Jon Favreau‘s Iron Man 2 debuted to $128 million dollars this weekend and a solid 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems to be getting good buzz among theatergoers as well. Was I the only one that saw a poorly constructed film ridden with problems? Check out my reasons below.
1. It’s Boring
The worst offense of them all. After an interesting 20 minutes the film collides into a narrative brickwall and doesn’t recover until the engaging, but ultimately disappointing climax. Jon Favreau’s pacing is horrendous in the film. Instead of a cohesive narrative we jump from scene to scene, some feeling like they could either be cut down (Senate Committee hearing), while others could be added to (Monaco racetrack scene) and some could be taken out altogether (drunk Tony Stark party scene).
2. A Remake
The entire film feels like a simple addition to Iron Man. This isn’t in the sense of a clean, perfectly handled transition. I’m talking about a lazy effort in which Favreau simply learned what he did from the first film and then repeated it again. I understand it’s difficult with The Dark Knight hovering above, but at least make an effort. No characters feel more fleshed out, no action feels handled differently, no CG looks better and most importantly it doesn’t feel like a fresh, new experience that stands on its own; something necessary for a sequel.
3. Supporting Characters
For all the characters Favreau added, there is only one that really worked out. Sam Rockwell is the absolute highlight of the film, stealing every scene he is in and elevating what would be a terrible film into a simply mediocre one. Let’s get on to the rest of the problems.
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow
Don’t get me wrong, Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous, but I’m straining to find a reason why she was in the film. The first two acts involve her giving mysterious glances to Stark. Then, in her reveal as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she has one of the most poorly handled action scenes. Every time she does a “cool” move we see five seconds of her looking at the camera in slow motion. With the amount of times she mounts director Jon Favreau’s head in the film, I’m wondering if there is something else going on here.
Mickey Rourke as Whiplash
I have to congratulate Favreau. It takes a lot of guts to completely waste one of the best actors of our generation, but he succeeds with flying colors here. After a half-assed attempt at villain motivation Whiplash is only there to look dirty and become a pawn in the scheme of things. One of the most underdeveloped, one-dimensional villains in a superhero film.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
I don’t care if Ultimate Nick Fury was written for Sam Jackson in the comic. This is a film. A good director will take a comic character and make him believable on screen. Instead it looked like Favreau just told Jackson to do whatever the f*$% he wanted. Don’t even get me started on one of the worst lines in any superhero film I’ve seen. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Paltrow’s relationship with Downey Jr. was one of the highlights in the first film. Their cute back and forth banter was consistently entertaining. In this film, apart from a little at the beginning, it has all been stripped away. Potts becomes underused and as lifeless as one of Rockwell’s drones by the third act.
When he replaced Terrence Howard reactions were mixed. Now, like Rourke, the Oscar-nominated actor is simply boring. He looks odd as War Machine and his character actions are completely underdeveloped, especially in peculiar drunk party scene.
Remember the first film when Tony Stark was attacked by terrorists with soldiers dying around him, barely hanging onto his life? Then when we watched as he rebuilt himself and had a triumphant return? There is none of that tension in the sequel. This sense of tension isn’t even strictly tied with action. There isn’t a single dialogue exchange in which we hang on to every word. Half of it feels like useless filler, while the other half seems like it could be the beginning of something worthwhile. Unfortunately, it all adds up to a giant mess without enough focus to build any sort of excitement.
5. The Avengers
I’m willing to bet 80% of filmgoers have no idea who The Avengers are. Now, thanks to writer Justin Theroux and Favreau they are left more confused. With a painfully forced scene Nick Fury introduces the idea to Stark and then little hints are cluttered throughout the rest of the film. What they should have done is introduced the Avengers idea in the post-credits sequence and let Iron Man 2 stand on its own instead of some disjointed stopgap.
It may just be the editor in me, but it was horrendous in this film. Pay attention to Tony Stark’s arm and head movements during the initial expo scene. It is all over the place, switching between each shot. In a lazy attempt, they do absolutely nothing to cover it up. Continuity editing is not the only problem. Like I previously mentioned there is no attempt to create a cohesive, tension-building story. This also brings us to the action.
Jon Favreau doesn’t know how to frame and connect a competent action scene. It was a problem in the first film and it is a problem here. It blows my mind that the major complaint in the first film was the disappointing climax and now Favreau is given $200 million dollars and he still can’t pull it off. Whiplash arrives with bigger weapons, they fight for what is less than a minute, then Iron Man and War Machine simply just combine forces like before and it is over before you can even muster up any excitement. Don’t even get me started that there are really only two big action sequences spread out over two hours.
8. No Focus
Was this film supposed to be about leaving a legacy? About US government and weapons? About fighting inner strength to overcome something? About a paperweight device on a table? No themes in this film are ever fully carried out or tied together, leaving for a sloppy mess that is forgettable and screaming never to be watched again.
9. Bland Score
It’s no surprise the last 10 major films scored by John Debney were Valentine’s Day, Old Dogs, Aliens in the Attic, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Hotel for Dogs, My Best Friend’s Girl, Swing Vote, Meet Dave, Evan Almighty and Georgia Rule. Do you remember the score from any of those films? Debney brings the same amount of regularity to the Iron Man 2 score. I only saw the film a few days ago and I can’t even remember a single piece of music from the entire film, while just a few minutes of the Inception trailer music is buzzing through my head all day.
10. Tony Stark
Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent actor. He is Tony Stark. His little quips and subtle acting tendencies are the clear highlight in this series. Unfortunately his character is so poorly handled in this sequel. His daddy issues are not developed enough to be anything worthwhile and his alcoholism is so clunky and uncomfortably portrayed that instead of us feeling for Stark, we are completely disconnected. Favreau seemed to just let Downey Jr. run wild in front of the camera this time and instead of cutting it together to make the comedy (and character) work, it comes off as a disjointed mess. At least that aspect fits perfectly with the rest of the film.
Did you find as Iron Man 2 as disappointing as I did? What other problems were there?