Another topical detour from catching up on films I saw in the cinema in January and comic books I have bought, to talk about something that converges on two of my obvious loves: films and comics. And nothing to do with the fact that it hasn’t come out in America yet …
I really enjoyed the first Iron Man film, which came out of nowhere to be the fun superhero blockbuster. Robert Downey Jr was perfect as Tony Stark, the Iron Man armour looked fantastic, and Jon Favreau surprised us all by directing an extremely enjoyable and entertaining film. So, to say we were looking forward to it was an understatement, and there was a level of hype attached that it could never hope to attain.
This sequel is still a lot of fun but it doesn’t achieve the same levels of quality and enjoyment as the first. It’s not awful by any measure – Downey Jr is still ideal as Stark, all charming swagger and arrogant confidence and mercurial charisma, the CGI looks good in the action scenes, and the sense of fun and banter between the actors remains. But the film is rather long, with not enough action and the action that does occur harks back to the climax of the first film.
The film does try to maintain a difficult balance of a movie that is trying to be an actual Marvel comic book – it’s setting up The Avengers film with references and appearances from Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury (who doesn’t play it as mysteriously as before, turning him into just another Sam Jackson role, including his usual dialogue delivery tics), hints at Captain America and Thor, and still finding time to include ‘Agent Romanov’ (Scarlett Johansson does a good job, and there is a particularly good action scene with her in full costume). That’s a tough job for a film, trying to be its own entity as well as a set-up for the rest of the Marvel universe movies, and it doesn’t always succeed.
There are some silly bits, like driving a Bentley the wrong way up the Monaco Grand Prix, and although they give Mickey Rourke’s villain character good motivation, I still think that Whiplash looks stupid; Garry Shandling looks like his face is some sort of Rick Baker make-up in the middle of a biological reaction that is causing his face to swell to a balloon; the relationship between Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) doesn’t have the same vibe as the first, and I’d wished they’d kept the same ‘will they, won’t they?’ atmosphere.
But perhaps I’m just being picky – you can still enjoy Iron Man 2 as a fun piece of superhero cinematic entertainment, never going too dark to ruin the mood but still with enough subject matter so that it doesn’t descend into fluff, but it’s just not as good as the original.