Tuesday, May 11, 2010

heavy mettle 2

and here it is - the most anticipated movie since Samuel Jackson showed up in the end credits of the first film, and the opening shot for a great summer of movies. Robert Downey Jr reprises the title role as hotshot billionaire Tony Stark, whose skyrocketing ego made him reveal to the world that he was Iron Man, and is now being badgered by the US government to turn the armor over to them. even worse, other enemies have crawled out of the woodwork, notably Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, with a reworking of the Mark-Scarlotti-Am-I-Whiplash-Or-Am-I-Blacklash character), son of the co-designer of the arc reactor, the only thing keeping Tony Stark alive and energy source of the Iron Man armor. the trouble is, continued use of the suit (due to palladium in the reactor) is slowly killing Stark, a nod more to the nerve damage storyline rather than Demon in a Bottle. and to make things worse, competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell playing him like a second skin) just opened his bank account to Vanko, in his bid to one-up Stark and swipe his military contracts.

this sequel builds on the 2008 hit and can now go crazy. upping the ante with more armored suits? check. more babes than you thought? check (Leslie Bibb, Olivia Munn, Kate Mara and of course, Scarlet Johansson). roll out some supervillains? check. but they try to keep it real, no Mandarin or Ultimo (yet). i was actually terrified for an injured Stark with Vanko wielding those whips bearing down on him. Stark one-upping emo Peter Parker in a party/dancefloor? check. wait - what? yes, and i thought it was that stupid Burger King commercial. i can suspend my disbelief with everything else - but not Iron Man dancing to DJ AM's spinnings (R.I.P.) and shooting bottles out of the air with his repulsor rays (wait, they're not really repulsor rays - because repulsor rays just push things, not break things, or am i reading into this too much?).

transparent to the regular moviegoer who doesn't know anything about comics, is Marvel's concerted effort to build the Avengers movie by putting characters into play. Jackson signed on for a 9-film appearance as Nick Fury, head of America's supersecret spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and he's inserted the Black Widow in Stark Industries to review Stark's viability as part of the Avengers group. Johansson somewhat veers into salad dressing territory, with few speaking lines and one action sequence, and this is a problem with ensemble films. it will be a problem for the Avengers as the cast of major characters keep growing unless they decide to greenlight a three-hour LOTR-type spectacular, with the Hollywood bean counters fingering their worry beads from production to summer opening. going back to the regular joes, those same type of customers probably didn't stay for the Mjolnir appearance, and now you have an issue trying to sell the whole idea of "Thor".

director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Theroux puts in the nice touches for the hardcore fans (Howard Stark's influence, Pepper's finally-requited affection, J.A.R.V.I.S. - really? was Michael Caine too much of a character already? - and the friendship with Rhodey) and kept the action ball rolling for non-fans. it may not break The Dark Knight's box office receipts, but is a worthy sequel and should be a big blockbuster on its own right.

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