Iron Man 2: A Well-Oiled Machine of a Sequel

18 05 2010

Iron Man 2 has been dominating the box office, even beating out Ridley Scott’s and Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, leading the U.S. box office for the second week in a row. Reuniting Robert Downey, Jr. with director Jon Favreau seems to have done the trick, adding one more successful comic book movie to the ever growing roster. Here’s the breakdown:

Billionaire playboy Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), has become a one-man army, acting as a sort of world peace keeper. Because of the Iron Man suit’s near invincibility, the U.S. government, along with rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), become intent on gaining access to the suit’s technology.

Add in Tony’s recently acquired and debilitating blood disease, a feisty new assistant with a secret (Scarlett Johansson), a scorned Russian inventor (Mickey Rourke) and an old friend turned ally (Don Cheadle) and Iron Man 2 has all the ingredients necessary for a summer blockbuster.

The Monkey: Right off the bat, I have to give the filmmakers kudos for keeping this sequel “simple;” not simple effects, not simple story, but a straightforward, no-doubt-about-it sequel. The title is clear – no lengthy sub-title, just the oft-discarded “2.” And there was a certain level of confidence that the movie could perform well without having to cave to industry trends by choosing to release the movie in standard 2D instead of 3D (the same can be said for the upcoming Prince of Persia as well).

Unlike many blockbuster wannabe’s, Iron Man 2 knows what it is – a colorful, effects-laden comic book movie. And that’s exactly what it delivers. The set-pieces are extravagant (namely, the Stark Expo), the effects are dazzling and the film abandons the path of dark, gritty drama for an even lighter and much more humorous script than even the first installment.

Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance is inspired – just as Tony Stark declares, “I am Iron Man,” Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark. His wit and subtlety elevate Iron Man 2 beyond a mere eye-candy flick to a solid, legitimate film.

Many critics have lamented the many new characters and the multiple plot threads, claiming the movie can’t contain them successfully (similar to the universally disappointing Spider-Man 3); however, I didn’t get a sense of compacted plotting or superfluous character. Even thinking back on the complexity of the story, it indeed seems a bit too much for a two hour movie, but the end result is completely satisfying.

The Weasel: Downey, Jr.’s is the only performance most people will pay attention to, and for good reason. The supporting characters of Iron Man 2, while not distracting, hardly add anything worth speaking of. Just about any actor even remotely fitting the character could have been plugged into the various roles (as made evident by the positively baffling move to replace Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle – Cheadle added absolutely nothing to the role, making the switch pointless and confusing). The only exception to this might be Gwyneth Paltrow, who, after two movies, I think has earned the right to be Tony Stark’s go-to gal, Pepper Potts.

While the myriad plots worked well together, an overall theme, an element that tied everything together, was sorely lacking. The writers tried to remedy this with a half-hearted storyline involving Tony’s father, but it felt forced and tacked on. Should it have been further explored? To create more emotional weight and cohesion, maybe, but it could have just as easily slipped into cliché and melodrama.

A successful sequel, to be sure. And while Iron Man 2 stands alone, the movie provides some wonderful teasers for future Marvel projects, the culmination of which is The Avengers in summer 2012 (make sure to stay till the end of the credits for a special teaser). And Iron Man 3 has already been announced, with a possible 2013 release.

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Iron Man 2 live up to the original? Are you excited for the upcoming Marvel movies? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Avatar is Highest Grossing Movie of All Time…Or is It?

26 01 2010

Avatar is getting a lot of attention today – well, more attention than usual today – since it beat the all time box office record, becoming the highest grossing movie of all time.  With $1.839 billion dollars, Avatar eeked out Titanic from the top spot, the previous record holder with $1.835 billion.  It seems likely that Avatar will eventually hit the $2 billion mark.  While it still has about $39 million dollars left to go in order to beat the US domestic record (Titanic has $600 million, Avatar currently has $561 million), this seems pretty likely too.

While I think Avatar deserves this huge success, I think things should be put into perspective.  With an average ticket price of $7.35, more expensive 3D ticket prices, and the $15+ for IMAX tickets, Avatar has a sizable advantage over previous films.  So, accounting for inflation, what movie really is the king of the box office?  And where does Avatar stand?

Let’s go back to 1939…when the average ticket price was $0.23.  The year Gone with the Wind was released.  Adjusting for inflation, Gone with the Wind has made $1,485,028,000 domestically…just shy of Avatar‘s world-wide gross!  Rounding out the top 3: Star Wars ($1,309,179,000) and The Sound of Music ($1,046,753,000).  Titanic is in sixth place with $943,342,300 and Avatar…currently holds the #26 spot!  Click here for a complete list.

I don’t mean to rain on Avatar‘s parade…I just think it’s interesting to consider – Does it seem right that, one day, 100 years from now when tickets are $35, a movie like Saw LXXXIII could break all records…just because the tickets are more expensive?

Well, congrats to Avatar and to James Cameron, who now has two movies topping the box office.  Let’s see how the Avatar sequels do!

For more info:

What do you think?  Is Avatar deserving of the top spot?  Should inflation even be considered?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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