Yeah. I liked it a lot.
And I had kind of been expecting it to suck after reading the reviews. I mean, kind of X-Men 3 or Spiderman 3.
Now, please, please allow me to clarify. I liked these latter films somewhat...on a certain level (especially with the Spidey film) I understood what the film-makers were going for, and they delivered a certain amount of "good stuff" I was looking for. But the reviewers were right...they just didn't cut it as sequels. And after watching both, I wasn't interested in watching more.
IM2 got some mixed reviews as well...saying it wasn't as good as the first, saying it was a re-hashing of the first film, saying it was just a big ad for the Avengers, saying the "stealing-Stark-Tech-&-using-it-against-Tony" was a tired theme already explored in the first film, etc. And in general, I'm on the same page with the movie critics I follow...if they are disappointed by a film than, by-and-large, I end up being similarly disappointed even when I really, REALLY want to like a film.
Such is not the case with Iron Man 2.
I thought it was great, I thought the pacing was excellent, I thought the story was great, if this type of film could be rolled out of the studio every summer, my ass would be in the seat and my money in their hands every summer.
And here's the kicker: I'm not even an Iron Man fan or anything. I read him in a handful of Avengers comics during the early 80s, had an origin re-cap issue (detailing how he and Rhodey met in the jungles of Vietnam), and had perhaps a second IM issue with a fight against the Living Laser or something...but that's really it. I never followed Stark or his exploits and wasn't all that crazy about his character until I checked out The Ultimates series a couple years back. But even then, Cap America steals the show. I don't know...maybe it's 'cause Stark is a Republican? Nah. But the point is: when reading Aberrant (a supers RPG from White Wolf that I loved) and they said, "No, for better or worse, in Aberrant your character is NOT Iron Man" ('cause basically everyone's a mutant)...well, it wasn't disappointing to me.
The Iron Man films have turned me into a huge fan of the guy.
And it's not Robert Downey Jr. performance that's done it. RDJ is a brilliant actor, has been for years, and one whose work I admire immensely. But just look at the caliber of actors in these films! Jeff Bridges? Gwyneth Paltrow? Mickey Roarke? Sam Jackson? Terrence Howard? Don Cheadle? ALL of these folks have been nominated or have outright won Academy Awards! What the hell are they doing playing bit parts in a blue-screen superhero movie?!
And when I watch the film, I can't help but see these artists (for that's what professional actors who've been around the block really are) pouring their craft into these handful of lines, these slim moments of screen time they get...all of 'em doing their best to do their best for the film...it breaks my heart that there isn't more for 'em. That the movie's not four hours or that an Iron Man 3 isn't being released next week in some sort of throw-back to the days of serial cinema. All of this in aid of an action film centered around...let's face it...a handful of CGI characters and action scenes. And it's still great.
That's on the director, folks. That's Jon Favreau making an excellent movie.
Classic Marvel comics are a mess. Worlds and characters - hero, villain, and bit-part - have been blown up and recycled and re-imaged and re-tread more times than anyONE can probably keep track of...whether you're Stan Lee or some comic buff with a photographic memory that's collected every issue of every series for the last 50 years. Favreau has enough fan-boy (or smarts) in him to keep the story pretty true to its roots, while updating it for today AND making a movie that can be equally enjoyed by kids and adults. And it IS a good film...it's not a totally commercial piece of garbage. It's not a schill for a particular political agenda (not in my opinion, anyway). It's not (I don't think) an action film trying to win any Oscars as I'm pretty sure Scott and Crowe are attempting with Robin Hood.
It's just a damn good translation of comic to film. And while I wince at the prospect of a Thor or Captain America movie...because these characters are soooo non-real life/non-21st century that I can't possibly think how they can be translated to screen...maybe, just maybe there's hope if Favreau can be involved in the Avengers film. Just make sure you get the same writers.
I actually checked the ol' wikipedia on Favreau, as I figured "this guy must be pretty close to my age." Turns out he's actually older...by about 7 years (that's a whole generation removed in RPG terms). However, the article led me to this interesting article in the L.A. Times (from May 2008):
Some filmmakers get their start making shaky home movies, others catch the bug in a high school drama class or maybe through an art institute where they put paint to canvas. Favreau has more of an eight-sided education.
"It was Dungeons & Dragons, but I wouldn't have owned up so quickly a few years ago," Favreau said sheepishly.
"It's rough. It's one of the few groups that even comic-book fans look down on. But it gave me a really strong background in imagination, storytelling, understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance. You're creating this modular, mythic environment where people can play in it."
Nice. See? Role-playing need NOT be simple escapism only for itself. Sometimes it's a gateway to other creative endeavors and "arenas of adventure;" like film-making.
All right, that's enough gushing. I was going to say something about how, once again, Palladium's Heroes Unlimited is a near-perfect vehicle for my taste in superheroes, as everything in that film can be fairly well-mimicked by HU. But perhaps that's a post for another time.