Iron Man 2

Opening weekend for one of the most anticipated movies of the year is nearly over, and everything points to another success for Favreau, Downey and company. Official numbers aren’t fully in yet, but I don’t feel like waiting to write this any more so I’ll go by the numbers that are on BoxOfficeMojo at the moment.

Iron Man 2 cost $200 million dollars and it is an almost sure bet that the movie will go on to gross more than that domestically and much, much more than that internationally. Combined with the comic and toy sales push that goes along with a movie of this nature and the inevitable DVD, OnDemand and network paychecks that the future holds, calling Iron Man 2 a financial success is obvious.

As a comic book fan and armchair cinephile it is more important for me to ask the question of whether it was/is an artistic success as well. Just because a movie does well at the box office doesn’t mean it is a great movie. And great is a subjective term, along with words like good, satisfactory, better-than-bacon and so-godawful-I-threw-up-in-my-mouth. As such, I understand that what I think is completely subjective. If objectivity is what you’re looking for in a critic you have a lot of searching to do; the truly objective movie critic is a chupacabra.

As an artistic work, Iron Man 2 was successful but more marginally so than the first. Very little could have made the first installment a better introduction to the Iron Man mythology. This second chapter, while good, lost it’s way a little.

I like where the series is going and I’m excited by the work being put into the creation of the Marvel Universe. Thor, Ant-Man and Captain America all have the potential to be great movies and The Avengers could be the blockbuster of all blockbusters. It probably won’t be, but I think Marvel made the right bet when they decided to take the current course of action. They’ll definitely make their money back.

The current installment of Iron Man does its job in helping to build the mythology that’s needed to pull off a great Avengers movie. During the movie we’re even treated to direct visual confirmation of Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avengers Initiative. These clues didn’t take up too much time, didn’t get in the way of the story and confirmed that all of our fanboy (or fangirl…fanperson?…whatever) fantasies are on their way to fruition.

I liked the fact that Hogan, Favreau’s character, was given more screen time. When I had time to keep up with comics, I liked him as a supporting character. His presence helps the witty banter and early action sequences. I’ve heard complaints that the director shouldn’t give himself such a large role. I ignore those complaints. Directors shouldn’t give themselves such a large role if they can’t act. Jon Favreau can act.

I’m glad the lovely Black Widow has arrived in the on-screen Marvel Universe. Her arrival wasn’t a surprise and she’s an important character. I do think it could have been handled a little better, but I’ll explain what I mean after my spoiler alert. If I spoiled the fact that she’s even in the movie, well…. do your homework next time. By the end of opening weekend you should know which characters appear in the film.

Don Cheadle was a great replacement choice. He and Downey, Jr. have good chemistry. Sam Rockwell was fun and helped with the comedy.

Mickey Rourke is Mickey Rourke. Give casting a raise.

Most of the movie, I enjoyed. I only have three gripes, but being me they’re big ones. And that being said…

*****LET THERE BE SPOILERS*****

Gripe the First: The Black Widow‘s fight scene was garbage. Individual moves were shot wonderfully and the poses after each move were magazine worthy, but the overall flow of the scene was bad. I felt embarrassed watching it. It felt more like an episode of the Adam West Batman than it did a $200 million dollar franchise builder.

Gripe the Second: The final action sequence blew it’s load before it even started. By the time the two heroes square off with the long arm of the Rourke, the audience is expecting more than they get.

I work with an artist that had a similar problem. He reworked a fantastic song, but the rework didn’t work so well the first few times he performed it live. When the song was finished, I felt like there should have been more. He continued to work with it and now it gets the response it deserves. Unfortunately, movies don’t work the same way. I’m not sure that the final battle in this movie will ever give me proper closure. Since the movie was satisfying as a whole, I can live with that. But it sucks I have to.

Gripe the Third: My biggest gripe about the movie? Tony Stark hooked up with Pepper! I’m going to be called a purist prick by one of the three people that read this exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing that can loosely be described as a blog, but Pepper is supposed to marry Happy! Do we really need to kowtow to the Hollywood mindset that giving the lead the love interest is necessary?

The first two gripes were the fault of the production team. On this one the writers dropped the fucking ball. Both Pepper and Happy get enough screen time that their relationship could have developed that way. And throughout most of the Black Widow’s development we see heavy flirtation with Mr. Stark. When Tony kissed Pepper at the end, I felt both let-down and a little blind-sided. Guess that was my fault for not paying attention.

I do realize that Pepper was in a love triangle with Hogan and Stark. And from what I understand the more recent books have them as lovers. This comes after dozens of years of development, two marriages to Happy and the death of her husband. But we’re not going to get nearly the character development in a handful of movies that we can get in a decades long series of comics. Tony Stark is a millionaire playboy. Can’t we let him stay that way?

Maybe Iron Man 3 will make things better on this end. The Pepper Potts/Tony Stark love affair felt contrived. I overlooked a bit of shitty dialogue when it came to the scene in Monaco. Hopefully the writer of the third installment will craft a stronger story. The first installment was written by the guys who wrote another great movie. This one was written by a guy that helped write a comedy, and it showed.

Let Marvel know that I’m available.

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