Iron Man 2: Letdown
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
I fell in love with the first Iron Man movie because of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Watching Downey transform from cocky playboy to desperate prisoner to obsessed inventor... I just don't know how to describe it, he took my breath away. I guess I hadn't been paying enough attention to him previously. I had no idea he could do anything like that.
Iron Man 2, lacking the element of surprise, was going to have a harder time impressing me. And not to be a killjoy on the first Big! Summer! Movie!... but it didn't. I mean, it wasn't BAD. I have seen enough bad movies for this blog to know a bad movie, and this was not bad. But it didn't sing.
Here's the plot overview, sans spoliers as best I can: Tony Stark has been Iron Man for a while, and everything is swell with the "world peace" thing. Except now the U.S. Government wants the suit, Stark's former competitor in the arms trade wants to humiliate him, and there's a problem with the power cell in Stark's chest that he can't fix. Oh, and there's a brilliant Russian physicist who wants to kill him. Beyond that, it's pretty much held together with tape and "ooh shiny."
Parts of this film were excellent. Particularly appreciated were the Senate hearing where the military and Stark's rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) team up in trying to strong-arm the suit away from Stark, the first appearance of Russian physicist Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), and particularly the part of that scene where Stark dons the suit. Not the suit itself, but the emotions on Downey's face as he's suiting up. Damn, that guy is good.
Then there were about another 30 minutes total of really good stuff, and the rest was, um, quite competent. Many people in comments internet-wide seem to disagree and think it RULEZ, so your mileage may vary. I wouldn't say stay away. But I wouldn't fault you for waiting for the DVD either, and that was a little disappointing given how much the first one rocked me. I noticed plot holes. I noticed a slow dragging feeling in the middle of the film. I noticed how Nick Fury's eye patch looked like a big mess. I also found myself acutely aware that Sam Rockwell needed half as many lines. Shut UP already, dude.
So you can see it and decide how you feel about its entertainment value, but let's do the Heroine Content inventory, shall we?
I wasn't expecting too much more from Gymeth Paltrow as Pepper Potts than I got in the first movie, which is good, because she's even more annoying and useless here. I don't even care if a reasonable person in the same situation would be screaming, I am so tired of hearing that woman scream that I cannot tolerate it any longer. (Also, what the heck is the deal near the end where she's giving the police instructions on how to properly evacuate civilians? Being CEO makes her queen of logistics in emergency situations?) Now that I have read some of Matt Fraction's Iron Man, I am even more annoyed by this useless Pepper.
Oh, and it's good to see that slut-shaming is alive and well! Thanks, Pepper and Tony, for reminding us that when a man who sleeps around a LOT sleeps with a woman, he's an adorable cad and she's just a ho. In case we didn't get the memo from the first film.
I was expecting a little more from Scarlett Johansson as
Natalie / Natasha / Black Widow. Her 5.7 seconds of action were great, sure, though I'm not sure what the deal is with "I'm about to go into battle, so I must let my long hair down." Unfortunately, she spends the vast majority of the movie as eye candy. (Yes, I realize she needs to be close to Stark, and that she is a supporting character in a movie called Iron Man. I was just hoping that her actual awesomeness would not be confined to the latter quarter of the film.) My movie-going companion, who is far more familiar with her character in various comics, thought Johansson did well overall. He saw her as "cold" and calculating whereas to me she just seemed vacant.
Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury are both delightful. Two black men with speaking roles in one action movie, neither one of them are thugs or criminals, and neither one of them dies. Refreshing!
All in all, though, there's nothing stellar here for HC aficionados. If Pepper didn't suck and/or if Black Widow got to do more, perhaps I would have been more impressed, because both characters offer some good raw material - and supporting characters can be a key element of a strong Heroine Content contender. But all I can muster up is 2 stars.