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Archive for May 4th, 2010

I first came across Mikes excellent blog when he contributed to Desert Island DVDs last month. When he asked me to contribute to his own event I was delighted to accept. So what’s it all about? I will let Mike explain (taken from the original email mike sent out to invite participants)

“Well it’s a list of great movies that made going to the movies suck. So, I’ve created a list of very influential and (for the most part) considered good films that have spawned countless, lazy, stupid, weak imitators all trying to capture or cash-in on the same magic but failing miserably making movie going, as a whole, suck for a whole (like that period in the late 90s after American Pie and There’s Something About Mary led to stuff like Whipped, Tomcats, etc etc.)”

So if you haven’t already check it out and check out Mikes great blog, and keep an eye out for my contribution.

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Iron Man 2

If you take all the elements of Iron Man 2 it has the makings of a great movie, sadly the overall movie just doesn’t quite work. Most of the original cast returns, Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes. This is a somewhat neutral change, both are good, neither are brilliant in the role. The major additions to the cast are Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff. Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko. Their impact on the movie is somewhat mixed but ultimately disappointing. Mickey Rourke does a solid job of portraying a stereotypical villain (and a stereotypical movie Russian). Sam Rockwell is brilliant as ever but doesn’t exactly work. His over the top performance is first rate but just a little to close to Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark. Scarlett Johansson is the one I am most conflicted about. She plays the part suitably tongue-in-cheek with a knowing wink. Her action scenes are great, the problem is she is grossly underused. It appears her character is only present for two reasons: firstly to give a human face to the action and break-up the CGI scenes; secondly and more importantly it introduces the character ready for her inevitable appearance in The Avengers movie.

An appearance in front of government hearing does not sound like the most exciting thing in a comic book movie but here it gives Robert Downey Jr the opportunity to show of, playing of the rest of the cast most notably Gary Shandling playing the senator after the iron man suit. In a typical bombastic performance he makes stupid lines like “I have successfully privatized world peace” sound cool and funny. The movie is littered with great scenes like this as well as the action set pieces including the motor race where Ivan Vanko/Whiplash attacks Stark. As well as the well handled action this scene demonstrates Starks vulnerability both in and out of his iron man suit. It also gives Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jon Favreau (who reprises his role as Stark’s driver Happy Hogan) the opportunity for a few comic moments. This comedy is inter-cut with the action ensuring the movie will never descend into Batman darkness. Tony Stark may have his brooding moments especially since the power source that both keeps him alive and powers Iron Man is poisoning him. But this brooding is kept short and by keeping it away from the other characters who still see the wisecracking, reckless narcissistic playboy side of stark helps keep the tone light. As viewers of films like this we all know that Iron Man is never in any real jeopardy, the Hero isn’t going to be killed in a movie like this but such is the tone of the movie its never even a possibility that will cross your mind.

I have heard a lot of criticism for the films final battle, I actually think this is unfair, we are dealing with CGI created men in machine suits kicking the shit out of each other. It does take the actors away from centre stage but that isn’t a huge problem. Firstly the scene is broken up with real actors as mentioned above, secondly, is it any different to watching an animated movie? And finally this is Iron Man, if you came into the movie not expecting to see a certain amount of CGI created armoured men flying around and punching each other you are either stupid, ill informed or you accidentally walked into the wrong movie, the new Smiley Viruses movie is on in the next screen (apologies to Kermode and Mayo for stealing their joke but as they can’t remember for sure who said it first they have to expect these things!). The point is the movie to use the cliché does exactly what it says on the tin.

There isn’t a single scene in the movie that doesn’t work. Every single scene is good, well written well acted and well directed. The problem is that there are too many of them and they aren’t strung together particularly well. A perfect example is Journalist Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb) who had a small part in the first film, her appearance here does little more than provide Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) a couple of amusing lines (if you remember the taking out the trash line from the first movie), same thing but not as good.

Having said all of this there is one thing that makes Iron Man work, Robert Downey Jr. with a leading man with a little less charisma the first movie would have failed and I wouldn’t be reviewing this sequel. Without Downey Jr. Stark would come across as an absolute cock, the movie would have no humour and the movie would be about as good as The Punisher or Catwoman. With Downey Jr. the movie is funny, sometimes clever and always watchable.

Three Stars Out of Five

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