Friday, May 7, 2010

POPped Review: Iron Man 2


Two years ago a movie called Iron Man came out and over one weekend became a sensation, re-launched the career of Robert Downey Jr. and helped solidify Jon Favreau as an A-list director.  It was a movie that fan boys couldn't wait for and others discovered the character for the first time.  Just as with any blockbuster nowadays, the public (and studio) demanded a sequel.  But with a demanded sequel there is the chance of screwing up  what made it so successful (I'm looking at you Pirates of the Caribbean).  Well people.. thankfully this did not happen with Iron Man 2.  On my movie meter the first Iron Man was a 10.  Iron Man 2 takes it to 11.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Iron Man 2 opens with Tony Stark's press conference from the end of the first movie.  However it is being watched by two people somewhere in Russia, and one of them is dying.  The dying man is Anton Vanko, and his son Ivan (played by Mickey Rourke) is none to happy that his dad is dead.  While watching the press conference Anton tells him that it should have been him (getting all the accolades).  It turns out that Anton used to work for Stark Industries and was part of the team that designed and built the original Arc Reactor.  So Ivan sets out for revenge against the son of the man he feels killed many of his people.  

And while he does this, Tony is living the life many dudes would love to have.  He's a superhero, he's rich and everyone loves him.  Almost everyone that is.  The U.S. Government wants Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit and believes that he is the real threat against the country.  Of course he will do no such thing because he has other things he has to take care of.  This includes putting together Stark Expo (which was a tradition started by he dad long ago) and heading to Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix.  It's at Stark Expo early in the movie that we discover another secret of Tony's.  The suit is killing him.  The materials he is putting in his body are toxic and using the Iron Man suit is speeding the toxicity up.  This is also where we see his father (via film) for the first time.  In a brilliant homage to Walt Disney, Howard Stark played by John Slattery of Mad Men, we see him in old footage talking about Stark Expo.  This is reminiscent of Walt introducing EPCOT to the ABC audience.  So much so that the Stark Expo theme was written by Richard Sherman (Look him up kiddies..) and sounds an awful lot like songs from a certain theme park.

Stark and company head off to Monaco where the world is introduced to Ivan, now seen as Whiplash.  In a great sequence Ivan destroys the race and goes toe to toe with Iron Man.  This destruction gives Tony a wake up call, along with others who have been looking to destroy him personally.  This includes the government and his professional competition Justin Hammer, played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell.  This leads Hammer to recruit Ivan to help him design his own suits to crush Stark at his own arms race.  But the biggest person Tony is fighting is himself.  As cliche as it sounds, Tony's life is getting dark and he doesn't see a way out.  The only bright spots for him are the people in his life, but even then he doesn't know how to tell them what's wrong.  He has even promoted Pepper Potts and hires new secretary Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), who also has a secret.

After being confronted by his best friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) at his own birthday party, Tony is left with no one and seemingly nothing.  But that's okay because it's time for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to arrive.  He fills Tony in on some family history and provides him with the tools to not only heal himself, but to create something that his dad was trying so hard to do but was limited with the technology of his day.  This leads to a great moment of not only scientific, but self discovery.  Jon captures the moment, and RDJ portrays it, as a historic moment.  It's like looking into the eyes of the first person to discover fire, or Einstein discovering the E=MC2.

All of this leads to the final face off between Iron Man and Hammer's new suits, along with Whiplash.  Luckily he now has Rodey, now War Machine, on his side.  He also has the killer genius of Black Widow (ScarJo in a great sequence that every nerd cheered for) back at Hammer's facility helping him out.  What happens over the next minutes tops the action of the first Iron Man and delivers on every level.

Jon Favreau has given fanboys a reason to be proud.  He shows a respect for the characters that allows them to feel organic in the real world, but with just enough technology to make us realize that it's not the real world.  It's a universe that we've only read about.  But he doesn't let the technology take over the movie.  Every item here plays a part in who these people are.  And he also lets us know that he realizes how much of this will tie in to the upcoming Avengers movie.  JF has laid the ground work on the universe in his movies, and keeps giving us nods to that.  (Major spoilers ahead)  This includes a prominent appearance of Captain America's shield and...well, just stay through the credits to see the next weapon.  But if you're not a fanboy, you'll be lost with this tag scene.  Just be sure to have a nerd ready to explain how unbelievably awesome that scene is.

Iron Man 2 is a great start to the summer movie season.  Not only is it a lot of fun, but it is a great movie.  What could have turned into a movie about an alcoholic just wanting it all to end, is really a movie about someone realizing their place in history.  Tony Stark's place in the Marvel Universe is one where others truly do depend on his leadership and his intellect.  This is why Nick Fury is trying to recruit him to The Avenger's, but needs him to know who he is first.  He is Iron Man, and he is now more bad ass then ever.

POPped by Jungle Jesse         

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