A lot of Sturm und Drang signifying money: 9 notes on Iron Man 2
After watching Iron Man 2, I left the theater wondering if I can spend another summer watching such schlock. Daniel Day-Lewis chose to cobble shoes in Florence, Italy for a period of time in the later 90s. Perhaps I could arrange to do the same? Anyway, some notes:
1) A poignant moment: two robots look soulfully at each other before one flies away.
2) In this highly self-protectively ironic movie, you do see occasional signs of emotion: looking like the Cowardly Lion, the otherwise contemptuous Mickey Rourke wails when his character's dad dies in Russia. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow conveys impossible-to-contain joy when she learns that Tony has made her the CEO of Stark Industries. Otherwise, you mostly get Tony's ironic smarminess and much rock 'em sock 'em robot action.
3) As if still besotted and surprised by the success of Iron Man, the sequel revels in its fame and hype. Characters frequently stand before cameras and adoring fans. They bathe in the strobe lighting of the paparazzi flash bulbs, creating media images within images, magazine covers, TV appearances, screens within screens, an overlapping proliferation. The film seeks validation through media reproduction, the more copies the better.
4) The chief problem with Iron Man 2 is its smugness, the assumption of profit, the assumption of being technologically more "advanced," the superhero's no-longer-secret identity as rock star.
5) Iron Man 2 keeps returning to an Expo of one kind or another. Is this Favreau sucking up to Comic-Con fans? What is the difference between these glitzy Las Vegas-style Expo scenes and the gala photo-op premiers of the actual movie?
6) In terms of story, Iron Man 2's plot sags, drifts, drunkenly plunges down blind alleys, absentmindedly provides pretexts for action scenes, lurches toward a showdown at yet another Expo. Robert Downey Jr. lampoons his own tendency to indulge in drugged excess. He is the ne'er-do-well superhero, the midlife crisis putz corrosively saving the world amidst his squalor and his breakdowns. He brags, fails, brags again. His only sympathetic quality is his uselessness.
7) The film has a curious gear-head Popular Mechanics high school shop-class affect. You can build a better protagonist. Both hero and villain work hard with their acetylene torches and laser toolkits, erecting particle accelerators and metallic projections of masculinity that clank, clang for the increasingly deaf audience.
8) There's always Scarlett Johansson going all Emma Peel in her leather cat suit. Director Jon Favreau generously gives his character his own fight scene. Don Cheadle's sullen version of Lt. Rhodes leaves you wondering about what Terrence Howard thinks of losing the role after starring in the first Iron Man (the film's one bit of human interest). Samuel L. Jackson appears with an eye-patch to give the proceedings some Pulp Fiction gravitas. Sam Rockwell's histrionic turns as Justin Hammer helps one appreciate his work in Moon.
9) Regardless, you can rest assured of witty banter between Hammer drone attacks. In the midst of battle, Tony says "Drop your socks, and grab your Crocs. It's about to get wet." At least, the movie is self-aware about its stupidity.