‘Iron Man 2’ reaches critical mass — what are reviewers saying about the sequel?
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“IRON MAN 2” COUNTDOWN: 4 DAYS
Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity), and he always seems to come out on top — that’s why we love him. But now comes “Iron Man 2,” a film about secret dangers, the sins of the father and the nasty price of modern celebrity. The movie lands Wednesday in the U.S., and until then, we’ll have behind-the-scenes scoops every day on the summer’s most anticipated film.
“Iron Man 2” ruled overseas with a $100-million opening weekend but how will it fare when it arrives stateside this week? A look at some of the reviews, both cruel and kind…
ANTHONY LANE, THE NEW YORKER: If necessary, Downey is happy to charm himself, should there be no one else around to play with, but “Iron Man 2” finds an upsized role for Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, his exasperated assistant, and [Jon] Favreau does well to stand back and let the pair of them duck and weave, turning their flirtation into overlapping chat — a touch of Robert Altman, amid a storm of high technology. Also on hand is Sam Rockwell, who romps and revels in the part of a noisome arms manufacturer named Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson as Tony’s legal adviser, who mixes a mean Martini. “Is that dirty enough for you?” she asks, handing him a glass. All these folk are so plainly enjoying the ride that to watch it slow and stall, under the weight of dead plot, is a cause for regret. [Screenwriter Justin] Theroux, Favreau, and the cast have a mind to attempt what no other team has done: to take the built-in hyperbole of the genre and treat it as food for laughs. Iron Man’s aspirations are as puffed up as those of Batman, Spider-Man, Watchmen, Fantastic Four, and the rest of the gang, but the telling of his tale feels more leavened and less savage than theirs, and it’s a pity that Favreau didn’t go the whole way and toss out the creaky narrative junk. READ THE REST
KIRK HONEYCUTT, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, that didn’t take long. Everything fun and terrific about “Iron Man,” a mere two years ago, has vanished with its sequel. In its place, “Iron Man 2” has substituted noise, confusion, multiple villains, irrelevant stunts and misguided story lines. A film series that started out with critical and commercial success will have to settle for only the latter with this sequel; Robert Downey Jr.’s return as Tony Stark/Iron Man will assure that. For a film riding a wave of unbridled achievement from its predecessor, “Iron Man 2” begins with a curious sense of panic. Characters talk at once. Hesitant story lines launch in all directions. The soundtrack and music clang away, but onscreen, little happens until a big set-piece at a Grand Prix race nearly 20 minutes into the movie. READ THE REST
NEIL MILLER, FILM SCHOOL REJECTS: Make no mistake, act three of this film is some of the best action you’re going to see on screen all year. Favreau raises the stakes with some impressive high-flying action. And once again, his restraint and dedication to mixing practical effects with CGI gives the final action set piece a strong base. And for the first time in a movie that tries so hard to put its hero in peril and never quite achieves it, we believe that Iron Man might be over-matched. It’s a final run of adrenaline-fueled explosiveness that makes it all worthwhile. It’s a final act that gives purpose to a bloated middle act and a few extraneous story-elements. It’s also a technically impressive movie. The soundtrack — filled with AC/DC — moves the story along nicely and John Debney’s score puts much of the film (especially the introduction of Vanko) on a grand stage. READ THE REST
TIM ROBEY, DAILY TELEGRAPH: Of all the megabudget effects franchises, the slick, well-oiled Iron Man might be the hardest to get a purchase on. He’s guaranteed to make a fortune, but this hero in a metal suit doesn’t have the emotional accessibility of Spider-Man, Batman’s growling rage, or even the lunkheaded sensibility of a Transformer. It doesn’t help that there’s a near-complete visual disconnect between our flying tin man and Robert Downey Jr, who plays billionaire arms entrepreneur Tony Stark. The computer-generated superhero, with his aerial pyrotechnics and stern, implacable mask, occupies a different movie altogether from Downey, whose job is to wallow slyly in wealth and entitlement, and then sit back when the whizzy graphics take over… If the movie often borders on smug, it’s equally happy to be only lightly reverent to the comics it’s based on. And I’d defend it as smug on purpose – one long, high-fiving in-joke about its own sure-fire success. READ THE REST
DAVID EDELSTEIN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It would be easy to write something along the lines of “Alas, those millions couldn’t buy a decent movie,” but I think they can — and have. It’s true that Iron Man 2 began, like all sequels, with a title — or, more precisely, a title and a numeral — followed by a star and director and then, only then, a story. It doesn’t come close to the emotional heft of those two rare 2s that outclassed their ones: Superman 2 and Spider-Man 2. But Iron Man 2 hums along quite nicely. The big FX scenes don’t kill the pace, the way they did at the end of the original and in virtually all of Spider-Man 3. And though it’s very busy — lots of characters, lots of crisscrossing subplots — Favreau and writer Justin Theroux go for a stylized, screwball-comedy tempo with Ping-Pong zingers that show off their leading man’s expert timing. READ THE REST
BRIAN LOWRY, DAILY VARIETY: All told, “Iron Man 2” suffers the same fate as many a sequel. Where the first film felt buoyant and occasionally inspired in helpfully demonstrating that, done right, there’s considerable treasure to be culled even from second-tier occupants of the Marvel universe, the new pic feels more duty-bound and industrial. As further evidence of the apparent desire to cover all bases, there are cameos by Christiane Amanpour (then still at CNN) and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, as well as a slimy senator (Garry Shandling) being interviewed on MSNBC. That’s not to say the movie lacks its charms. But as Tony Stark’s free-spirited CEO might attest, while serving the needs of a major conglomerate has its perks, the task also comes with more than its share of obligations. READ THE REST
TODD GILCHRIST, CINEMATICAL: The most interesting thing about Iron Man 2 is that when it’s over, it feels mostly satisfying. Predictably, there’s a massive battle that wraps up the story, and it provides suitable closure (if not necessarily cohesiveness) to what came before. But almost everything that leads up to that battle feels as if the filmmakers threw money and talent at each scene, but no ideas of what would go with them: sets look great and scenarios are elegantly conceived, but it’s almost as if driving the plot forward was an afterthought to all of the comedy and chummy dialogue. While it’s understandable that Favreau and co. would elect to expand the shaggy, improvisational tone of the first film, the end result in its sequel is a goofy, unfocused narrative that technically ties together its disparate story strands but provides no sense of dramatic momentum. READ THE REST
— Geoff Boucher
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PHOTOS: Top, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark In “Iron Man 2.” Middle, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow in “Iron Man 2.” Bottom, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko in “Iron Man 2” (CREDIT ON ALL: Industrial Light & Magic.)