Iron Man 2

The clumsy clanking sound you can hear is me trying to doff my massive metal hat to Iron Man 2. Thank you, Iron Man 2, for not being a gonad-grinding engine of tedium or a lazy, dispiriting attempt at cynicism. Thank you for taking time to establish character and plot and not just piling special effect upon special effect like layers of ham in a not very good vegetarian sandwich.

(God, I hate that shock and awe, blitzkrieg approach to film-making where whammy follows whammy follows whammy in the hope that, bludgeoned into semi-consciousness, we’ll mistake the spectacle of money being spent for that of fun being had.)

Thank you, in fact Iron Man 2, for being fun. For having a bit of a laugh. For treating me like a grown-up who’s in the mood for a bit of well-executed tosh. Thank you , thank you, thank you.

It’s staggering that I feel I have to say this but flipping heck Tucker, it’s been a pretty shabby year for movies so far hasn’t it? Or am I just missing the good uns in my slightly dopey concussed-by-love way?

Last year at the cinema I saw (amongst many others) Frost/Nixon, Waltz With Bashir, Anvil, The Wrestler, Watchmen, Time Crimes, Not Quite Hollywood, The Damned United, Il Divo, Let the Right One In, In The Loop, Star Trek, sleep furiously, Frozen River, Antichrist, Inglourious Basterds, Mesrine 1&2, Army of Crime, Up, Sin Nombre, The Informant! and A Serious Man. That’s a diverse bundle of entertainment right there.

This year so far it’s been Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, Precious, Kick-Ass and now Iron Man 2. With the exception of Iron Man 2 where’s all the good stuff? Not in the immediate future if tonight’s trailers are anything to go by. A dance movie in 3-D, a Toy Story sequel which looks like it might be a Pixar too far and Prince of Persia, a pompous-looking video game adaptation from (ominously) the people who brought us the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

I mean I liked the first Pirates film. It was a bit saggy maybe, but its heart was in the right place. Part Two was baffling, and Part Three could barely move under the weight of everyone’s expectations. Every single micro-particle of joy was removed from Pirates Three to make room for previously neglected pirate stereotypes and blunderbuss-clumsy merchandising opportunities. Also it was infinity minutes long, which is frankly too long for a film.

So I can’t see anything mind-blowing coming, and the stuff that’s been and gone has looked a bit Tesco-value-brand, credit-crunchy, oh-fuck-here-comes-austerity kind of underwhelming.

Avatar had the minerals at least to say that it was good. I happened to disagree, and continue to do so. A few months down the line how are its proponents doing? Still of the opinion that it’s a cinematic game-changer whose technical innovation will dwarf the changes brought about by, say, the talkies or colour film? Thought not.

Similarly Kick-Ass surfed in on a wave of publicity stating that it was going to be my new favourite movie. It isn’t. The Maltese Falcon, 2001 and Jaws are still scrapping for that title.

Kick-Ass was a lot of fun, and derived good value from the canny deployment of its resources. Mostly what it did though was remind me how much I’d enjoyed Watchmen and sent me off in search of the three hour Blu-ray of that film instead. There was just something a bit glib and juvenile about Kick-Ass which stopped me loving it unreservedly.

Precious is a fine and seriously intentioned work which merits all the praise presented to it. Sherlock Holmes was rambunctious fun but I wonder how many times I’ll go back to it?

What was evident from Sherlock Holmes and also Iron Man 2 is how captivating a leading man Robert Downey Jr, is. It can almost be to a film’s detriment to have him as a star. The gravitative forces that draw all attention towards him can be a bit destabilizing. It takes an actor of unusual talent to provide balance (sorry Jude Law, not you). The best example I can think of in recent years is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wherein Val Kilmer’s scathing, hilarious private eye provides a perfect counterweight to Downey Jr.’s fast-talking, almost ticcy, out-of-his-depth criminal.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an extraordinary film. I always feel it’s a bit of a neglected classic: lean, noirish, smart, funny and surprising. I must watch it again.

No instability problems in Iron Man 2 I’m happy to say. Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark as a charismatic techno-messiah afflicted with illness has shades of Steve Jobs about it, and it is a great showcase for the actor’s sarcastic wit and apparently limitless charisma. His villain this time around though is the equally immense Mickey Rourke, a long way away now from his eighties pretty boy prime, but acting like some kind of demi-god in the aftermath of The Wrestler.

The plot is not terribly convoluted, but allows a little ethical complexity to creep in as questions are asked about national defence versus free enterprise as the government attempts to assert its assumed right to take the Iron Man weapon (as they see it) from its creator.

It’s difficult with this kind of movie to avoid a climax which is just two special effects fighting each other, but director (and co-star) Jon Favreau earns his salt here.  In a similar vein he has managed to retain the spryness and spikiness which made the first film such a pleasant surprise.

I wouldn’t have a problem with a third one if the ensemble can stay ensembled.

2 comments on “Iron Man 2

  1. What? No love, or even a mention of, the “brilliant” (see your last post) Shutter Island? How soon we forget. I don’t. Gave me nightmares that one. Maybe I ain’t been watching enough Cold War noir parables.
    And let me shout out some encouragement for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which after a slow start managed to keep the subtitle phobic missus enthralled) and A Prophet (great central performance, but to be honest, not as good as Mesrine). But then again the last movie I saw was Furry Vengence (not my choice) so after that even the lesser works of Michael Winner look like Kurosawa.
    As for up-coming movies, with the imminent wave of maverick paramilitary team flicks, what say we break into Vue, swap round the reels from The Losers, The A Team and The Expendables and see if anyone notices?

  2. I know the horizon of 2010 films looks bleak, so here’s some more movie fodder in the Iron Man ilk to get your taste buds going:

    May 2011 – Thor (who they found at the end of Iron Man 2, tell me you stayed till after the credits finished?)

    July 2011 – Captain America: The First Avenger

    2012 – Iron Man 3 (In very early development)

    May 2012 – The Avengers (with all the gang on board, Tony Stark, Scarlett “Black Widow” Johansson, Sam L Jackson, Thor, Captain America, and hopefully Edward Norton as Bruce Banner)

    Can you tell I’m excited? Such an understatement. I wasn’t this giddy before Dark Knight!

    And as for Mickey Rourke…what a fine one he turned out to be! I’ve been a fan of the revived Mickey Rourke since Spun.

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