Day 3 of 11 Days of Marvel is here! In this project, Bill and Erin go through every single extant film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, write their reactions to them, and then have conversations about them! The project started here, with Iron Man, or you can click here to see all the articles in the project so far. Today is about:
Erin’s Response: Less Rockwell, More Rock
While I loved Micky Rourke’s accent and incredibly fantastic hair, Iron Man 2 left me noticeably cold this time around. Maybe it is the fact that I have been watching superhero movies for 3 days (with absolutely no police procedurals to numb my pain), or maybe it is that I have been working all day for the last 4 days and don’t get a break until June 3rd. Perhaps that is why I tire of Tony’s rich boy substance abuse story line where his daddy (it is always their daddies) inevitably comes to his rescue.
Perhaps it is the fact that the whole movie is, in one way or another, about fathers. Whiplash’s father is out-maneuvered by Stark’s father, so the world has to pay. Tony never felt loved by his father, which caused him to become a genius and a serial philanderer. This story line is so tired it put me to sleep, although that could have been my second glass of wine.
This movie misses out on the fun of Iron Man 1 – it is keenly aware that it must be more than its own movie, and it is the first of the MCU movies that really feels like it is simply one lego in a much larger design. On the whole, it suffers from far too much Sam Rockwell, whose entire 30 minutes of screen time could have easily (and painlessly) been replaced by more AC/DC.
Best Part: Don “Freaking” Cheadle and the relationship/chemistry that develops between him and Iron Man. Cheadle comes across as more playful than Terrence Howard, and when he borrows the suit at the end of the movie you are not sure he is going to go directly back to the military with it.
Worst Part: When Nick Fury slips his arm around Natasha at the diner. She should have broken his arm right there and then. The best thing about Romanoff in this movie is that she kicks impossible amounts of ass, the worst part is that she is never not objectified on screen.
Best Animal in a Reoccurring Role: The “bourd.” ’nuff said.
All in all, I found the Incredible Hulk more appealing than Iron Man in this movie. I think if they had had the courage to really explore what chemical dependence does to a person this could have been the best MCU movie yet. Alas…
1. Iron Man
2. The Incredible Hulk
3. Iron Man 2
Bill’s Response: Marking Time
This movie has no idea what it is about. Internet People like to describe this movie as just being a trailer for The Avengers, but I don’t think that’s exactly true. The MCU-showrunners clearly haven’t quite figured out what they’re up to yet: The Black Widow reads completely differently here than she will in every other movie so far, and aside from the brief reference to Captain America, we have actually very little else to connect Iron Man 2 with the rest of the MCU.
So, is Iron Man 2 about how Tony’s father may have done something awful to a Russian scientist back in the day, and now that Russian scientist is going to make Tony’s life miserable? No. One line from Nick Fury makes it clear that Anton Vanko was a bad person interested only in profit, and that’s why Howard Stark had him deported. The sins of the father weren’t sins. Okay. So is it about the competition between two rival weapons contractors, Stark and Hammer? No, because Justin Hammer is consistently portrayed as an incompetent jackass, such that no thinking human being could ever consider Hammer to be a threat equal to Stark. Okay, so is it about Tony’s self-destructive behavior, like we see in the party scene? Not really, because he doesn’t suffer any serious consequences from that self-destructive behavior. Instead, he eats some donuts with Samuel L. Jackson and gets a magical message from his father which cures him of his palladium poisoning because MAGIC. He gets the girl and his best friend back without even having to apologize.
That’s not to say everything in the movie is terrible. Like all MCU movies, it’s got some good moments: Black Widow beating up about 20 dudes in a row is pretty swell, though it pales in comparison to the equivalent scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Don Cheadle is in it, which is always a plus. Mickey Rourke is terrifying if woefully underutilized. But none of this adds up to a coherent movie. It adds up to some badass moments in the first half and a sludgy mess in the second half. After the party where Tony drinks too much and wets the suit, everything is nonsense.
So, what is this movie actually about? It’s about how they needed to make an Iron Man 2 before they could make other movies: needed to prove that people would keep coming to MCU movies before they finished making Thor and Captain America and certainly before they pulled the final trigger on The Avengers. At least Hulk felt like an honest if broken attempt to make a movie about something. Every time Hulk misfires, I say “Yeah, but I know what you were going for.” This movie was clearly designed by committee. It may be the worst movie in the entire franchise: we’ll see how I feel after the run. It’s definitely the worst we’ve seen so far.
Favorite Moment: Natasha Romanoff beating up twenty Hammer Security dudes while Happy Hogan struggles to even take out one is obviously the best scene in the movie.
Least Favorite Moment: The end fight scene is the most boring climax we’ve seen so far, although I like the banter between Stark and Rhodey. I particularly (dis)like the fact that Vanko shows up at the end in a whole robotic suit that he absolutely did not have time to build. That whole scene plays out like the final boss of a third-rate videogame.
Most Underutilized Plot: Remember how the beginning of the movie is about whether or not Stark should hand over his armor, and about whether or not he can protect the US from external threats? And how Vanko attacks him not to kill him, but to “make God bleed… [so that] people will cease to believe in Him?” Remember how the movie forgets about that whole arc and instead goes off on some bullshit about creating a new element and Justin Hammer and so on? I’d like to see a movie which is actually about that whole first arc, about the tension between private superheroes and the military, or about public perception of Iron Man. Iron Man 2, unfortunately, is not that movie.
Most Incompetent Police Force: These snarky articles aside, I don’t normally like to nitpick superhero movies. People on the Internet get really jazzed up saying “But why didn’t he just do X” and so on, when the answer is always “because that wouldn’t have led to the awesome scene we saw later.” Gipsy Danger didn’t use its sword until halfway through Pacific Rim because that way, when it did use the sword, it would be awesome. That said, the Monégasque police1 should be ashamed of themselves. Do you mean to tell me that there is absolutely no security at the Grand Prix?
1. Iron Man
2. The Incredible Hulk
3. Iron Man 2
Yeah, so far Erin and I are in complete agreement. I wonder if and when our opinions will diverge?
And Now, A Conversation
Bill: I think the main thing about this movie is that it introduces Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow, right? Like, everything else is more or less disposable, Don Cheadle aside.
Erin: Sure, and she is hot, but she has no character in this. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d just started making out with Gwyneth at some point. That would have made about as much sense as anything else in this movie. Although, her hair color in this is substantially more believable.
Bill: Yeah, it’s pretty dumb. I have to say, for all that Internet People like to criticize Joss Whedon’s feminism (and I’m at least open to some of those arguments) he seems to really rescue this character from pure objectified fantasy in The Avengers.
Erin: True enough.
Bill: For all that we didn’t like this movie, there’s something about how the first half of both this and Hulk were a lot better than the second half. People seem to have a hard time ending superhero movies from 2008–2010. I’ll be curious to reevaluate if that’s true afterwards.
Erin: I agree. I think it is because they are always fun to start off, but then you have to defeat the big bad (who, in order to be scary, has to be really big and really bad) and this always feels like nonsense by the end.
Bill: I think this movie got tangled up in the rivalry between Hammer and Stark, which is dumb and boring, whereas the rivalry between Vanko and Stark could, at least, have been interesting. I do like the way the movie parallels Vanko making his own arc reactor with Stark announcing that he’s Iron Man, and the way it makes it clear this is an achievement almost as great as when Stark did the same thing IN A CAVE, WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS. Instead, Vanko does it IN A MUSCOVITE SLUM, WITH WHATEVER WAS LYING AROUND. Anyway, I love Sam Rockwell, but this movie would be a lot better with a total Rockwell-ectomy.
Erin: Indeed. He is just too hammy, and no one believes he is actually Tony’s competitor. What is the point of having him in the movie? It feels a bit Orientalist– the Russian man still needs an American man to save him, even though the American man is a blundering, tone-deaf idiot. Pass. Although, I did love all the AC/DC. There could have been more AC/DC.
Bill: I had no idea you loved AC/DC so much. This is news to me.
Erin: (Bill gave me so much crap about AC/DC while we watched this movie.)
Bill: AC/DC is fine! I just implied that they weren’t as good as other, similar rock bands, and Erin STRONGLY disagreed.
Erin: AC/DC reminds me of my childhood.
Bill: That’s fine! And AC/DC is totally appropriate for Iron Man. I just, uh, am more of an Iron Maiden guy. Anyway. The next two movies aren’t perfect either, but I suspect we’ll enjoy them more than these two. They also get much weirder: Thor and Captain America are much less grounded in 21st-century America than Iron Men 1–2 and Hulk. Any predictions or thoughts?
Erin: I remember liking those better, so hopefully they will be more fun. That was one thing I liked about Thor — even Thor doesn’t take himself too seriously. I think that type of lightness is really needed after all this brooding.
Bill: I am excited to revisit Loki in Thor. I remember thinking his arc was the best part of the movie, even though I didn’t like him as much in Avengers or Thor 2. I’ll be curious to see if I still think that now, several years after the last time I’ve seen the movie.
That’s it for Iron Man 2! Join us next time for our look at Thor, and comment below if you have any thoughts, or if you agree with Erin that AC/DC is better than most other bands. See you tomorrow!Notes:
- As shown in the movie. I don’t know anything at all about the real-life police in Monaco. [↩]