We interrupt the Reubens wrap up posts (parts 3 and 4 still to come) to bring you this review of Ironman 2. (Warning - this post is long and contains spoilers.)
Now I know the movie has been out for a month already and I am coming very late to this party, but we just couldn't get out and see it until last night. Largely because of all the preparations for the Reubens. (Getting a week's worth of strips produced and shipped off 4 days early is no mean feat.) But better late than never.
Let me start by saying that Ironman is a character I knew absolutely nothing about before I went to see these movies. My comic book reading as a child was sporadic at best. There were no comic book shops anywhere near my house so I was left with three sources of comic book reading material.
1) The barbershop where my father got his hair cut. (This was where I discovered the big crush of my 7 year old life -Thor. Actually, I think I still have a crush on him - sorry John.)
2) The dentist's office - all the normal little girls were reading Little Lulu and Richie Rich - I went straight for the Fantastic Four.
3) My dad's anthology books. From Marvel there was "Bring on the Bad Guys" and "Origins of Marvel Comics" both by Stan Lee. And then two giant hardcover compilations "Superman from the 30's to the 70's" and "Batman from the 30's to the 70's". My dad was one of those poor guys whose mother threw out all his original Superman and Batman comics when he went into the navy.
Despite my spotty exposure to great comic books, I have always adored the sheer abundance of color and energy jumping off those pages. Fans of Edison who pay particular attention will notice that I color Edison less like a traditional newspaper strip and more like a comic book - the bolder the better. I know purists hate this but John's drawing can support it and it's one of the things that makes the job fun for me.
So when I go to see a movie based on a comic book, I am looking for a few things, dazzling, graphic color and a cinematic approach that evokes the layout of the comic book page. I want to feel as though I am looking at a comic book with all those crazy camera angles and exaggerated close ups. And, most of all, I want to be transported into the reality of that comic book's world without ever feeling that it's contrived.
On this level, the two properties that have succeeded best at this for me have been the Spiderman and Ironman films. Their very comic-ness just jumps out at me and draws me in.
I now have to publicly admit something that is going to make me very unpopular in some circles. I hated "The Dark Knight".
Absolutely hated it.
I cannot even find words to describe to you how much I hated it. I loved "Batman Begins" and was really looking forward to this movie - maybe that's one reason I hated the sequel so much, I set the bar impossibly high. But I don't think so. I think the main reason I hated it was that it felt nothing like a comic book. The first movie went to a lot of trouble to create its own universe and the second movie felt like a run of the mill thriller/action flick - the sets looked pretty much just like downtown Chicago, for one thing. And, while I know it is sacrilegious to say this, I was completely unimpressed by Heath Ledger as the Joker. For me he just played a run of the mill psychopath, not a comic book villain.
So I was pretty worried about the same thing happening this time. I completely loved the first Ironman movie and was steeling myself for a letdown.
Loved it. Absolutely loved it from start to finish. I suspected I would because I am a big fan of director John Favreau. I knew he had a great handle on humor when I saw "Elf" and, for me, the injection of the right kind of humor into an action movie makes all the difference between an engaging film I'll want to see more than once and just another "blow things up", "smash some cars" tour de force.
So, with my love for injected humor in mind I'm going to give you some of my thoughts as I watched the film and also a couple of my favorite moments.
First of all - did anyone else notice the "mouth props"? Mickey Rourke always has this toothpick in his mouth and Sam Rockwell at least once has a lollipop. Is this because no one can smoke in the movies anymore - even the bad guys?
And, is it just me, or is there a subtext comparison with Apple (Stark- elegant and sleek) and Microsoft (Hammer - clunky and overengineered) - especially that little non-functioning super bomb?
I liked Howard Stark's expo as a sort of "Uncle Walt the Evil Physicist Genius" with his Epcot Gone Wild.
And I liked Howard's approach to the future - discover a new element and then disguise it as a theme park.
Oh, and be sure to put in a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" moment when Tony discovers the big secret using a giant map model.
There was the nod to the Tyson/Holyfield fight when Favreau bites the guard on the ear.
And I think my absolute favorite moment - when Tony puts the little block into the kinetic sculpture so it will stop moving.
I loved Scarlett Johansson - especially when she was wearing her secret agent ninja suit - she is one of the only women ever to successfully look like a real comic book girl character come to life. Another was Michelle Pfeiffer as catwoman all those years ago.
Both Rourke and Rockwell were terrifically evil, always hitting just the right tone. Exactly what I've come to expect from both of them as stellar actors. (But those fingernails - ick! I've heard someone speculate that his nails really look like that and they didn't need any make-up. I hope not.)
I liked Terrence Howard OK in the first movie but did feel he was a weak link in the overall cast - I like Don Cheadle better.
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson - I'm a sucker for deadpan delivery - love this guy. And the Captain America shield.
Gwyneth Paltrow - love her and Samuel Jackson also. Another favorite moment from the film "Sir, I'm gonna have to ask you to exit the donut".
Finally, Robert Downey Jr. I want to hate this guy. I really do. He has a bad history as a drug abuser and, by all accounts, a colossal jerk. But I can't. Because, first of all - he did his time, seems to have repented and stayed clean. I haven't heard any horrible stories of erratic behavior for a long time. And secondly, he's so damn good. I've never seen him give a bad performance. From the first time I saw him as Charlie Chaplin in 1992 to now. Even his little gem of a performance in Bowfinger. I have no idea where the recent Sherlock Holmes movie falls on the radar of Holmes fans but Downey is just flat out excellent in that film. He has a quality in common with Owen Wilson and Alan Rickman - they are guys who steal every scene they are in. You just can't take your eyes off them.
I have to stop - there were so many great moments, I can't even remember them all. I think I need to see it again this weekend :-)
I know this is longer than one of my usual posts, so tl;dr Iron Man 2 was a great movie - g0 see it.