Next stop in the Marvel Movie Marathon: Iron Man 2! This means another rollicking ride of action, excitement, suspense, humor, and this time, I would say, a bit more drama than before. Almost immediately, we find that our hero Tony Stark has some issues to deal with. Big issues. The government wants him to hand over his Iron Man suits. But that’s almost inconsequential in comparison to his larger problem: he’s dying. The palladium powering the arc reactor which keeps the shrapnel from entering his heart is in fact poisoning his blood. He’s tried everything he can think of to remedy the situation, but to no avail. His doom seems certain.
And how does he react? Badly. In fact, we spend a good deal of the movie watching Tony attempt to self-destruct. He starts simply, by racing in the Monaco Grand Prix, then proceeds to a drunken party where, outfitted as Iron Man, he blasts objects thrown in the air, pees in the suit (don’t worry, it’s got a filtration system) and just generally embarrasses himself in front of his guests.
I do have to say, that was a hard scene for me to watch. Oh, how the mighty are falling! It was upsetting, yet when I think about it, it makes perfect sense that someone like Tony Stark would behave exactly like this. With all his power and wealth, I’m sure Tony’s spent most of his life believing that he is indestructible, untouchable. Add to that the power he has recently acquired in his Iron Man persona, and that sense of immortality must be multiplied a thousand fold. Impending doom is difficult for anyone to deal with. But how much more, someone so full of life and purpose as the great Tony Stark.
Of course, though, he doesn’t die. And he’s not going to die. (You didn’t actually think he would, did you?) We get a glimpse into his relationship with his father, another difficult thing for him to deal with, but through the magic of film, it is his father who points him down the path to solving his problem. And mending their rocky father/son relationship at the same time. It’s touching. Not sappy. Just touching.
In this installation of the Iron Man saga, in addition to the usual cast of characters, who we met last time, we now meet several new characters as well. Most notably, enter Black Widow, who here is not referred to as Black Widow, but rather as Natalie Rushman, and more exactly as Natasha Romanoff, an operative for SHIELD sent to keep an eye on Tony.
This chick kicks ass. Was I talking just yesterday about the portrayal of women in Marvel Comics? I’m not really familiar with Black Widow, or a lot of female super heroes for that matter, but here is a different type of woman than Betty Ross. Or even Elizabeth Ross (as she’s called in The Incredible Hulk movie we watched yesterday). I would have to check with Russ to be sure, but my impression is that Black Widow does not have any “super powers” above being a highly trained fighter. But for this film, that’s all she needs.
There’s one particularly great scene where she is breaking into the Hammer compound to find the villain Vanko, and Happy insists on coming along with her. As they enter, Happy engages one of Hammer’s men, and spends the next several minutes fighting him, and eventually knocking him out. While Happy is thus engaged in this single battle, Natasha has gone down the hall, knocking out and stringing up bad guys left and right. Finally Happy put the final “kaboom!” on his opponent and proudly announces, “I got ’im!” only to look up and see the trail of destruction caused by a woman who he thought was nothing more than a mild-mannered legal assistant.
At this point it might be worth noting that Happy is portrayed by Jon Favreau, who also happens to be the director of both Iron Man movies. He does a good job acting, but an even better job directing. I’m glad they decided to stick with the same director for both Iron Man movies. There’s a seamless consistency between the two stories, a similar look. I’m reminded of how Chris Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter movies, then they got a new director, and for the third film onwards, I almost fel t like I was in a completely different universe. We don’t get that here. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.
Another note about casting: we have some minor villains, Justin Hammer and Senator Stern, portrayed by Sam Rockwell and Gary Shandling respectively. I think it was an interesting choice to have two actors who are primarily known as comedians playing these roles. Because, of course, they are not the real villains, they’re just sort of a petty annoyance for our hero. The fact that we as the audience know these faces as funny men, I think, lends to the impression that as far as villains go, they are laughable.
Of course the real villain is Vanko, portrayed by Mickey Rourke. I’m not really a Mickey Rourke fan, but I must say I think he did a splendid job with Vanko. With the heavy Russian accent, though, I sometimes had a hard time understanding everything he said. But then, this was the kind of character where maybe you don’t necessarily need to listen to everything he says. In his look and his demeanor, his intentions are clear. The bit with the electric whips was pretty cool too.
Now one more note about actors, and this I have to mention, because I just found out that Stark’s computer, known to us as “Jarvis,” is voiced by the actor Paul Bettany. How cool is that! I’ve always been a big Paul Bettany fan, ever since seeing him in A Knight’s Tale. I think it’s a testament to the Iron Man movies though that while watching and listening to Jarvis, and having this idea in the back of my head that “Gee, that voice sounds familiar…” at no point did I feel compelled to jump up and consult IMDB on my computer. I can get that way about familiar voices. But the Iron Man movies had me so engrossed, I didn’t at all feel like jumping up, not for any reason.
One more thing, and then I must go. Russ is a lot better at this than I am (he being a longtime chronologist) but hepointed out to me that there are bits of the preceding and upcoming Marvel movies woven into this Iron Man! For one thing, towards the end of Iron Man 2, Tony has the TV on, and there is a newcast of the events that we just saw in The Incredible Hulk movie! So apparently that movie and this movie are taking place at approximately the same time!
Not only that, but at one point Coulson, the SHIELD agent, tells Tony that he’s been called away to New Mexico. Why? Well, we find out why at the very end of the movie. And by “very end,” of course I mean the “endpiece,” which is shown after the lengthy credits. Now, if you are one of those people who jump up the moment the credits start to roll, then you would have missed this. Shame on you for jumping up, but if you did jump up and missed this, then you have no one to blame but yourself. But if that’s the case, then I’ll tell you now what you missed: In New Mexico, Agent Coulson drives to a crater. The camera pans down from the SHIELD agent to the center of the crater and a strange object: Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, which has just fallen from Asgard to Earth. And of course, what is our next stop in the Marvel Movie Marathon? Thor!
Well, enough said. Tonight we watch Thor! And this weekend, we get to see all our characters come together in The Avengers!!
Double exclamation point well deserved.