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  1.  (8367.1)


    http://andrenavarro.wordpress.com/

    The first IRON MAN was a welcome surprise. I hardly expected it to be such the entertaining, funny and fairly smart action flick it was, and casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark turned out to be a good idea, since the billionaire scientist fit the actor's style. Not that this is necessarily a good thing for Downey Jr., whose tendency to talk really fast and act as irreverently as possible is becoming more than a mere trademark, and an actor of his caliber shouldn't be limited to a single type of character.

    Regardless, his Tony Stark continues to be a pleasure to watch, even if screenwriter Justin Theroux decided to include a retarded subplot in which the man is being slowly poisoned by the palladium on his chest piece, something he seems to consider a low-priority nuisance, not as important as driving racing cars or aiming to fuck anything that moves. The overall story is that Stark is refusing to hand his Iron Man suit over to the American Government (which phrases their request as "to the American People", of course). In the process of doing this, Stark further antagonizes his main rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), another rich guy in the same business as him. To make things worse, there's Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian scientist who wants to bring down Stark for the sins of Howard Hug -- Howard STARK, his father. In order to do this, Vanko builds his own high-tech suit, consisting of two electrical whips.

    When focusing on Hammer and Vanko, Theroux's script is competent. Hammer is at the same time a dangerous and sharp businessman and a hopeless imbecile, and Rockwell is clearly having loads of fun playing him, and does it well, because he's Sam fucking Rockwell. He achieves the balance between convincing the audience Hammer is just stupid enough to act like he does, but smart enough to pose an actual threat. Mickey Rourke, meanwhile -- do I even have to say it? It's Mickey Rourke. I thought I was being redundant when I said Sam Rockwell does a great job in this movie, but Mickey Rourke as a Russian scientist who wields a pair of electrical whips? Take a fucking guess.

    Theroux's script is equally successful when it comes to comedy, which is not a surprise considering he was one of the screenwriters in TROPIC THUNDER. Most of the humorous moments in the film hit the mark ("Hammer tech?"), but Theroux does go overboard with the scene where a drunk Iron Man fights War Machine for the first time, which seems to be the only mildly relevant scene that directly derives from the "Stark is dying of blood poisoning" subplot -- it's the reason he's drunk. But c'mon: couldn't there be another reason he gets drunk? Such as, he's Tony fucking Stark? A character famous for ingesting enough alcohol to knock out an Irishman? Fortunately, Jon Favreau directs the shit out of that scene, as he does the entire film, but more on that later.

    The dying subplot is staggeringly stupid. I love how Stark constantly looks at a device that tells him the percentage of palladium in his blood -- apparently he took the time to have the device built but didn't follow up with trying to find a cure -- and at a certain point the blood poisoning reaches about 70% and Stark can still somehow breathe, let alone put on a suit and kick some ass. (Plot spoilers -- skip to next paragraph if that's a problem) To make things worse, the subplot is solved with another even stupider subplot involving Stark's dad, who apparently predicted his son would one day be suffering from palladium-poisoning and made sure to leave clues regarding a magical plot-solving chemical element. Which Stark logically synthesizes, by himself, in his office. I can accept this motherfucker building the first Iron Man suit out of junk to escape captivity, but c'mon.

    However, Theroux deserves credit for setting up genuinely good setpieces in a way that doesn't feel forced, and the climax of the movie truly feels like a climax, also thanks to Jon Favreau, a hugely talented director. With a good eye for composition and camera movements, he's especially gifted at humor and especially especially at action scenes, always avoiding shaky cameras and going for clarity and coherency. He also knows how to make an audience collectively come from sheer awesomeness (or maybe that was just me), such as in the scene where Iron Man flies down from the clouds, amidst fireworks, to the sound of AC/DC's "Shoot To Thrill". But far from being a mindless action director, Favreau also manages to make some of the script's stupider moments more believable, such as the aforementioned first fight between Iron Man and War Machine. Technically, the film is impeccable, you'll be surprised to hear: great special effects, excellent sound effects and competent cinematography.

    Favreau also brings together a good supporting cast. Scarlett Johansson turned out to be a good choice for Black Widow, at least until Black Widow is further developed in other Marvel movies, since she barely has any depth to her on this one. But for a first appearance, I'm perfectly fine with Johansson performing amazing coreographies while wearing a ridiculously tight leather suit. Favreau himself, as Tony's right-hand man Happy, is funny and efficient, and Gwyneth Paltrow manages to play Pepper in a way that is endearing instead of annoying, even though she spends most of the film pissed off at Stark. Don Cheadle does a better job as James Rhodes than Terrence Howard did in the first film, and watching Sam L. Jackson playing Nick Fury is like watching a Bryan Hitch drawing come to life. It's so good to see Jackson playing a real character instead of that pussy jedi in the STAR WARS prequels.

    As an action film, it's fun as hell, but it's dumber than its predecessor. The first IRON MAN had a lighter tone, however its plot still had several (relevant) conflicts to remain interesting, while IRON MAN 2 retains the humor but goes for subplots that ultimately lead nowhere story-wise, serving only to increase the running time. The subplots that truly matter are the ones involving Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko. Fuck Stark's daddy crisis -- the character doesn't need to be yet another protagonist with parental issues. Stark is an alcoholic womanizer. You want a subplot, go with that. He doesn't need to be dying to get drunk.
  2.  (8367.2)
    [Contains spoilers about the Lame Subplot]

    I was somewhat pissed off by the daddy subplot. Especially since Tony immediately got over his dad issues after his dad mentioned loving him. It didn't seem realistic, at least coming from a person who has her own issues with a distant parent, that after years of apparently thinking his dad hated his guts, that he would so quickly go to 'well everythings fine now lalala'. Tony's reaction was too little, imho. He was set up as having parent issues in the first movie, and in the second, and something like that doesn't go away with a word.

    The daddy crisis could have been handled better; perhaps by nixing the poisoning part of the subplot and simply coming to a slow understanding that his dad actually did care even if he wasn't there all the time. There's a variety of ways it could be handled.
  3.  (8367.3)
    Spoiler
    Maybe it's just me but I thought Iron Man building a makeshift particle accelerator was awesome.
  4.  (8367.4)
    @Agentarsenic
    -that was awesome.
    I thought it was a build-your-own LHC. :)