The arrogance of this sort of revelation is played up to the Nth degree in the first sequel in this planned series, simply called Iron Man 2. The difference is that this no longer feels like quite the Comic Book shredding that it did before the last film's credits. In fact, under returning director Jon Favreau and new scripter Justin Theroux it seems like a well-imagined plan, even if it didn't come directly from the comic books.
Before I go on... yeah, I have read all of the comics this film is based on from the first time Jim Rhodes slapped on Tony's gold and red tuxedo during one of the latter's drunken fits all the way through the Armor Wars and well before and well after. Hell, I probably bought most of the First Run, dammit. Yeah, I'm a nerd, yeah, let's just deal with it! Moving on. It is a credit to Favreau and Theroux, or at least to the fact that this film was produced by Marvel Enterprises that such Marvel Comics greats as John Byrne, Joe Quesada, John Romita, Sr. and John Romita, Jr. are listed in the Thanks section of the credits (though, admittedly, some names are missing). Also, yes, of course, Stan Lee does appear in his now standard cameo (this time as, ha ha ha, Larry King).
What was I saying about... arrogance? Well, Tony Stark (played, again, by Robert Downey, Jr.) is all about the flash that goes with being a billionaire superhero. Like the ANTI-Bruce Wayne, Stark flaunts his wealth and his heroism, flying into conventions in full alloyed regalia, only to have the suit dramatically pulled off so that he can dance around with super-hot showgirls and claim to have successfully privatized world peace. Yeah. The man is Subtle, isn't he?
Tony is proud, self-righteous, boastful and incredibly hedonistic in the most public of ways. It's safe to say his playboy lifestyle and his public image as a war-deterrent has gotten to his head... and to that of the United States Congress, as represented largely by Garry Shandling. They want the armor under their control. He wants the opportunity to rub the good Senator's nose in the codpiece of that very armor. It's all his secretary-cum-CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) can do to save Tony (and his company) from himself.
To be fair, Tony's got his reasons to be depressed, despondent, lonely and scared. It seems that the very thing that has done the best thing in the world for him, namely, the power source in his chest that keeps him alive, is slowly killing him. It's poison to him and taints his blood. Does that suck? Safe to say! Trust me, I get it. But that doesn't stop everyone else from wanting a piece of him. Most notably, to begin with, is Ivan Vanko (a combination of the comics' "Whiplash" and "Crimson Dynamo", here played by Mickey Rourke). He's a pissed-off Russian dude with a serious mad-on for the Stark Family that goes back at least a generation... to when Vanko's dad helped Tony's dad (seen in "archival" footage played by John Slattery) build early versions of the power-core Tony has based his technology on. Soon you've got an electrified Ivan whipping up the road and aiming to spank Tony Stark's Iron Ass six-ways from BUM-day!
Soon Tony doesn't know which metallic end is up as just about everyone else comes gunning for him, from business rivals like Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to the very US Military... including Major Allen (Tim Guinee) and Tony's own best buddy Rhodey (now played by Don Cheadle)! Can Tony even trust the new people in his life like the incredibly hot new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), or might even SHE be some kind of... Black Widow?
And what about smilin' Nick Fury (Sam Jackson), Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D? Surely he's still trying to get a slice of Tony Pie, with the help of returning dick Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg)! Can Tony even trust Favreu's own Happy Hogan or his trusty computerized sidekick Jarvis (Paul Bettany)? Can I possibly pack any more over-explanation into one stupid REVIEW?
Well, that, my friends, is part of the downfall of the overall good-quality Iron Man 2... yeah, there's a plot in there somewhere, but it's over-packed at every seam and wrought with big holes you could fly an Iron Monger through! Every time a massive leap is made, Favreau and Theroux distract us with a witty joke or a bombastic explosion that keep us glued to that POPCORN Summer Movie Vibe. As a Critic, sure, that's a complaint. As a guy who wanted to be entertained on Opening Weekend, I could (almost) care less! Oh, it's fun... in fact, it's almost ARTISTIC how beautifully the creative team manages to cover up the lack of textual artistry with special effects, humor and nonstop action! It's entertainment with good actors (even at it's craziest they're believable), a fun story and plenty of payoff... even if you're better served shutting your brain down for a lot of the film!
But when the Action is done right, it's REALLY done right. A climactic scene featuring Iron Man and his new/ old buddy War Machine back-to-back hurling repulsors, bullets, unibeams and missiles at a whole gaggle of military drones with similar capabilities is worth every spent cent of your Superhero Battle Viewing Bucks! This goes triple for scenes of Scarlett Johansson running around in skin-tight leather beating the hell out of armed security, hallway after hallway. And most every distracting scene is accompanied by the music of rock band AC/DC, adding really big guitars to the ass-kicking... provided said ass-kicking is kept squarely in the PG-13 realm!
Yeah, it's jam-packed with excitement and fun (though it doesn't always work intelligently to connect points A, B, C and Z). Plus, as part of the over-arching Marvel Comics Movie plans, we do get a few hints at future adaptations like Captain America and The Mighty Thor! Trust me, stay through the credits, folks. It's all leading up (as did 2008's Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk) to the upcoming film where The Avengers Assemble! Where it all goes from there... Who knows? Could be Marvelous.
Though far from "perfect", Iron Man 2 knows how to throw a good party. It's chilling when it needs to be, sexy when it needs to be and explosively fun at the right times. The film and its makers seem to know just where the flaws are and where to apply the CGI, comic relief and sexiness in order duct-tape the plot holes and keep the viewer well enthralled with its opiates. Somehow this balances out to somewhere in the Expo of Three and One Half Stars out of Five! The nonstop Product Placement almost dropped this one down a star or two, but I figured I'd just have a Dr. Pepper (with Extra Ice) and a SMILE, chillax and shut UP! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a PARTY this weekend to plan for. I'm not sure what I'm going to wear yet, but I'm thinking it's time for something explosive and crowd-pleasing. Let me call up my buddy Tony for some pointers... I hear his last party knocked everyone into the middle of the Next Reel. See you there, True Believers!
Distract yourself NOW from your own Plot Holes!
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