Iron Man 2

(Jon Favreau, 2010)

with Hilary Gietz, 5/22/10


"Am I still talking?"

Part of what made the first Iron Man such a bracing superhero adventure was its willingness to spend time on gentle comedy and quirky character moments.  A lot of big-budget movies feel constrained by their own bigness, as if every blessed second of the film needs to vindicate the money spent on it; Iron Man had a looser, jauntier, lighter vibe — a tolerance for the small, the odd, and the inessential.  Iron Man 2 pushes that aesthetic to the Nth degree, to the point of losing all sense of urgency and focus.  It should have been entitled Hanging Out with Tony, Pepper, and the Gang.

The character of Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell, is symptomatic of the problem.  He’s the secondary villain of the piece, but he’s the least menacing antagonist since Kevin Spacey’s tragically ineffectual Lex Luthor.  Hammer is portrayed as being inferior to Tony Stark in every conceivable way; the movie goes so far as to spell out that he’s not much of a hit with the ladies.  Worse, Hammer never seems any more than vaguely annoyed by Stark’s apparent perfection; he’s such a lightweight that even spite is out of his league.  Yet this paper-thin character is given scene after scene of long-winded speeches, presumably because Favreau found Rockwell’s performance amusing.  It is amusing — Rockwell’s always fun to watch — but it brings the movie to a halt, every time.

There’s a lot to like here, of course.  Downey brings both flair and soul to his portrayal of Tony Stark, and Mickey Rourke, despite (or because of) his very sparse dialogue, makes a vivid impression as Ivan Vanko — the smirking, single-minded, brashly nihilistic main villain.  But Iron Man 2 is too diffuse, too ambling and dissociated, to really get the blood pumping.  It’s as if they filmed all the scenes but forgot to shoot the movie.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Space Cowboys

(Clint Eastwood, 2000)

with Dad, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, 5/17/10


These boys are having fun.

A solid, immensely likable adventure film.  Space Cowboys is a little geriatric in its pacing, but it turns that into a virtue, giving us the chance to spend time with its wealth of appealing characters.  Tommy Lee Jones steals the show as William “Hawk” Hawkins, an age-defying ace pilot with a stubborn grudge and a sad secret.  I admit, I had some trouble following the action during the movie’s climax, but the character dynamics are crystal-clear.

Footnote: Mad Men’s Jon Hamm has one line as Young Pilot #2.  It was his first film role.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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