I'm not sure what the point of Iron
Man 2 is in the same way I don't understand teenagers. Both
make a shitload of noise without having much to say. Both are
very proud of how loudly and insistently they can say nothing.
The makers of Iron Man 2 don't seem to have a point either,
other than giving a safe have for Gwyneth Paltrow to demonstrate
how fucking dull she is.
In the original Iron
Man, Robert Downey, Jr. played a self-absorbed asshole military-supply-company
owner who builds himself a steel supersuit so he can fly around
and blow shit up. In Iron Man 2, Downey, Jr. is still
a self-absorbed asshole, but now he has perfected his suit,
and continues to fly around and blow shit up. There are a ton
of subplots, none of which are rewarding or well integrated.
I bet the grassfuckers put so many of them in there because
they knew none of them added up to a cube of frozen piss. It's
sort of like when you're a kid trading baseball cards with a
jerk: he thinks volume makes up for quality when all can offer
are shitty, worthless cards. With this movie, director Jon Favreau
is saying, "I'll give you a hundred Ozzie Cansecos for your
Tony Gwynn rookie."
The central plot
of Iron Man 2 is about, as all superhero sequels are,
a jealous arch-nemesis. In this case, it's Mickey Rourke, doing
a fine job of reminding us why Hollywood had left him for dead.
Rourke gives a rough approximation of a taciturn Russian physicist,
covered in tattoos, far more beefy and greasy than the average
egghead. His vaguely described motivation is something about
his dead father believing Downey Jr.'s father stole his invention.
That's a pretty fucking weird motivation. If I had to avenge
every perceived slight of my father I'd have already cut the
nuts off a dozen boys who threw newspapers into the bushes,
scalped five or six postmen who delivered the mail late in the
day and at beat at least one grocery clerk with a tire iron
because he bagged the bananas roughly.
Iron Man 2
spends moment trying to explain what really happened between
the two men's fathers but never presents it reliably or definitively,
so it isn't resolved. The upshot, though, is that a bitter Rourke
builds his own supersuit, this time with whips made of high
voltage that he uses to slash cars and people in half. He first
tries to kill Downey, Jr. at a Monaco Grand Prix but fails.
That only makes him madder, of course, and his Russian accent
increasingly inscrutable. I fucking hate movies where every
line out of a character's mouth is so heavily fake-accented
that some other character has to repeat it for the sake of the
audience. It feels stagey and a waste of screen time.
Beyond Rourke's Russian,
Scarlett Johannson has a role as a personal assistant who is
really a super-secret, ass-kicking spy. In Iron Man 2,
this role amounts to almost nothing, and that pisses me off.
Of all the actresses to waste, why Johannson? Fuck, she's both
hot and talented. You should use at least one of those attributes.
Her ass-kicking ability is pretty fucking improbable and sadly
underutilized. Meanwhile, Paltrow, the human scarecrow with
the brittle straw hair, gets a crapload of screentime yelping
variations of "Caw! Caw!" Downey, Jr. is secretly dying and
hands his company's control over to her. She goes from executive
assistant to CEO, and I think we're supposed to perceive her
as tough and sharp. Really, though, she's just grim, brisk ad
as dull as Seen-on-TV steak knives.
Downey, Jr.'s Iron
Man suit is slowly killing him. I have read stories about this
in the newspaper before. Recently, a man in Arizona died of
auto-asphyxiation while wearing nothing but a Power Ranger mask
and some Bakugan Underoos. Iron Man 2 romanticizes its
superhero-related death a bit more than that, something about
the power core Downey, Jr. uses poisoning his blood, and if
he can't find a suitable replacement he will die.
His dying means Iron
Man 2 can add a subplot about finding a suitable power replacement
to the growing list. And it's another subplot that is easily
resolved, but takes up time and is boring. It also means the
movie expects us to give a shit about whether a fabulously wealthy,
narcissistic asshole who fancies himself the Oscar Wilde of
heteros lives or dies. I sure as fuck didn't.
There are other subplots
to lard up Iron Man 2. One is about Sam Rockwell--the
poor man's Greg Kinnear--as an even smugger industrial military
competitor who wants to steal the supersuit, or build his own.
The movie can't exactly decide so it chooses both. Rockwell
hires Rourke to build a suit for him at the same time he gets
his hands on a real one and gums it up with all sorts of weaponry.
Late in the action, the movie makes a powerfully feeble attempt
to reconcile these two tracks. Don Cheadle replaces Terence
Howardas the series' token black person. Only, where Howard
seemed relatively independent and smart in the original, they
have written Cheadle as rubbery and compliant as tub caulk.
He's supposed to be smart but makes decisions the audience can
see as idiotic from a mile away. He does them without moral
pang and even less contemplation.
Toward the end of
the movie, Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance and I kept
hoping he'd yell "Where's. My. Supersuit!" He doesn't. Instead,
he introduces another subplot late in the game that adds no
value other than to set up another sequel and a shitload of
other Marvel comics spinoffs. Fuck, McDonald's commercials for
Happy Meals are more subtle in what they're pimping.
Iron Man 2
is a grueling two-hour-plus movie with big action up front and
a half-hour climax that is perfunctory and predictable. The
middle, though, is where it sucks most, and sucks hardest. Almost
nothing happens for that hour except a lot of people looking
concerned or arguing. Very little action, very little humor.
Just a death march to the big showdown. This is where most of
the subplots play out, but nobody tells us why they are necessary
or how they make the last half hour any good.
Because the last
half hour isn't. Downey, Jr. and Rourke finally fight. A lot
of shit blows up. Lots of robots get chopped up, and much more
easily than we are led to expect. It's louder than a death metal
show. It has more fireworks than Fourth of July at a self-loathing
Texan's. It also offers nothing new or exciting. Actually, when
you get right down to the Rourke-Downey, Jr. fight, it's pretty
lame. Rourke's high-voltage whips get short shrift. There is
very little hand-to-hand battle. And, we keep getting drawn
away to let Favreau make a weak stab at wrapping up all the
other squishy subplots.
Iron Man 2
looks expensive as fuck. And I mean fuck with a billion-dollar
prostitute. It's just too bad they went ahead and spent all
that money without any idea of what to do with it. Two Fingers.
to tell Filthy Something?