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Iron Man was the most fun, action packed comic book movie of 2008, so when I recently went to see Iron Man II my expectations were pretty high. Unfortunately, this highly anticipated sequel failed to deliver. While it was arguably still a fun movie, it failed to pair succinct storytelling with fast paced action the way its predecessor did.
Part of the charm of the original Iron Man was the relationship between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): the precarious balance between their bickering and flirting, his moral imbalance and her work ethic, made them an interesting almost-couple. And the anti-climatic conclusion to their movie romance not only helped Iron Man break the mold, but helped establish Potts as a strong female character amidst the mass of Marvel bimbos. But Iron Man II is loaded with hostility rather than charm, and the pair’s bickering becomes aggressive and a little annoying. The hostility doesn't stop there either: pretty much everyone in this movie is mad at Stark. He and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) have it out (at least giving the movie a much needed action sequence), Natalie (Scarlett Johansson) threatens him, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) yells at him. Not to mention the dirty looks Stark gets from Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). But dirty looks is about all Vanko gets to hand out. Rourke’s villain spends more time in a lab than he does in a fight, and for that matter, Natalie (a.k.a. Black Widow) doesn’t do much either. As far as I can tell the only reason for having her in the movie at all is so that everyone knows who she is when she shows up in The Avengers. Thankfully, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a weapon’s manufacturer and past competitor of Stark’s, makes for a decent villain, delivering witty dialogue and standing out as a memorable character.
Stark himself spends most of the movie drinking his pain away, following the self-diagnosis of his imminent death. I have to say though, if this is Jon Favreau’s attempt at the Demon in a Bottle storyline, then I am deeply disappointed. Demon in a Bottle was the first portrayal of a super hero battling alcoholism, a daring comic book story for its time. Stark’s drunken antics in Iron Man II were Hollywood schlock, a far cry from the reality of addiction.
At any rate, let’s hope The Avengers has more to offer.
On a completely different note: the winners of the Joe Shuster Awards were announced on June 5th. Check it out.