'Iron Man 2': The early critical buzz is, shall we say, underwhelming
"Iron Man 2" looks like it will go the way of almost all sequels since the dawn of the corporate age of moviemaking. It may well make more money than its predecessor, but unlike "The Godfather 2," the last sequel that actually took its original to a higher level of greatness, it won't have as secure a place in our moviegoing hearts. The refreshing thing about "Iron Man," which launched the summer season of 2008, was that, thanks to a great performance from Robert Downey Jr. and savvy filmmaking from Jon Favreau, it felt bold, intoxicatingly exciting, irreverent and, to come back to that first adjective -- refreshingly new.
Of course, sequels, by definition, aren't new, which is why they are invariably creative disappointments, even if they make boatloads of money for their studios. So it comes as no surprise to see that the early trade reviews for "Iron Man 2" are underwhelming at best, pretty much insuring that "Iron Man 2" won't match its predecessor's sky-high 93 score from Rotten Tomatoes. The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt was especially tough on the film, leading off his review by saying:
"Well, that didn't take long. Everything fun and terrific about 'Iron Man,' a mere two years ago, has vanished with its sequel. In its place, 'Iron Man 2' has substituted noise, confusion, multiple villains, irrelevant stunts and misguided story lines. A film series that started out with critical and commercial success will have to settle for only the latter with this sequel."
Variety's Brian Lowry was a bit more forgiving. He says the sequel isn't as much fun as the original, but survives on the good will its original brought to the party. Here's the meat of his argument:
"There are enough fun moments in Jon Favreau's playful direction (from Justin Theroux's workmanlike script) and Downey's performance -- a tycoon who's equal parts Warren Buffett and Kid Rock -- to satisfy a weekend audience, but one needs a forgiving nature to get past the flabby midsection ... All told, 'Iron Man 2' suffers the same fate as many a sequel. Where the first film felt buoyant and occasionally inspired in helpfully demonstrating that, done right, there's considerable treasure to be culled even from second-tier occupants of the Marvel universe, the new pic feels more duty-bound and industrial."
Just in case you weren't sure, calling a movie "industrial" is not a compliment. Even my fellow Times blogger, Steven Zeitchik, who got to go to the premiere, was choosing his words carefully in describing the film's effect, noting that several of our colleagues "did not find themselves in a pose of jaw-dropping awe but, like us, they felt the film has a sense of confidence in its own mission that almost wills you into liking it (or distracts you from its convolutions)."
In other words, "Iron Man 2" is not exactly awe-inspiring. But then again, it's a sequel. And if anything is true about going to the movies in the sequel-studded summer months, it's that you have to be willing to expect something that is clearly less than the very best.
Photo: Robert Downey Jr. arrives at the "Iron Man 2" premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press