Iron Man 2: The Comic Noize Review.

Friday night. 10pm. Usually the absolute worst time to try to go a movie at New Roc City, because it’s guaranteed to be packed. And the more packed it is, the more people willing to talk through a movie will be there. And people LOVE to talk through the movies at the New Roc. I haven’t been to a movie there since 2008 that I haven’t ended up grinding my teeth through because some jerk won’t shut up. That’s the New York movie going experience for you I guess.

But I’m pleased to say that as of this past Friday’s 10pm showing of Iron Man 2, my streak has been broken.

Sadly, we weren’t able to get IMAX tickets as planned (maybe all the talkers were in there), but that was ok. I pretty much only like to see movies in IMAX that actively stimulate the visual palette. IM2 isn’t that kind of movie. What it IS a fun summertime superhero action movie, just like the first. Just slightly more convoluted. A lot of reviews are blaming that on the standard sequel trope of there being two villains (in IM2 it’s Sam Rockwell as arms dealer Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, a combination of Iron Man bad guys Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo). To this I say nay.

Go back to the first movie. How many bad guys were there? I’ll tell you how many. Two. You had the head of the Ten Rings, and you had Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane. In fact, in many respects, both movies followed the same formula of lesser bad guy meets bigger bad guy. The difference in IM2 is that both it’s villains possess equal presence (as in command of the screen, not time on). Rockwell plays Hammer as a Bizarro Tony Stark, oozing desperation instead of charm and trying too hard at, well… everything (the self tanner covered palms… great touch). Rourke’s Vanko is far less extroverted; he’s a menacing, tattooed grunter with a thing for cockatoos, yet even with his lines being almost unintelligible, he commands the screen. No, it’s not the villains that clutter up the movie, it’s the plot.

Iron Man 2 just has a hair too much going on, plain and simple. You have Vanko trying to get revenge on Tony Stark because he feels Tony’s father stole his father’s work and ruined him, while Hammer just plain wants to replace Stark as the number one weapons guy for the Armed Forces. You have Tony dealing with his own daddy issues, as well as the fact that his suit is killing him via palladium poisoning. You have Garry Shandling as a pompous senator trying to get the Iron Man armor turned over to the government, and best friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle, a vast improvement over Terrance Howard) juggling his loyalties as a result. You have Tony and newly appointed CEO of Stark Industries Pepper’s relationship being put on the rocks because Tony doesn’t want to tell her that he’s going to die, plus his sultry new assistant isn’t all that she seems. You have Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury coming around to set up beats for the upcoming Avengers movie (and if you look closely towards the end, you’ll catch some images on a SHIELD tv monitor that show exactly when this sequel takes place in the growing Marvel movie-verse). All that plus several subdued cues from the classic “Demon In A Bottle” storyline… it all just adds up to a hair too much, and at times it drags the pacing down. That doesn’t mean it ever gets boring though.

Though they may feel few and far between, there are actually several great action sequences, including an awesome first go round for Iron Man (in a suit that pays homage to both the suitcase used to carry the armor in the comics and the Scarlet Centurion armor of the 80s) and a electrified whip wielding Vanko taking place smack in the middle of the Grand Prix, a mansion trashing brawl between a drunken Tony and a suit borrowing Rhodey, and a gymnastic smackdown of Hammer’s security guards from Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (and if anyone suffers from the clutter of the plot, it’s Johansson, who gets so little to do that she’s basically window dressing. Sultry, seductive window dressing.)

The final battle suffers from a little bit of generic action movie overkill, as Tony and Rhodey face down a large group of rampaging attack drones and a suited up Vanko, but it’s paced properly and shot so that you can tell what’s going on, and in this day and age that counts for a lot. And there are some touches of humor in there as well. In fact, in general it’s a pretty funny movie. As before, Robert Downey Jr’s performance keeps the tone light without ever sacrificing the stakes set up by the myriad of plots.

Was this as good a movie as the first? No. The first Iron Man was more stream lined in plot, and Downey’s performance added a freshness to it that the sequel lacks; this time we’re expecting it, and while we get it, it is clearly a continuation. Still, Iron Man 2 is exactly what the first one was: a fun, summer time superhero action movie, full of quips and explosions. And yes, there is an after credits Easter egg that made the audience break out in applause.

B+

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