Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some Thoughts on Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

I saw Iron Man 2 and quite enjoyed it. It was well acted (not hard to believe with that cast) and I found it to be well-paced and fun. I was glad to see Justin Hammer, and glad to see him make it through the movie. I remember the “Power of Iron Man” graphic novel very fondly. I cannot remember which issues it collected, but it told the story of Tony Stark – a Tony Stark very much like the one Robert Downey Jr. plays – descending into alcoholism, using Iron Man as a crutch, which fails, and eventually triumphing.

It was during this time that James “Rhodey” Rhodes first wore the Iron Man suit, and it was a red-and-gold suit at the time, not the silver-and-black War Machine suit that was introduced much later, unlike in the movie. Justin Hammer turned out to be the villain of the piece. He had discovered a way to take over Iron Man’s suit and caused several malfunctions which caused Tony to take the lives of others, including repulsor blasting right through a diplomat’s torso at a very public and high-profile photo op.

This series of comics shows Tony hitting bottom and starting to climb back out with the help of those around him. Then, he takes it to Hammer. Hammer is surrounded by Tony’s enemies, but none of them can stand up to a new and improved, clear thinking Golden Avenger.

All of that was in the comics. I am hoping we get a touch of that in the next Iron Man movie as well. Seeing Hammer come back as a scheming foe – a little harder and more self confident and intimidating for his time in jail – would be very gratifying for this old-school comic geek. And Sam Rockwell could definitely pull it off.

The other thing I really liked about this movie is its attempt (unlike the comics) to show the impact of having a superhero in the world. Tony brags that he has “privatized world peace.” Comic books rarely deal with issues like this; the truth is that a world with super beings in it, particularly super inventors like Stark or like Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, would quickly cease bearing much resemblance to the world we live in. This works fine for short-term entertainment like movies, or one-off graphic novels or books, but for an ongoing comic series, it makes it less accessible to new fans the less the world resembles our own. Could Tony Stark revolutionize power generation? Sure. Could Reed Richards feed the world and solve the ever-growing water shortage issues? It seems likely.

This theme was touched on in Iron Man 2, although not taken too far. However, Nick Fury suggested that revolutionizing the world with cheap, clean energy was something that Stark would be doing in the near future based on the work of his father. It will be interesting to see if they continue to explore the impact of this change on the world. Imagine if oil was no longer used for power, but only for manufacturing. And given that Stark creates a new element in this movie, perhaps he could even come up with a way to take the petro out of petrochemicals. I find these ideas almost more interesting and exciting than the super hero aspects of the movie.

Back to the movie – the action was good, the characters engaging, and the pacing excellent. The effects were well done, and I appreciated that the movie wasn’t forced into 3D. I can understand the complaints I have heard that there are too many divergent plot lines. This movie is not only telling the story of Tony Stark dealing with some of his own issues, competing with Justin Hammer and defending himself against the Senate. He also is dealing with fallout from his family’s past relationships, which ends up circling into his conflict with Hammer. Amidst all of this, he has to deal with the military taking one of his suits of armor. The movie also does some preparation for the Avengers movie, introducing Natasha Romanov, known as the Black Widow and featuring a significant role for Nick Fury.

Again, this certainly is a lot of information. My experience with the source material may have helped me follow, but overall I didn’t find the volume of content to be overwhelming. I thought the story flowed well enough to allow all of this to make sense.

And by the way, continuing in the tradition of the first Iron Man movie, you may want to hang around after the credits for a tiny peak at what is to come from Marvel.


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