Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau
Runtime: 124 min.
Iron Man 2 isn’t any worse than the first Iron Man, but we need new language to discuss the cultural stagnation evident in the ho-hum response to this sequel. Iron Man 2 is exactly what critics and audiences deserve following the celebration of that awful, dung-hued first film.
This sequel is product, and the proper terms to discuss it ought to come from economics—not aesthetics—to describe such instantly disposable junk: Director Jon Favreau’s ignorance about pace and composition features an inane pan of a sandwich on a workbench where Tony Stark’s nemesis Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) puts together his diabolical contraption. There’s no art in screenwriter Justin Theroux’s juvenile dialogue (“Google her? I thought I was ogling her.”) And surely only economics explain the phenomenon of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and FOX-NEWS’ Bill O’Reilly shamelessly appearing as TV newscasters—continuing the blur between entertainment and journalism.
Obvious, uninspired and uninteresting, Iron Man 2 also blurs form and function: The problem isn’t only the videogame/comic book look but that the videogame/comic book premise has taken the place of plot and kinetics. Tony Stark’s exploits (“I’ve successfully privatized world peace”) pretend the same political naivete as The Dark Knight. But it’s not allegorical, just a blatant celebration of commercialism. Stark, the ultimate capitalist, has “inspired” a dully capitalist movie franchise. His character doesn’t deepen (Robert Downey Jr. has become increasingly harder to look at; his solemnity is as dire as the tats and welts on Mickey Rourke‘s body). Stark’s narcissism is Hollywood’s—merely an occasion to sell more tickets and toys. In the single visually interesting moment, Stark converts a suitcase into his Iron Man uniform; it’s really a Transformers shtick but without the exuberance Michael Bay summons to make merchandise expressive.
The Hollywoodization of comic books is not necessarily a tribute to the original form, even though devotees feel that their taste is being ratified. But if they can’t judge a film adaptation as cinema and simply accept its pitch, then they have been completely acquiesced to marketplace ideology—as when one reviewer slammed this sequel by stupidly called the first Iron Man “a fun machine.”
Iron Man 2 has been upgraded to IMAX with brighter cinematography than the first, but what’s Favreau gonna do with a bigger screen except exaggerate his ineptitude? He’s given his actor-buddies a bigger payday but their roles are an embarrassment (especially Scarlett Johansson doing an adult version of Kick-Ass. Like Rourke, she’s also unceremoniously dropped from the picture). The big fight between Vanko and Iron Man and his glorified butler Rhody (Don Cheadle) is the same noisy, senseless CGI template as the rampaging polar bears in The Golden Compass. Somewhere Michael Bay is yawning.