Monday, May 17, 2010

This year's 2nd Robert Downey Jr. Movie

My initial response to “Iron Man 2” was “What a hoot!” This is a summer movie of a comic book, yet another installment of the growing Marvel franchise. Nothing was terribly awe inspiring (I am grateful it was not in 3-D), no one’s trying to make the viewers think let alone take action. This film’s objective is to make us chill out and enjoy it, and it succeeds.

Jon Favreau may not be in the full action mode he was in for Iron Man the first, but he tells a story cluttered with set-up reasonably well, directing briskly if not deeply. Can’t really speak well of Justin Theroux’s screenplay for this, but one gets the feeling there were too many cooks tossing salt into this pot. Favreau also shows up several times as Happy, Stark’s chauffeur and who knows what else. Perhaps too many times.

Robert Downey, Jr., is a courageous actor, playing Tony Stark accurately as an arrogant ass, with impeccable timing, and total focus. His Tony Stark has some comeuppance due and gets it, but not enough to presage the end of the world nor to humble him in the slightest. I love watching Downey work no matter the material, so whenever he’s on screen, I’m there with him.

In addition to Downey, IM2 gives us two villains: Mickey Rourke -- with his incomprehensible Russian and no more comprehensible English – as the emotional primary villain; and the delightful Sam Rockwell as the more comprehensible, standard business rival, fast-talking slimy villain. Rockwell doesn’t do much different here than he did in Galaxy Quest back in 1999 or on Broadway this year in “A Behanding in Spokane,” but he sure does it well. My favorite of his moments was at the Grand Prixe, when Rourke’s villain is trouncing Tony Stark, Rockwell’s eyes light up and a smile jerks up the corner of his mouth. Delightful.

And then there’s Queens. Once again, just as Flushing Meadow Park made a guest appearance in Men In Black (“why else would they hold it –that is, the 1964 Worlds Fair -- in Queens” indeed), in Iron Man 2 Flushing Meadow Park is dressed up as the Stark Expo back in the 1970s and bedecked and bedazzled again in the present. As a Queens girl, I just get a kick out of that. We can also enjoy an appearance by Mad Men’s John Slattery as Tony’s long dead father, Walter Stark.

I believe reading the star-studded cast list should tell you this is just for laughs – Downey, Rourke, Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow as ‘Pepper,’ the good girl Stark can’t live without; Scarlett Johanssen as the girl we can’t quite figure; Garry Shandling as an obnoxious Senator; Don Cheadle as the steadfast loyal and true best friend Colonel “Rhodey” (played in the first film by Terrence Howard); Samuel L. Jackson relaxing into his Nick Fury role for the continuing franchise; and Clark Gregg returning as Agent Coulson (quite fun and yes, you must watch all the ending credits to get to the teaser at the end); not to mention guest appearances as themselves by Stan Lee, Bill O’Reilly, and Christiane Amanpour.

I am happily unfamiliar enough with the story’s history in the comics so that combinations of characters did not bother me – this may bother purists. Really the storyline was a bit thin, but for me, it was a brisk comic book movie, invigoratingly good fun that inspired me to go home and watch my DVD of the first film. If you’re looking for depth, topicality, or importance, pick another movie. For a bit of tomfoolery? Iron Man 2 does the trick.

Mind you, if you want to read a review of the film from someone who is extremely familiar with Iron Man’s history, every single character over decades, and probably any alternative histories, in fact any Marvel comic character, storyline, universe, etc., read Horvendile’s blog here:

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer but not the light. I have a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comic to read.

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