Saturday, June 12, 2010

Iron Man 2

Just 35 days too late for the curve, I went to see Iron Man 2 with MK yesterday.

It is a blast, a fun ride, better in many ways than the original--Downey repeats a winning formula (narcissism on wry, with a twist of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots), and Mickey Rourke steals every scene he's in with a thumb of Stella Adler swirled in an old-fashioned glass, the excess discarded, then equal splashes of top-shelf sleaze and menace on ice.

(Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson are here too, on the side, in the roles of Audrey Hepburn and Angelina Jolie, respectively.  Not much here for feminists, sorry ... except for a passing genuflection to the idea that girls can be CEOs too and may not need a man's help in a fight.)

((Oh, yes, and there's Samuel Jackson, too, in the role of Samuel Jackson with an eyepatch, but this man apparently hasn't needed an actual character to play since Pulp Fiction.))

The movie is a brilliant example of the ways that Hollywood blunts political messages.  As in the original the sequel focuses on a military-weapons genius industrialist and part-time superhero, who defies Congress by refusing to give up his secret "weapon" to the government, insisting that he, as a private citizen and gaZOOKillionaire, can best protect the nation in a laissez-faire economy with limited (i.e., no) oversight and regulation.

But we don't get the message, thank God, the way Ayn Rand would have written it; instead, we see Tony Stark as a flawed, ill, out-of-control, daddy-haunted soul.  (Daddy is played, in flashback, by Mad Men's John Slattery, in a stroke of genius.)

This is typically the way Hollywood handles politics--by buttering its bread on both sides (while trimming off the unsightly crust).  So a cameo by Christiane Amanpour is "balanced" with a cameo by Bill O'Reilly--with a fleeting glimpse of comic-book genius Stan Lee to please the who-gives-a-shit-about-politics fanboys.  The villains are a disaffected Russian (commies), the government (Them!), and a playboy trillionaire, motivated by greed alone, Stark's nemesis and foil and a sop for the liberals.

We discover that, on two fronts, Stark and Ivan Vanko (Rourke), father issues can really stunt a boy's development--either through too much influence (Vanko Sr.) or too little (the coolly distant Stark Sr.)  The trick for fathers appears to somehow effect a happy medium, which regrettably the movie fails to produce for our edification.

We also get the pairing of white man (Downey) and black man (Don Cheadle, always interesting, but underused here), with the black man showing more style, grace, wisdom and common sense than the white man--a formula as old as (nod to Leslie Fiedler) Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but endlessly retreaded, through I Spy, Miami Vice, and The Matrix.

But all that aside, the reason to see Iron Man 2 is its quip-filled dialogue (screenplay by actor/writer Justin Theroux), the sumptuous display of impossible wealth, and epic fight scenes (though my favorite is the low-tech fisticuffs of Jon Favreau, as Stark's driver but also the movie's director, in a savage, flesh-based brawl with one of the bad guys--Favreau played Rocky Marciano, after all).

Is it something I would watch again?  Probably not.  Will I go see Iron Man 3?  More than likely, perhaps even within two weeks of its initial release.  Will it be eerily like Iron Man and Iron Man 2?  I hope so.

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