Home > Vulture News > THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Iron Man 2’ Finally Launches In The U.S. But Fails To Live Up To The Original

THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Iron Man 2’ Finally Launches In The U.S. But Fails To Live Up To The Original

Two years ago, Paramount’s Iron Man, based on the Marvel comic book series, arrived in theaters with uncertain expectations. Actor-turned-director Jon Favreau had previously directed family-friendly fare like Elf and Zathura, but never such a high profile $150 million blockbuster. And, at the time, Robert Downey, Jr. hadn’t headlined a major American movie since, well, Chaplin in 1992 (he did his fair share of indies, though). Not to mention that the summer was already overcrowded with comic book heroes like The Hulk, Batman and Will Smith. None of that mattered. Iron Man was a smash.

Not only did it gross upwards of $300 million domestically, but it also had critics foaming at the mouth, with Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle dubbing it “an action sci-fi blockbuster extravaganza that provides cartoon thrills for thinking people.” Naturally, talk of a sequel surfaced pretty quickly and the publicity has been rampant ever since, especially when Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson signed on to play the villains.

Paramount executives decided to try something new with Iron Man 2. They launched it internationally a week before it’s U.S. premiere in a bid to create more advance hype. It became a huge international hit and, inevitably, pirated copies quickly surfaced online. Paramount shrugged it off, however. If a film is going to make money, it’s going to make money.

In an interview with MoviesOnline, Downey, Jr. had this to say about reprising the superhero character that launched the third wind of his career:

Last time, we saw [Tony Stark] as this hapless, charming prick who has his ass handed to him, and turns it around and then is almost snuffed by the very person he thought he could trust above everyone else. To dial it back a little bit, you have to imagine that just because someone has a life-changing experience doesn’t really mean they’ve changed. Tony is seeking solace in the archetype. It’s one thing to say you’re Iron Man and it’s another thing to actually be a righteous person, and I think he struggles with that because he’s not really all that different.

While the first Iron Man had several screenwriters, the sequel, interestingly enough, was written by Justin Theroux. He’s the guy who played the director character in Mulholland Dr and who co-wrote Tropic Thunder and is rumored to be directing Zoolander 2.

THE BUZZ: Pretty good, but nothing compared to the original. In The New York Times, A.O. Scott writes:

[Iron Man 2] fulfills the basic requirements of the genre, which can be summed up as more of the same, with emphasis on more. Having introduced its physically and intellectually gifted, emotionally tormented protagonist in both his regular and alter egos, a comic book franchise will typically set out, in the second installment, in search of new villains, bigger suits, brighter gadgets and tendrils of plot that can blossom in subsequent sequels…

You might say that the movie has something for everyone, which is fine but also, in the end, not quite enough. You’re left wanting more, but not quite the ‘more’ Iron Man 2 works so hard to supply.

David Edelstein of New York Magazine admires the pic, even for all its flaws:

It would be easy to write something along the lines of ‘Alas, those millions couldn’t buy a decent movie,’ but I think they can—and have. It’s true that Iron Man 2 began, like all sequels, with a title—or, more precisely, a title and a numeral—followed by a star and director and then, only then, a story. It doesn’t come close to the emotional heft of those two rare 2s that outclassed their ones: Superman 2 and Spider-Man 2. But Iron Man 2 hums along quite nicely.

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly is less impressed:

With all that heavy payload, Iron Man 2 begins to burst at its own galvanized seams as the Marvel instinct for faceless warfare among comic-book characters bangs up against the Downey-Favreau-Theroux instinct for goofitude. (Qualifying as goofy, comedian Garry Shandling plays a U.S. senator, Bill O’Reilly plays himself, and at one point Iron Man, resting curled within the curve of a famous Southern California food-sculpture landmark, is told, ”Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to exit the doughnut.”) Downey’s head and heart are in the right place, but the movie is more in pieces than whole, and more about iron than about men.

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