Tuesday, 4 May 2010

'Iron Man 2' review, plus a new Blu-ray review

I haven't updated on here for a few days (thanks in no small part to writing for Obsessed with Film), but I now have a double helping of Beames on Film action for you, with a link to a new Blu-ray review (of 'The Railway Children') and a new instalment of the podcast (in which Jon and I discuss our trip to a Disney trade expo and give our impressions of 'The Prince of Persia').

However, that is not all I present to you here today, as I have also gotten round to writing my impressions of one of this year's biggest blockbuster movies, 'Iron Man 2'. Here goes (don't read on if you are afraid of reading spoilers):

‘Iron Man 2’, Jon Favreau’s follow-up to his original 2008 Marvel comic adaptation, is probably the purest fun I have had in the cinema so far this year. There are some amazing set pieces (as in when War Machine and Iron Man team up to fight an army of robots), brilliant choreography (as in when Black Widow dispatches of a load of security goons with ease) and a great cast of actors (as in Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and the incredible Sam Rockwell). All of these elements combine to make ‘Iron Man 2’ one of the most enjoyable super hero movies yet.

Downey Jr is again at his charismatic and cynical best as Tony Stark (the titular Iron Man). At the very end of last year he was brilliant in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and he brings this fine form into this new instalment in the ‘Iron Man’ series. Mickey Rourke does exactly as well as you’d expect as a villain (Whiplash) and Scarlett Johansson is solid as Black Widow. The stand-out performer, however, must be Rockwell who is hilarious as Stark’s business rival, Justin Hammer. His delivery is terrific, though some may be fooled by how seemingly effortless he is, for me Rockwell’s reading of the dialogue is pitch-perfect and intelligent. Admittedly a lot of Rockwell’s comic power is helped by Justin Theroux’s script, which I probably the finest superhero movie screenplay not written by Christopher Nolan.

On the downside, Don Cheadle is no replacement for Terrence Howard as Rhodey (who becomes the War Machine in this instalment). Cheadle isn’t bad exactly. He just isn’t anything like as charismatic and, well, “cool” as Howard. When Howard eyes up the Iron Man suit in the first movie and says “Maybe next time”, you think “yeah!”. But honestly, Cheadle doesn’t inspire the same excitement in me (though the War Machine scenes are still awesome). Gwyneth Paltrow is also ever so slightly annoying as Pepper Potts (Stark’s assistant) and Jon Favreau (who had a cameo in the first movie) seems to have cynically given his character (Stark’s driver) a bigger role, including his own fight scene.

There is also the matter of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. It was ok when he played Fury in a post-credits “Easter egg” at the end of the first film, but Jackson, as an actor, just seems cheap. The days where he seemed to represent some form of liquid cool are long behind him and (especially with his eye patch) he just cheapens every scene he is in throughout this sequel. And there are probably too many of those as the film gears up towards Joss Wheadon’s 2012 ‘Avengers’ movie.

The liberal in me hates hearing Tony Stark gloat that he has "successfully privatized peace", but to take this to heart would be a step too far. In all the Stark character is just fantastic. It is refreshing to see a super hero movie without secret identities. Everyone knows who Stark is and they love it... and he loves it. This is the main element that makes Downey Jr's Iron Man so fun to watch on screen. Stark is enjoying being a super hero most of the time and he is cocky and egotistical (without needing to wear a venom suit too).

In all though, the film is great. Really good fun. The action scenes are exciting, the funny bits are funny and the things that are supposed to excite you about future projects (nods to Captain America and Thor are present) generally do. Like its predecessor, it is no ‘Dark Knight’. But it is in that next bracket down, reserved for (in my opinion anyway) Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’ and ‘The Incredibles’. It is certainly a lot better than ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and ‘The Fantastic Four’. For that matter it is better than ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Prince of Persia’, making this the best movie of the blockbusting summer. At least until Nolan’s ‘Inception’ comes out in a few months!

'Iron Man 2' is playing wherever there are cinema screens and is rated '12a' by the BBFC.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent film. Sam Rockwell shares a lot in common with Robert Downey. He has a unique style and a highly commanding and watchable screen presents. Anyone who didn't would be blown off the screen alongside Downey.

    Rockwell is in many ways the perfect foil for Downey's Stark. He manages to have the same character flaws but come across like a weasel whereas Stark seems bold and charming. Anyone else playing Hammer would have been annoying but Rockwell is off beat and funny and when he's not on screen you miss him.