark: Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his chauffeur Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and his business partner and friend Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).
Though the supporting cast is not as impressive as Downey Jr. in their roles, they do adequate jobs. The buddy relationship between Stark and Rhodes is believable and at times entertaining, though it still needs to be fleshed out (we’ll probably see this in the sequel). Paltrow is likable (and surprisingly attractive) as Potts, but she’s best when seen beside Downey Jr.
Heading into Iron Man I recalled complaints that the movie lacked action. Aside from the final battle, which could have been a grand event with Stark pulling out all the stops with his armor, I’d disagree that a lack of action is the problem. An emphasis on story as opposed to action is fine, and about halfway through I thought to myself, “This movie’s going to get a solid B.” Unfortunately, the storyline does dwindle a bit, and I found myself less engaged. Without spoiling anything for those who have yet to watch, I’ll say the plot seemed to be moving in an interesting direction, one that would place Iron Man closer to our contemporary society and place Stark in a situation to better explore his character. But the movie moves back to familiar good guy vs. bad guy territory, a commercial choice to be sure. This wouldn’t be such a negative sidestep if the villain had more facets of personality than greed and power. Marvel has specialized in villains who are more than mustache-twiddling bad guys who chase money bags – Magneto is a perfect example of this. Sure, as a viewer you’ll want to see the villain in Iron Man knocked down a peg or two (probably more), but he’s nothing special.
Iron Man is a good comic book movie. The special effects are solid, Downey Jr. provides some humor, and the storyline is streamlined enough for the general public to latch onto – the first big summer popcorn flick has arrived. But what Iron Man really brings to the table are possibilities. We can now expect a sequel featuring War Machine, and perhaps Stark’s downfall into alcoholism, and perhaps down the road we’ll even get that Avengers movie sure to make geeks’ heads everywhere implode. Marvel put this franchise in the good hands of Favreau and Downey Jr, and it’s paid off for them and for us. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come from Marvel.
Oscar nominee Robert Downey, Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the story of a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.
The last time I was excited for a Marvel movie, Spider-Man 3 crushed me. Maybe I'm just making myself a target again, but I find myself re-watching the Iron Man trailers again and again. I can't help myself. I can't say I'm expecting big things from The Incredible Hulk or Wolverine, but I'll probably be sitting in a theater chair for the weekend premiere of Iron Man. There's more than one reason I have faith in this movie.
First of all, has there ever been a more fitting actor to portray a comic book character than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man? Batman Begins is the best comic book movie in recent memory (arguably ever), but Christian Bale doesn't have that dark Bruce Wayne look. Judging by the two trailers and one Superbowl teaser, Downey Jr. deftly captures the quick wit and downplayed intelligence of Tony Stark. Even when his eyes are wide with wonder after shakily hovering over the ground using in-development armor, Downey Jr. maintains an air of pompousness as he remarks, "Yeah, I can fly." And the first trailer treats us to this Stark gem as he begins a weapons demonstration for military personnel:
"They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once. That's how Dad did it. That's how America does it. And it's worked out pretty well so far."
I'm not an expert on Iron Man, but I did watch the 90s cartoon series and have a good sense of his character from reading quite a bit of Marvel comics in recent years. Anyone who's familiar with Marvel's latest overarching story lines know how integral Iron Man is to it all, so I consider myself a knowledgeable enough judge. The storyline looks to be fairly straightforward, and I'm considering this one a good popcorn flick for now. There should be a nice surprise in running into at least one Marvel hero besides the title character in Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Perhaps Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) may even be seen in his steel colored War Machine armor if Stark requires heavy duty backup.
Though it comes second to story, there's no need to fear for lack of eye candy. This is probably the best a superhero costume has ever looked on the big screen. The Mark I armor remains as humble as I recall, with immediate upgrades coming when Stark returns home to his laboratory. After the Mark I, director Jon Favreau jumps straight to the slick 21st Century with Iron Man's Mark II and III armor. They look great as stills, fantastic in motion.
Given Marvel's track record, I'm going to try and control my expectations for this one. But if you've read my gushing statements above, you can figure that won't be easy.