Iron Man 2
On paper there was a lot that could go wrong, and so I was feeling rather cautious and reserved when I sat down to watch the screening of Iron Man 2.
Mind you I wasn't just watching any old screening, it was the ex-première, the ash hit event that had now become a gala showing taking over an entire Vue cinema for the evening, thanks to film loving Sky Movies HD.
Mind you, there's also the fact that they put on these screenings, especially when the première was cancelled. So well done them.
Now the thanks are done, shall we get to the reason you're reading this? Iron Man 2.
Tony Stark has outed himself to the world as Iron Man, and countries around the world are desperately trying to recreate his technology. While he uses the suit for the purposes of good and peace keeping, governments want the weapon to be used as something more. That includes the American government.
He's called to appear in front of a Senate hearing where he's clearly being stitched up to hand over the suit. Even his friend James Rhodes is being pulled in and manipulated to testify against Tony in order to get the suit in the hands of the American military.
Justin Hammer, a private weapons manufacturer for the government, is keen to get his hands on the technology too, and he has been trying to build his own suits, to no great success, but he has an overwhelming desire to beat Stark at his own game and become the publicly revered figure that Stark now is. Not only that but he has a military contract lined up that could keep him in work for the next twenty-five years, if only he can deliver that suit.
However someone has already managed to create the technology, the son of a man who worked with Tony's father and feels destroyed and betrayed by him. He's out for revenge and has his eyes on Stark.
Meanwhile Stark is behaving stranger than normal, and there's something going on that everyone else doesn't seem to know, well almost everyone else.
Those are just the bigger plot lines, of course there's another character or two, more of SHIELD, and...well, there's plenty in the film and an entire plot run down would end up telling you the entire story.
There is plenty to Iron Man 2, and plenty of characters, and that's why I began to think this was going to be far too crowded, a la Spider-Man 3. I imagined that we'd lose the story amongst all these different threads, fighting for attention while trying to tell Stark's new story.
I have to say that to a degree that does happen. Stark's story suffers a little, and while the drama does come out at times, they are brief and just enough to touch you. The best example of that is the replay of his father's tape and the connection he makes with it. It's quick and to the point, efficient almost, but it does the job.
There are definitely other moments when we fly over more dramatic scenes a little too quickly. He should be the focus of the story, but examinations of what he's suffering physically, the outward attacks, and not just the physical ones, and the story of his father, could have had a little more meat on them.
That said, I don't think there's so little that the story loses out, we do still understand it all and you feel some of the dramatic moments, but it is all kept light, until the action.
There is certainly a lot to pack in, and you feel that when the dialogue is in full flow, especially with Robert Downey Jr. delivering the Tony Stark rapid fire lines, the characters are fighting for attention, not just with each other, but with the film and the audience. It can become just a little busy.
It does allow Downey to really go for broke with his character though. He gets right into Stark and, at times, goes quite wild with the character. It's great to watch and he does get to command the screen, but I did feel as though it could have taken a breath or two, just slowed down for a few beats, and during the first half his character does becomes a little dislikeable.
The way he treated people and his disposable and self-centred view of everything around him did become a little irritating. I think that might have been intentional to show how obsessed he has become with himself and Iron Man, and it does work, intentional or not.
The script is funny, punchy, and just keeps delivering on all levels, never giving us a rest. When one of the story lines goes quiet, another leaps up and grabs for our attention. It's a film that isn't going to let you rest, not for one moment.
The script does do a great job of keeping that Spider-Man 3 feeling from entering the film, it's close mind you, but you are engaged enough not to notice. I think it's because the script is really good at pulling all these characters and their stories together and knows when to bring in a character and plot line and when to let them leave.
Some of the characters are just left with their origins and background unexplored, or just explored enough to move on, they are just there and getting involved. That's perhaps another reason why Iron Man 2 gets away with the amount of characters and threads it puts in the story. That and the fact that they are all mainly after two things, the suit and Tony Stark, whether it be to destroy or save him.
As for the rest of the characters it is another testament to the script that they are all very strong actors and manage to hold their own in amongst a film filled with big personalities and big performances.
Mickey Rourke plays it surprisingly low key, keeping his performance lesser than the big stars around him, as does Don Cheadle, and for both the characters it works really well. Actually it has to be said that Cheadle really suits this role and was a good replacement choice for...erm....yeah.
Scarlett Johansson's character is great fun and has a wonderful pay-off scene when she really takes over on the action front. Jon Favreau has a fair few scenes himself, and a couple where he really gets in on the fun and action. I really enjoyed Potts this time around as Gwenyth Paltrow delivers a performance that bites back at Stark quite a few times and isn't reminiscent of the Potts we saw first time around or the traditionally thought of female support for the lead hero.
The scene stealer though? Next to Downey it has to be the excellent Sam Rockwell who has such a great character that reminds you of the cartoon evil geniuses who never quite get it right. He has a lot of fun too, in his lines, and his physicality, and I probably laughed the most at his character.
The real star though? The action and the effects. When the action kicks off it really kicks off and the effects are amazing. The first time I really noticed them was during the Monaco racing sequence, and here's where I sidetrack a little.
Favreau manages to capture the feeling of speed and the excitement and pace of racing at Monaco, and that's before the race interruption. I rather enjoyed those sequences and how he captured the feel of the race.
When the interruption does happen we see some amazing stunts and effects, really amazing. Who needs 3D when you can see some of the startling shots of the racing and the amazing CG of the battle sequences. A lot has been put into it that's for sure, and we get a lot out of it.
I am rather stunned that the film didn't get retrofitted in 3D, and I'm also glad it didn't for it allowed us to savour the action when it comes, and boy does it.
On the action sequences I do have to say that I was a tad confused at the continual desire of Stark to fly the action against, or through, the crowds running away from his expo, it was as if he wanted people to get scared and hurt. Flying past the windows of the hall filled with people as guns are fired at him smashing all the glass is the prime example. There wasn't much consideration of their safety there. Something I felt went against his character at the time as this was when he was supposed to be back on track.
One other story aspect worth mentioning is The Avengers connection. The tie in is well done, and a connection to another character works well for those in the know, it's all leading nicely on to the next film. There's a well scripted moment that might even allow Downey a get out clause for the Avengers film. I'll leave that for you to explore yourself.
It's not all great, there are some heavily filled cheese moments, but then the film uses them for comic effect and we still end up with something out of it. I think that goes back to what I was saying earlier, it's efficient, but not only that, it's just so damned big. From the actors to the characters to the set pieces, it takes that Hollywood adage of “bigger and more” for a sequel and makes it work.
It may not have the same impact as Iron Man did, but for a sequel to that film, it's probably the best you could hope for.
Iron Man 2 is a great fun film that has tons of action and plenty of enjoyable characters played wonderfully by actors who really look like they're having fun playing them.
Rockwell and Downey are superb, but then Paltrow, Favreau, Rourke and Johansson are damn good too, and they all work so well together. There may be a little too much to try and cram in to the film, but the script has done a superb job of making it all work, and the direction and timing brings plenty to the comedy and the action of the film.
Watch it loud, and enjoy. This is a sure-fire hit, perhaps not as good as the first, but it matches it in so many different ways and betters it in places too. I really liked it and would watch it again.
A great fun action film for the summer that has plenty of tongue in cheek comedy, and delivers action in buckets.
Once again, huge thanks to Sky Movies HD for allowing me to see the film so early, and for the free popcorn.