Wednesday, May 12, 2010

8 Complaints About Iron Man 2 & Why We Disagree

Unless you have a very good reason (and I mean RUL good), you saw Iron Man 2 this weekend, thus contributing to its $133 million opening weekend. Though all the excitement over IM2 nabbing the 5th best opening weekend of all time is being drowned out by the universally mixed reviews, coming at us from all corners of the internet. To this we say BAH. So I compiled some of the most repeated complaints and sicked smarty pants geek ladies Eruditechick and Scarletscribe on them, on a mission to explain to you readers why these complaints are nit-picky and, in some cases, meritless. Below you'll find the Fangirl response to these complaints, complete with an occasional pearl of (non) wisdom from me.

Complaint #1: The scale of the conflict is too small, not enough is at stake.

Eruditechick: JFC, are you kidding me? Not every movie can be about the world ending. Not every super hero story SHOULD be about the world ending. Then you get a Sailor Moon or Doctor Who situation, where every crisis has to be bigger and more Earth-threatening than the last. That's what causes sharks to be jumped and franchises to get rebooted- allowing the scale of your action to become monstrously, disproportionately out of control. Iron Man 2 is not The Avengers. Iron Man 2 is about Iron Man. The struggle is personal, and guess what- that's what I wanted! I don't want The Avengers yet. The next movie is Thor. Gods doing battle in Asgard, is that big enough for you? How about Captain America. It's going to be about World War II. We know how that ends- does that make the stakes low? If Iron Man existed as a stand alone franchise like Spider-Man or Batman, then I could understand this complaint- we would want to see Iron Man taking the lead on the world stage in this installment since coming out as Amerca's defender. But it's not. It's being folded into a much more epic, grander scale story- that of the Avengers. We have Gods and World Wars coming up next- think of how big The Avengers is going to be. I don't want to be burned out on all the world-saving by the time we get to the main event. Iron Man 2 puts plenty of people at danger and shows the larger implications for the world with the presence of the Iron Man suit and the technology it runs on even existing. As an added bonus, Tony ultimately wins the day by out-geniusing his opponents, not out-brawning them. My hair is a bird, your argument is invalid.

Loquaciousmuse: Couldn't agree more with you, lady. This movie is supposed to be about IRON MAN and well, what do you know, it IS! As Nick Fury points out and Tony Stark does not refute, our hero is a textbook narcissist. His legacy is everything to him. So I have no problem with the main conflict being combatting the destruction of the Stark legacy. Like Eruditechick said, we'll have PLENTY of time to worry about the fate of the world. What's so great about having at least one movie, if not more than one movie, dedicated to a specific character in the Marvel universe is that we can TRULY get to know each Avenger before they all come together. True, the villains' end goal is to rip apart Tony's ego. But you know what? For Tony Stark? That's everything. You couldn't have this storyline with Thor. Not with Captain America. Let's switch universes - not with Batman. Not with Superman. This conflict is totally unique to the egomaniac that is Tony Stark and I appreciate that. I like that the story isn't generic, that the conflict is so specific. So...suck it.

ScarletScribe: Piggybacking on what EruditeChick and LoquaciousMuse have said -- because, naturally, we all agree on this point -- there's no reason why Iron Man 2 has to raise the stakes so that the entire country or even the world is at risk in order to be a good movie. Yes, it's a superhero movie. Yes, a superhero movie by definition involves superheroics of some sort. But that doesn't mean that every time Tony Stark suits up it has to be because the entire human race is in peril. The very root of the classic hero's journey is the evolution of the protagonist from everyday man to the saviour of nations. But hey, that was Iron Man in a nutshell and in the interim between the two films, that's all Iron Man has been accomplishing as evidenced by the newspaper clippings shown in the intro. Iron Man, as Stark points out to the folks during the Stark Expo and during the Senate Council meeting, has stopped countries from warring and single-handedly acted as a nuclear-deterrent. That's what makes the story behind Iron Man 2 so different and so great -- it's time for Iron Man to save Tony Stark. Stark's in a state of disarray, his life is in shambles, and hints of his impending alcoholism are shown throughout the flick, meanwhile everyone and their mother is out to take away not his life -- because that's already being threatened by the deadly Arc Reactor in his chest -- but his legacy, the one thing Iron Man and Stark have left. What could be a bigger threat? What could be a bigger stake? The personal journey can be just as big and important as the world-shaking conventional epics that summer films have programmed us to expect. And sometimes... it can be better. More than anything Iron Man 2 is a character piece full of spectacle -- but more on that in a bit.

More after the jump

Complaint #2: doesn’t achieve the emotional complexity of “Spider-Man 2” or the operatic grandeur of “The Dark Knight,” - From AO Scott, NY Times

Eruditechick: I agree with the latter half of this statement, and the first half of the first half of this statement but applied to the movie in the second half of this statement. The Dark Knight was, by virtue of Heath Ledger's performance alone, extremely emotionally complex and interesting, and yes, its scale was operatic- which is to say, melodramatic, if handled with a level of severity that tempered what could have been some heavier-handed moments. But Iron Man 2 isn't The Dark Knight. They are completely different animals. Even taking into account the prodigal rich boy and his daddy issues, the themes of responsibility to self vs the world, they are different stories that are worlds apart from each other, and that includes being tonally separate. I would argue, however, that Iron Man 2 is easily as emotionally complex as Spider-Man 2 while being not at all as melodramatic. And that's a directorial issue- Sam Raimi swims in cliche and hyper-emotional states like a duck in water, or like some sort of Louisianna wildlife through oil slicks. Nolan paints dark epics like a master at a canvas. That's what they do and it's apparent in those films. In Iron Man 2, Favreau shows the same skills he's been showing since Swingers- likable characters wrestling with their demons in a stylized world with banter and humor and enough of an eye toward the serious that the fun is tempered by the threat of the antagonists (who are in and of themselves interesting and somehow relateable). Favreau is dedicated to his characters and a more than competent storyteller.

ScarletScribe: Did Scotty and I even watch the same movie? Spider-Man 2, while great and with many a strength, was the classic superhero sequel we're so accostumed to: In the origin story, the hero comes to terms with his new powers and new responsibilities and decides to rock out with his... cool costume out, and in the follow-up he realizes just how much being a superhero disrupts his normal life and toys with giving up his cape/mask. Iron Man 2 forgoes this convention for the most part and instead presents us with a hero facing the cold, icy stare of death (not played by Samuel L. Jackson, suprisingly) and asks us to follow him on his inner journey of deciding whether or not his life is worth anything -- especially after the revelation that his legacy may not be as immaculate as he had once expected. What Iron Man 2 lacks in conventional emotional complexity (e.g. I will concede that most of the character relationships are straight-forward and not in the least bit nuanced) it makes up for by making the film an emotionally-charged journey for the protagonist who must come to terms with his desire to live and his place in history as the successor to his father. As for Scotty's (Yes, I'm sticking to calling him Scotty. That's how we roll when we never hang out.) charge that Iron Man 2 doesn't achieve the "operatic grandeur" of The Dark Knight, well... yes. He's right. But that's not a dealbreaker because Iron Man 2 never sets out to be like The Dark Knight; it's its own beast and it hits all the notes and points that director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux set out to cover. While The Dark Knight, like Spider-Man 2 before it, set up an epic plot to make the hero rise to the occassion, Iron Man 2 is about making Iron Man believe in the legend he's already created and the work he never stopped doing. And yes, that was a cheesy sentence so I think I'm going to go chew some nails or do something equally as hardcore to compensate for it.

Loquaciousmuse: You girls nailed it. All I really have to say on this front is, it's odd to compare Iron Man 2 to Dark Knight or Spiderman 2, because, yes they are all sequels, but they are also SO different in tone, & purpose, that really all the movies have in common are superheroes. As a sequel to Iron Man, Iron Man 2 nails it. As a sequel to Batman Begins, sure Iron Man 2 would have been kind of awkward, agreed. To A.O. Scott's credit, he does go on to say that while the film doesn't have those, it does have comedy, which was risky and commendable. To this I say - agreed.

Complaint #3: While the title is "Iron Man 2," what we're being given is "Iron Man Squared." There's too much going on, and all the characters and plots and revelations and foreshadowings do not fill the film but bloat it. - James Rocchi MSN Movies

Loquaciousmuse: While many feared this with Iron Man 2 (and Eruditechick touched upon it here) this ended up thankfully NOT being the case. Every character was well developed, and played to perfection (god damn that's a good cast). A lot of sequels suffer from way too many action sequences that serve no purpose and are, for lack of a better term, annoying. This actually happened with the first Iron Man. I adored the movie up until the final fight scene, which went on entirely too long and just didn't impress me much. In the sequel, each action sequence is solidly paced, has a specific purpose, is well choreographed, touches on a different form of combat, and doesn't go on too long. When Whiplash first appeared at the end, I felt something radiate through my body - dread? I want to call it? That we were about to experience another way too long, way too stuffed, way too redundant final boss sequence. Luckily, Whiplash only lasted about 3 minutes and was taken out by the ego-driven, drunken stupor friend 'splosion that had been discovered earlier. And you thought that Rock em Sock em fight between Iron Man & [You wanna be a] War Machine [?!] was erroneous. HAH! Wrong!

Eruditechick: Of all the multi-villain, multi-hero comic book movies to come out, this one by far does the best job of juggling the personalities and story lines of each. They feed each other, fight each other, play off of and into each other while remaining unobtrusive and managing not to feel forced. One of my favorite parts of the movie was the fact that Ivan's English got better or worse depending on who he was talking to and depending on how it suited his needs. We're shown this because he is interacting with both Tony Stark and Justin Hammer (Hammeroids LOL. God love ya, Tony). The only thing we didn't get that I badly wanted was a meeting between Vanko and the Black Widow, so we could have TWO PEOPLE SPEAKING RUSSIAN WHAT. WITH SUBTITLES AND SHIZ THAT BE HARDCORE. But maybe next time. God knows there are enough evil Russians lying around. Oh, Cold War. Never change. Anyhoo. If you go back and read an article I wrote after last year's Comic-con, I expressed my permeating sense of dread, that there were too many characters that would be too difficult to balance, and that their conflicts would end up being predictable and, especially, that the female characters would become superfluous and relegated to sideline eyecandy. I was happily mistaken. We see a very real web of interaction, here- people struggling for both shared and individual goals, butting heads, running in the same circle. Pepper vs Hammer is not something I was expecting in the slightest. Hammer vs Vanko! Vanko vs Stark! Natasha vs everyone! Tony vs everyone! Everyone was given screen time enough to establish what they were striving for and why, and the characters earned that time. Even RHODEY. I had been unhappily anticipating the typical sidekick problems that we've seen in such franchises as, say, Batman, but again Favreau deftly side stepped it and turned it into a conflict between friends. Moreover, exploring all of these characters and their interactions did not slow down the movie, and plenty of that development was built into eventful plotty stretches and action scenes, as well. Favreau successfully accomplished what no other superhero flick that I can think of sporting multiple villains and multiple heroes has: he didn't just make it work, he made it awesome.

ScarletScribe: At the risk of enrraging my cohorts, I will say that I slightly agree with Rocchi on this one but only because the character of Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson whose one-note acting abilities reappear here in the exact same way they've always appeared) is a waste of space. Favreau plays with the fact that she's supposed to be a replacement for Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Tony's new assistant by having the pair dress similarly and move in sync, but all that does is reinforce the fact that Widow is more like Potts 1.5 than her own defined character. She serves as little more than window dressing and her accomplishments/role during the film could have easily been given to another character, trimming down the cast in the process for the better. So yes, Black Widow was needless bloat, but I enjoyed the multi-villain nature of the plot and did not think that it took away from the story at all. As for the argument that the foreshadowings and plot bloat the film, I'd say that it's exactly the contrary. Yes, the film was littered with hints and revelations but they were barely touched upon in the grand scheme of things, which I realized more during my second viewing. Tony's father issues popped up and were resolved in the course of three or four scenes tops, while the surface of Pepper and Tony's relationship and its resolution were barely touched upon.

 Complaint #4 ...Dull Gwyneth Paltrow, playing a bossy, old mommy-type... Debbie Schlussel
I might note, too, that besides a rear end you could set a plate upon and a few bad ass moves that her stunt double performs, Johansson and her thick tongue may be the film’s weakest element. - Dustin Rowles

Eruditechick: I'm sorry, that's incorrect! As a consolation prize, we have some lovely soaps for you. ScarJo was removed and tightly reigned in, not flat. She was a bit icy and legitimately no-nonsense. Filmmakers always say that about their female action puppets, "she's a no-nonsense, action oriented woman! Blah blah blah", except here, that is ACTUALLY TRUE. She didn't dally with romances or even flirtation (save one or two lines that were given without so much as an arched eyebrow, prompting Tony's 'I can't really get a read on you', 'Reserved, maybe an old soul...?' lines which I quite enjoyed). Moreover, her one action scene is a great payoff from the quiet competence and efficiency she shows in the first parts of the film. On the costuming: Clearly the designer had a look they wanted. By strapping ScarJo's boobs in to the same level as her tummy, the way Gwyneth's naturally are since she doesn't really have any to speak of, and putting them in high-waisted and tightly cut skirts, the women were given the extremely feminine S-curve silhouette that was last seen most successfully from 1900 to 1910. It's an extremely feminine look. No complaints here. Also, I would argue that Natasha is in no way Potts 1.5. She's an agent with her own responsibilities, she handles things without the aplomb or spunk that Pepper did, instead going about them in her more reserved, matter of fact way. The fact that in scenes with Pepper she looked like an amateur and in scenes with bad guys she looked like the consummate professional she clearly is was a nice contrast. The women are both masters of their respective domains, and it was Pepper's stress and conflicted feelings over Tony that created the conflict between the two early on.

Loquaciousmuse: Scarlett was actually one of my favorite elements of the movie, and luckily, finding this complaint proved to be somewhat difficult as she ended up fairing pretty well as fair as reviews are concerned. I love her ice cold delivery, and actually found myself unable to take my eyes off her when she was on screen. And I normally can't STAND ScarJo, people. I was definitely left wanting more of her, but I have no problem with that. It just means I look forward to getting more of her during the rest of the franchise. As for Paltrow, sure she kind of annoyed me the first time through, but I got over it. I love her screwball comedy paced banter with Tony Stark and didn't find her dull in the least. 

Complaint #5: I feel bored, which is pretty much how I felt while watching it. - Rocchi

Eruditechick: Then you're a zombie cylon with no frontal lobes. I don't know what to tell you. In all fairness, there's no way to refute this with facts. If you were bored, you were bored. There's nothing I can say about what possible psychological issues you may suffer from that caused this to be the case. From my end, between the sharp, funny, more-intelligent-than-not dialogue, the flashy bits with the flying robots that go zoom, and the well choreographed and highly kinetic rock-em-sock-em's (which, btw- Rock 'em Sock 'em Iron Man vs War Machine game. That's happening right? Hasbro? Mattel? Anyone?) both my eyes and my ears were happily engaged. I was not, in fact, bored at any point in the movie. I didn't think it dragged or ran long or ever ran into the myriad cluster cusses that a movie with this magnitude of characters frequently runs into. I felt many things watching the movie: Bored was not one of them.

ScarletScribe: This is one of the few responses that I'm writing after having seen the movie twice and I have to say that while I didn't enjoy the film as much, and yes some parts were cheesier than I remembered, I was still not bored the second time around.

Loquaciousmuse: Bored? Really? REALLY? What movies do you consider entertaining then? Stupid. Maybe if you're under the age of 10, I get it, but otherwise, shhhhh. Though I do agree with Scribe here. While I didn't enjoy it QUITE as much the second time, I still was never bored.

Complaint #6: The problems with Justin Theroux's script - which come to a head in the big, saggy, boring and redundant second act - hurt all the more because everything else works so well. - Devin Faraci

ScarletScribe: I've heard this complaint coming from several people and, for those unfamiliar with screenwriting, the second act refers to the middle of the film constituting approximately 60 minutes of the finished product in this case. It often occurs after the first big game changer the interrupts the protagonist's established life/status quo and before the revelation that sets up the climatic latter though. In Iron Man 2's case, without being too spoilerific, this refers to everything between Whiplash's arrival and Stark's revelation -- which we'll pretend is that Lady GaGa is brilliant because I don't want to give away anything in this post. At any rate, while you can certainly argue that the second act doesn't follow the conventional format of most superhero films (e.g. superguy just trying to live his life and then ZOMG WTF? VILLAIN UP IN MY GRILL?!) I never once found it boring. But that's because I was happy with what Iron Man 2 was giving me, which was great character moments, fun lines, and interesting interactions. I was so busy being entertained by the characters and the performances that I wasn't bothered by the lack of conventional superhero moments and showdowns. And when it does happen in the third act? The build-up has made it worth every minute. So while the second act may drag for some members of the audience, it doesn't for all. (ETA: During my second viewing, I did find myself wishing there was more action but I still didn't find the middle portion to be dragging. I'm actually surprised by how it clipped along in certain portions.)

Loquaciousmuse: you're saying is the part of the movie that deals most with Tony Stark's inner demons, where we get reintroduced to Nick Fury & The Avengers Initiative, where Tony discovers the new element, the weapons trade scene that IMHO pays off brilliantly in the final battle - all of that is...saggy, boring and redundant? I just...I just disagree.

Eruditechick: How many acts are in this movie? Which is the second? Are we talking about the part where Tony is cordoned off in his hot mess of a mansion to solve the problem of the universe on his own? I liked that part. I thought it was out of order, but I liked it. I would much rather have had those conversations and character development than a random obligatory action sequence.

Complaint #7:"This'll be remembered as the time Jon Favreau not only killed the goose that laid the golden eggs, but plucked it, roasted it, ate it with two veg and gravy, then burped in fans' faces for two hours straight. " - Comic Book Movie

Loquaciousmuse: Hey, how about we all think about ACTUAL bad comic book movies for a second. Spiderman 3 (sorry, Spidey, you know I love you, but it's true), Daredevil, Fantastic Four (I hear the second one was slightly more acceptable, I never saw it, that's what you did to me, Fantastic Four) [eruditechick's note: No. It wasn't. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.-ED]. Okay, thought about them? Remember that sick, gross feeling they gave you? Okay, now think about Iron Man 2. Not the same, is it? Great performances. Specific relationships. Actual & appropriate development. True to the characters and spirit of the original stories & characters. Sure, maybe Iron Man 2 isn't a genre-elevating masterpiece, but it is by no means bad. It is by no means a disappointment. It accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. I don't know what you could have possibly been expecting in order to hate this movie so much, but, chill out, British reviewer friend. You're talking crazy.

ScarletScribe: Worst. Metaphor. Ever. Go back to Metaphor School which is actually not a real place but a metaphor for not sucking.

Eruditechick: ..What? What the hell does this even mean? What? You... have no idea what you're talking about. I... am confused and unimpressed. Eat this:

Complaint #8: "his character [Rhodes] is stupid and boring and i don’t believe for a second that he and T. Stark have any affection for one another… " - @davidehrlich

Loquaciousmuse: While Rhodey may have not had too much to do, true, I still thought he was eons better in this film than in the first, ESPECIALLY where affection/friendship is concerned. I totally bought the Stark/Rhodes friendship, from the moment Don Cheadle stepped into the court room within the first 15 minutes of the film. I felt the disappointment in Rhodey when Stark goes bat-shit-drunk-crazy, when he knows he has no choice but to turn over one of the suits to the army - Iron Man has presented himself as a threat, and Rhodey's first duty is to his country. Their banter totally worked for me, I bought it, War Machine is a badass, the end.

ScarletScribe: I partially agree with this statement, only in that it's the nature of the characters' dynamics for them not to always seem like BFs FOREVER. But that's only my understanding of the pair as seen through the film and I'm not sure of this portrayal is an accurate carryover from the comics. Either way, I only really enjoyed the pairing when Rhodey was pissed off with Stark or the two were bantering back and forth.

Eruditechick: Get a roof.


Unknown said...

I agree with and endorse the content of this post 100%.

Except the description of the Tony-Rhodey fight as erroneous, since it is one of the best scenes of the movie. Almost certainly the most stylish of the action sequences. Your MOM is erroneous.

L. Muse said...

Oh no, I was saying it wasn't erroneous! Some people were claiming it was, but it's one of my favorite parts of the movie and it's how Tony & Rhodey discover the friend 'splosion that takes out Whiplash! So HAH to those who thought the fight was unnecessary, I say!

Arturo said...

Can I just say I loved this line?

Eruditechick: Then you're a zombie cylon with no frontal lobes.

Honestly, I don't trust those outlets enough to read their reviews anyway, so these complaints were news to me. My biggest quibble, truth be told, was wanting to see more of Natalie/Natalia doing her job, but my guess is we'll get more of that footage in the Superdeluxe DVD edition.

Karen said...

I'm sorry ladies but I pretty much agree with all the complaints. Iron Man 2 was a letdown. It wasn't bad but it wasn't brilliant either. The first one was a perfect superhero movie and the second was disappointingly lukewarm. Not enough action and not enough character development. And I really wanted to geek out on it too. Bummers.

BenFromCanada said...

Question: What about the complaint that the whole "new element" thing was kind of...ridiculous and convoluted?

EruditeChick said...

Iron Man was hardly a perfect super hero movie. The second act showdown btwn Iron Man and Iron Monger was overblow and overly drawn out. There were zero stakes, because we all knew exactly how it would end. It was necessary to provide Tony with a distilled enemy instead of, like, 'terrorism', but because we knew how it would end it became tedious, and was not very inspiring.

A REALLY GOOD movie. But not a perfect one.

Talented_Ink said...

While I was watching the movie, by the time Whiplash takes over the drones at the expo, I thought it was going a little slow, but ever since I watched the hammer at the end...I understood. The movie is really good and it's not the LAST marvel movie so they didn't pull out all the stops. They're just setting the stage for more action.