Thursday, May 6, 2010

Iron Man 2 - Roundtable Review *Spoilers*

As you all aware of by now, Iron Man 2 opened internationally a week before the United States. This gave Ryan the opportunity to review the movie already, but The Weekly Crisis other two international agents also went to see the movie as well. Since the first review was pretty much spoiler free, we decided to also have a round table between Christine and me, so we could chat about the film, without having to worry about ruining anyone's movie going experience. So if you don't want to know all the details, do not hit the jump, do not read further ahead, do not pass go, and do not collect $200. Otherwise, click the link to see our roundtable review of Iron Man 2.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Christine: Robert Downey Junior is Tony Stark. He really carries the movie to a great extent and pulls off the role of the lovable, brilliant bastard so well. He was born to play this part.

Matt: I'll raise you one, not only is he Tony Stark, he is the embodiment of the Iron Man films. While in the first one, he played the rich lovable bastard well enough, when he got inside the Iron Man suit, there was an uncertainty in his part. Understandable, as he had just built this thing, but in this second one he is incredibly confident, the armor is literally like a second skin.

Christine: His confidence (over-confidence, really) is an important theme in the movie. As someone who loves the spotlight, being an "out" superhero is something he seems to really enjoy, while at the same time having these serious health issues he needs to take his mind off of.

Matt: The drunk Tony scene was hilarious. Yeah, he is basically driving a tank while under the influence, but he manages to pull it off incredibly. Anyone else, you would be frowning upon them, but I was laughing out loud.

Christine: He should have gotten a DUI for that. He's a very believable playboy though. As a woman, I have to say it's easy to understand why the ladies can't resist him. He knows he kicks ass.

Matt: And speaking of kicking ass, let's talk about the guy that kicked his ass early in the movie...

Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash

Christine: I saw The Wrestler about a year ago, and Mickey Rourke - in the superficial sense at least - repeats his performance from that movie. Don't get me wrong, they're widely different characters in most ways, but there are many similarities. Ivan is obviously a genius, but he's also something of a loser, and the scruffy look is the exact same.

Matt: I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Ivan as a poor loser. It seems that many of Iron Man's villains are basically rich dudes jealous of Tony Stark, who can build all those armors because of the obscene amount of money they have. Here we have Vanko who is just as smart and resourceful as Tony Stark, but without his millions

Christine: You know, an insane amount of cash is the only thing keeping me from building my own space station. In all seriousness though, I really dug the character and the way he combines insanity with playing it cool.

Matt: The scene in the prison was really good, but it reminded me a lot of the Batman/Joker scene in The Dark Knight. I wonder if that was a conscious choice or just a coincidence?

Christine: Hm, I didn't think about that. Speaking of cool scenes, I think they did a good job of showing how this new technology drains (so to speak) the Iron Man suit of its power. I mean the way Ivan and Tony first face off in Monaco. The vulnerability of the Iron Man suit felt really believable.

Matt: I'm not exactly sure how the Whiplash armor worked, because when it hit things like the cars in the Monaco scene, it cut them like butter, but then when it was hitting the armors, while it did damage, it was nowhere near as bad as the cars. I guess we can chalk it up to COMIC BOOK SCIENCE!

Christine: So true... On the other hand, most cars are made to be easily deformed. It makes them safer. And another thing about Whiplash, while we're on the subject, I loved how his overalls literally burned off his body. Is it realistic? No. Is it badass? Oh, yes.

Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine

Christine: You want to know a weird connection between me and Don Cheadle? I've actually had the pleasure of having dinner with Paul Rusesabagina, the real life hero depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda, who was portrayed by Cheadle.

Matt: Wow, that is actually kind of cool... but did he have weapons mounted on his shoulders? DIDN'T THINK SO!

Christine: No, he did not. Which actually makes him much more heroic

Matt: Anyway, I actually liked Terrance Howard in the first movie, Don Cheadle is a great actor, but I wasn't sold on this performance.

Christine: I don't think he was right for the part so I totally agree with you. I wish Howard could have repeated his performance from the first movie. He feels more action AND more "army".

Matt: I felt that while Cheadle played off with Robert Downey Jr. really well, but in the scenes that he has to be in the War Machine armor, it just feels weird. He does not have a big body like Howard, so he looks strange.

Christine: Exactly, his face almost looks too small inside the armor.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanova/Black Widow

Christine: I've mentioned this elsewhere, but I don't feel that Scarlett Johansson was right for this role, due mostly to her age. Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Junior, is clearly supposed to be in his 40s. I would have preferred Natasha to be played by an actress in the 35-40 age range. This would have been more consistent with how she's portrayed in the comic, even with her aging process being delayed. This isn't Johansson's fault, and I think she does a good job with (what little) material she's given, but there are lots of smoking hot women in Hollywood who can handle a physical role, but have another decade under their belt to sell the character as properly experienced.

Matt: That's a pretty good point. I actually think she did a great job with what she was given, and I liked the parts where she was undercover more than when she was in suit. But about the casting, I have always been a proponent that they should have gotten Milla Jovovich to play the part of Black Widow. She can do action roles, she is sexy, she kicks ass, and she is actually of Russian descent. That's all major fields covered right there! Who knows, maybe they can get her to play the other Black Widow (Yelena Belova, the blond one)?

Christine: That actually brings up another thing that I kind of missed. While I hate fake foreign accents in movies, it wouldn't have hurt if they'd given her just a hint of a Russian accent. I know she's portrayed as being able to speak English very well in the comic (unlike Yelena), but just a hint would have been nice. There was very little sense of her being foreign at all.

Matt: A good way of working the fact that she is Russian into the movie would have been to interact with Ivan in some way, who is also of Russian descent. Maybe when she ran into his computer, it was all in Russian?

Christine: That would have been a great way to handle it.

Matt: Something that bothered me was that after that scene, where they break into Hammer industries, is that she kind of disappears. I don't think we see or hear from her after that, do we?

Christine: Right. There were so many things going on in this movie that they might have dropped the ball a little there. I did like how relatively complex the plot was though.

Matt: They should have just put a sign "To see more of Black Widow, wait until 2013 when her movie comes out!". Also, I wanted to mention it somewhere, but I think she was in the first scene, the one where Tony is walking into the crowd and a bunch of people want to see him, get his autograph, etc. I'm pretty sure she is the one that hands him something (a piece of paper?) but the scene was so fast that I would have to see it again to be sure.

Christine: I guess we're just going to have to wait for the DVD to take a closer look at that scene! I have the first movie on DVD, and will definitely get this one too.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts

Matt: I actually don't have a lot to say about Gwyneth Paltrow. She's there, she plays her part, the scenes with Tony had a lot of chemistry (particularly when they are arguing with each other), but she didn't wow me.

Christine: I can't say I have that much to say either, but I do quite like Gwyneth Paltrow, without necessarily being a huge fan, so she was totally fine by me. I suspect she's the kind of actress that women like more than men do, a little like Julia Roberts,

Matt: I also wanted to mention that I can't really picture her in Pepper's current role in the comic, where she dons the Rescue armor.

Christine: On the other hand, giving Pepper her own armor made me lose interest in reading Invincible Iron Man.

Matt: Now that I think about it, I think that was undone recently.

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer

Matt: Rockwell did the role of "also-ran" pretty well, but I felt at times that the character was TOO pathetic, and we are never shown how smart he actually is, he gets played by everyone around him. I guess that was kind of the point, but it looks like he is going to be the villain of the third movie (if it gets made), so I don't know if I am going to be able to see him as a credible threat.

Christine: Sam Rockwell did a good job in this movie. I like being treated as an intelligent viewer when watching a movie and crazy Silver Age type villains aren't going to fly anymore. I'm not sure I agree that he was too pathetic, and I would imagine future takes on the character would see him evolve, have him come back smarter from having learned his lesson the hard way.

Matt: That's a very good point. I think my main beef with the character (not the portrayal) was the scene in the Senate, where he was shown working with North Korea, and not only was his technology completely nonfunctional, but on top of that he gets exposed as a traitor in national TV. I just don't see anyone making a comeback from that kind of PR nightmare.

Christine: You're absolutely right. The fact that he wasn't arrested on the spot for treason was definitely a weakness in the plot. In fact, I think they should have skipped that part completely. It would have suited the movie better to have his goals be all about ego.

Matt: I just hope that if he does come back for the third movie, he is not going to be another villain in a big armor suit. I think this movie provided more than enough on that front.

Armor Wars

Matt: There were plenty of fight scenes in the movie, and every one of them had a different feel to it, different dynamics and different participants. It's hard to top Iron Man and War Machine punching each other at the tune of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust".

Christine: Here's what I liked about this movie: The fight scenes never got in the way of the plot or the character work. I like action, but I have a real hard time with action that has no purpose and just takes up screen time (*cough* Transformers 2 *cough*). This, to me, translates well to comic books too. I'd take something semi-deep with strategically placed action scenes over large scale events any day. I'm not suggesting that Iron Man 2 is a deep movie, by any means, but it's not exactly a mindless action flick either. The scene I particularly enjoyed was the one where Iron Man and War Machine fought together, toward the end. I thought it was nicely choreographed.

Matt: Oh yeah, and they even managed throw in some humor, when they are arguing about who is the one with most weapons.

Christine: So true, and the humor in this movie - while we're on the subject - was really at the right level. There was nothing too cheesy, but definitely good for a few chuckles. It's very Jon Favreau, and very Robert Downey Junior.

Matt: Did you know that Jon Favreau was the one playing Happy Hogan? I had no idea what he looked like, so I found about it later.


Matt: Much like Robert Downey Jr. after seeing Scarlett Johansson for the first time, I too leaned over and told my wife (who saw the movie with me) "I want one", but it was when I saw Tony Stark's immersive and interactive room-sized computer. C'mon future, we still don't have jetpacks, but can we get one of those computers?

Christine: Actually, we do have jetpacks. I do want some of that Stark technology though, and you know what they say about fiction often leading the way. Many scientists were inspired by Star Trek growing up so you may get your computer one day.

Matt: I can definitely see Steve Jobs watching that scene with Tony's phone at the Senate and taking down notes for the next iPhone. Or Bill Gates in the interactive room scene, for whenever Xbox unveils project Natal.

Christine: I think these kinds of movies can inspire innovation when it comes to the user interface part of things, for sure. Though I'm still wondering what the heck powers that armor, but that probably brings us back to comic book science. "It's magic. We don't have to explain it."

Matt: How about the power of... LOVE? In all seriousness though, there was some crazy science in the movie, what with Stark creating a new element and what have you. I kept waiting for them to call it Vibranium, but it never happened.

Christine: Yes, that did bother me quite a bit. I was waiting for the Vibranium part too. There simply are no elements yet to be created that are also stable, and that's the basic fact. A way to get around that would have been for him to simply come up with a new kind of alloy or a particular chemical process. But then we wouldn't have had that makeshift particle accelerator and Cap's shield supporting it.

Also Featuring!

Christine: I loved the Captain America shield popping up in this movie. Sure, it certainly didn't look as virtually indestructible as you might expect, but that was, of course, part of the fun of the scene. Using it to prop up the home made particle accelerator? Genius.

Matt: It showed up in the first movie too, although in the background. It makes me wonder if Captain America is going to have the round shield in the first movie, since it's supposed to be in World War 2, where Cap normally wields the old non-round shield. Did you stay until after the credits to see the hidden Thor scene?

Christine: I didn't because I forgot about it, but caught it later on YouTube. Very exciting! I love how they're tying everything together.

Matt: Samuel L. Jackson is going to make a fortune just for his cameos too.

Final Words

Matt: So, overall, how much did you like the film? Better or worse than the first one?

Christine: I'd say the first one is better, mostly due to some pacing issues. I think about ten or fifteen minutes should have been cut from this movie, especially around the middle, but I did still enjoy that it took its time with certain scenes. I actually made a point of paying close attention to the teenage guys in the row in front of me, and I don't think they enjoyed it as much as the forty something guy in the next seat. This won't appeal to the strict Spider-Man (movie) fan base at all, but I admire that it tries to do more.

Matt: In the theater I went to, there were a lot of kids (because I went to an early Saturday showing), and you could tell they started getting bored through the middle because they were being loud and playing around in their seats. I would have actually liked to go to the showing after mine, because it was completely packed when were leaving the room, and the audience seemed to be mostly teenagers, which I guess would have enjoyed the film more than the little kids.

Christine: I think the target audience for this movie is the slightly older viewers who like their tech. As a whole, though, I had a good time, it was two hours well spent, and I'll certainly pick up the DVD. I'm actually looking forward to seeing it a second time, I think there might be quite a bit that you won't catch right away.

Matt: You might be looking forward to the DVD, but I am looking forward to Iron Man 3. I really hope all the actors get to reprise their roles.

Christine: I'm looking forward to the sequel, for sure, but I'm even more intrigued by the idea of having all these other Marvel movies coming out and having them all tie together in subtle ways. I think it's really great to see a Marvel Universe come to life on screen, it's just a bummer that they won't be able to unite all of the characters under the same roof, due to copyright issues.

Matt: Just admit that you want an Iron Man/Daredevil film! You know it to be true!

Christine: Well... I'd have a fun time watching Matt Murdock interact with Tony Stark's technology. "Oops, was that the wrong button?" Seriously, though, I'm content having Daredevil in his own little corner movie-wise, but it's a bummer that a character like Spider-Man can't be part of the Avengers movie, for instance.

Matt: We are just going to have to live with the classic Avengers for now, without Wolverine or Spidey, at least until the copyright issues go away.


As you can probably tell, we both had a blast watching the movie and discussing it with each other. Feel free to leave whatever spoiler-heavy comment and discussion in the comments section below. What did you think of the film? What parts did you and didn't you like?

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Ryan K Lindsay said...

Excellent use of Google Wave, our reviews now live in....the future!!

Caps Shield: That thing looked like a piece of art not a functional shield. I know it made a cameo in the first flick (in the background when Stark is coming out of the suit and Pepper catches him) but this shield just looked made of tin.

Vibranium: They really should have used that. At the end when they're in the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ room and there's a big comp screen in the background, you can see a world map, from behind, with different areas circled. Many US cities are circled, as is Mexico, but there's also one lone African country noted. Can everyone wave hello to Wakanda?

Final scene: Seeing Mjolnir sitting in the dust was awesome. I am assuming it is our lovable MD, Dr Donald Blake sitting in that crater, so that gives us a time period on the Thor movie, I assume. Excellent Easter egg for all those playing at home.

I'd state RDJ and Sam Rockwell as the winners of this piece, completely.

Matt Ampersand said...

Ohh, I didn't notice the Africa/Wakanda bit. Also, when Stark was flipping through his dad's notebook, there was a sketch of a cube, with some circle around it. I guess it was the design for the particle accelerator he ended up using, but at first I thought it was a cosmic cube.

Anonymous said...

Just saw it here in the US.

One minor critique of your review: Hammer wasn't working with North Korea. In the beginning, Tony shows that North Korea and Iran can't make their own suit AND that Hammer himself, in the US couldn't get his own suits to work.

Hammer is NOT seen helping North Korea.

Bjarki said...

I'm not entirely sure but when Black Widow was trying to shut down and restart War Machine's armor through Ivan's computer, everything WAS in Russian.

Aaron Kimel said...

Ivan VANKO, not Marko.

I really liked the movie alot, but that won't stop me from complaining too.

Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer was fun, but, as a character and villain, I don't know what to make of him. What WAS his motivation? He busts Vanko out of jail in order to dethrone Stark - to humiliate the man. Does he ever even try to do this? No. He goes straight to making new technology so he can get DoD contracts. Stark is forgotten. Why was Vanko necessary for this? Were Hammer's drones powered by the Vanko reactor? What exactly inspired Hammer to think Vanko was the genius he turned out to be by watching him walk onto a racetrack like a lunatic? Without the "Make Stark pay" angle, their partnership is absurd - and this is a major part of the plot of the film.

Another quibble: the movie fell flat any time it became too "unrealistic". That might seem a silly complaint about a movie where a man flies around in a mechanical suit, but certain elements go beyond that into the absurd. Stark hacking into the Senate computer? Vanko immediately hacking into Hammer? Come on. It doesn't even make sense. (What hacking software is pre-loaded onto Hammer consoles?) I hate films where main characters can simply do ANYTHING with normal computers. Tony Stark jumping into a race car and driving grand prix? That's definitely more likely to kill him than being Iron Man.

Where was Natasha's S.H.I.E.L.D. suit when she changed in the car? UNDER her dress? Is that where she kept her curling iron too? I noticed she entered the car with straight hair and exited with a rat's nest. What the hell happened in that backseat?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Aaron - I thought Hammer's motivation came through the way Rockwell played him. He's just a sad ass clown who wants anyone to look at or up to him when neither will happen because he's always behind them. The dude wants to be Tony Stark, he wants to be in his skin Rupert Pupkin and Buffalo Bill style, he's a sick loser and he knows he's not smart enough to take on Stark but watching Vanko do it makes him think that man might just be the guy to help him.

That's how I saw it, anyway.

Chris said...

Yes, annonymous is correct, Justin Hammer is NOT working with North Korea, Tony very clearly says that North Korea, Iran, and Justin Hammer are not capable of copying his tech.

Matt Ampersand said...

I guess I stand corrected. What I got from that scene was that Hammer and North Korea were working together.

@Aaron: Woops, total brainfart on my part! I must have had the Juggernaut in my mind when I wrote this up.

Anonymous said...

ive got a little juggernaut in my mind.
he tickles my thoughts.

jpbl1976 said...

I saw it last week, actually (I'm in Asia right now). My wife liked it more than the first movie and so did I. It was funny, didn't take itself too seriously and had tons of character-work. There was no weak link in the cast.

My only beef: while most of the gadget bits were cool -- for instance, that transparent-screen device he used to hack the senate video machine was at least 2 years ahead of mainstream tech now (take that, iPad!) -- there was this portion towards the last third of the film when Tony was doing his research and he was actually using this old-school PDA with a Stylus -- what is this? 1999??

It was odd seeing Tony, who:

a) is obviously at the very bleeding-edge of tech;
b) has a Surface-type PC in his rec room;
c) uses 3D-projected rendering;
d) built a mini particle-accelerator in his garage; and
e) has a talking computer with AI

...use a pen-based PDA. What the??!

Rich said...

Matt, surprised you didn't know that was Favreau. He's had a pretty good career as an actor. His most notable role, in my opinion, was in SWINGERS. Great '90s film about a group of friends that sorta kicked off the big band revival of the time. He was also Foggy Nelson in DAREDEVIL, for what it's worth.

Dickey said...

Rich - Props to ya on the Swingers love. Definitely one of my top ten. It's money, it knows it, and is the main reason I'll never be able to speak ill of Favreau and Vaughn.

Finally got around to catching the movie last night. Overall it was enjoyable, but I have a few quibbles with it. For one, someone really should have exercised a more judicious hand in the editing process. A good 15-20 minutes could have been shaved off the film and given it that tight, concise, and professional feel the first one had. As it stands there were multiple moments in the film where I was sitting and thinking, "Why did they bother with this?". Most notably the first ten minutes or so before the Senate hearing. Felt like they could have cut that down to a two minute set up and not started the flick off in a tone that clashed with the light, run and gun feel both films have overall. The other minor problems I had are just that, minor, so I'm not going to bother with them.

The saving grace was most certainly the strong performances from most of the cast. RDJ and Rockwell were standouts, especially RDJ as Stark the drunk. I just kept imagining him sipping a mixed drink anytime he had a bottle with dark liquid in it. And Nick Fury being portrayed as the typical Sam Jack character? I'm sold on it. The whole diner exchange far more enjoyable than I would have initially though it would be.

Matt Ampersand said...

I have seen Swingers, but I can't say I remembered Favreau being in it, or what he looked like. In my defense, I saw that movie years ago.

@jpbl1976: I could see using a PDA for mobile note-taking. It's faster than typing on a small keyboard (though Stark probably should have voice recognition software that types it for him).

Anonymous said...

If you guys can remember, who was the guy that Tony Stark was introduced to in the Monaco celebs scene before he met up with Justin Hammer? For some reason I thought the guys name had a Marvel-esque ring to it but I didn't hear his name too well and they rushed through the scene. Let me know if one of you remember that at all.

Ivan said...

Ryan: According to the leaked sinopsys (so take this with a grain of salt), there will be no Dr. Blake in "Thor".

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Ivan - I know the Thor flick is set in Asgard, but (and avoid if you don't like general spoilers about the character) I know that Odin banishes Thor to Midgard (Earth) in the form of Donald Blake because Thor has become to cocky. I assume this will happen, in some form, at the end of the movie. Thus, the segue to the Avengers flick will be laid.

Ivan said...

Yeah, I`ve read the same thing, except that Thor wouldn`t have a human alter-ego and he`d be found by a couple of astonomists who would guide him through the modern world.

I don`t care either way, I`m not a particular fan of the character.

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