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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Manly Enterprise Dept.: Demolition Derby AKA Iron Man 2

Yep, I saw the sequel this afternoon. The film had a respectably boffo opening weekend domestically and has grossed over $300 million worldwide since opening internationally a week ago.

If you enjoy Rock'm Sock'm Robots and Demolition Derbies, this is your movie. If you love seeing expensive things trashed, you'll feel right at home. If you love seeing lots of busty broads in skin-tight garb, you'll be 'sportin' wood' just watching this thing. If the word "ACTION" compels you to see a movie, you'll be racing to the theater.

However, if you were expecting anything better than a Marvel comic brought to live action, stay at home and watch Iron Man again. 

It is obvious that everyone worked very hard to bring top-notch, fun entertainment to the screen. But it is also obvious they failed.

What good can I say? Plenty, actually. The acting in this movie is exceptional for a superhero film. People know how to play off each other, the leads have chemistry. Everyone earned their pay checks handsomely.

The script is decent. The direction fine. The action incredibly intense. So why didn't I love it?  I'd like to think any superhero film is more than the amount of high tech gear and insane destruction that can be crammed into every scene.

This movie was built around an arms race for power between the characters, Tony Stark (the always irrepressible Robert Downey, Jr), Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell playing an absolutely convincing asshole) and Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James "Rhody" Rhodes. Every character in this movie is jockeying for position. And while they are, Tony Stark is also trying not to die from radiation poisoning---He's become a chlorophyll juicer. Yes, you read that right. This is based on a comic, remember---and not get killed by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke in a tightly-strung, yet still ham-fisted performance.) Stark, in his sickness, is completely out of control. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the movie.

But that doesn't mean it's all a finely wrought mechanism. Yes, the CGI is impressive. With a huge budget, just about any film would have terrific special effects these days. Iron Man 2 does something almost unheard of in blockbuster movies-- it is way too much of a good thing. It is like being assaulted with champagne. The fizzy fulfillment is crippling. You could easily get a headache watching this movie. Nary 5 minutes can pass without something in the over-the-top-and-then-some action category happening. I haven't felt so indifferent to mega-disaster in any other movie. I remember, once upon a time, being numbed by the ceaseless violence and death of Robo Cop. Subsequently, bloodbaths like another Paul Verhoeven film, Starship Troopers, didn't faze me. I could enjoy movies like John Woo's Face/Off.

Then, last year, after illness took me for a months-long hell ride, I found I couldn't sit through Zack Snider's Watchmen, because it was just too damned violent (Yea, I know. It was faithful to the original graphic novel in that respect.). I am, thankfully, way better now, but I am still not sufficiently desensitized to gratuitous displays of "action".  

Iron Man 2 has action in spades. The plot and characters are buried under it. And, frankly, I have had my fill of fast-cut editing, war-sized explosions, and entertainment defined as "more destruction for your buck". Maybe, it has to do with lower levels of growth hormone and testosterone with late middle age, I don't know. I just feel I'd have liked this movie a heck of a lot better if they had actually let the characters drive it instead of the mayhem, horror, and misery. 

Iron Man 2 is going to pull in a lot more money, I am sure. We all vote with our ticket purchases and we can expect that war-happy, video game violent, destruction derbies will continue to be on the top of Marvel's agenda from now on. Subtlety is lost on viewers who cannot recognizance nuance when it appears. Have no fear, neither of those attributes appear on screen during the 2 hours plus of this movie.

What does appear are lots of clues to what lies ahead in the franchise. All the important Iron Man-verse characters are put into play. You get Nick Fury, Black Widow, Whiplash and War Machine introduced. Plus, there is a little hint at the upcoming Avengers movie. Iron Man 2 is a giant ad for things to come. One can only hope that what lays down the pipeline has better delivery.  

If you like films that take no prisoners and leave you feeling like you've been repeatedly sucker punched, I urge you to go see it right away.

Despite all the negativity, I give it a solid B-.

One other note, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson frequently look like a lipstick lesbian tag team in this movie. 

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