Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Iron Man 2 and the Power of Charm

Ever since I worked on a PopSci piece about the making of the new Iron Man 2 suit (that doesn't link to the article, but the linked article has such a dreamy headline), I'd been waiting anxiously for May 7 to arrive. When friends or strangers wondered aloud when the film was coming out, I'd snap "May 7th!" often without even looking up.

Then I'd sigh, audibly, and think to myself "God, what dolts!"

Sometimes I forget that people have other things to think about.

So, bright and early Saturday,
Food Critic and I skipped on over to the Kip's Bay theater for some awesome afternoon movie action, in the front row of the IMAX theater, no less.

Was all that
anticipation energy well spent? Correct, sir.

My love for Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark/Iron Man, marches on; Mickey Rourke, as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash -- who I was told is "one of The Ugliest Men" my friend has ever seen in person (ouch.) -- with his betattooed body, speaking in a scary-sounding Russian tongue while wielding electric whips, joins the long list of people I'd like to be
in my next life.

Scarlett Johansson, as sexy Natalie/Black Widow, had remarkably few lines, so I had little to cringe at (she also proved that she can pull off some really awesome martial arts, roundhouse-flipping-wall-climbing fight scenes); Gwyneth, returning as Pepper Potts and the new head of Stark Enterprises, was, well, annoying, but she always is, so what's director John Favreau supposed to do?

Oh, and Sam Rockwell. Rockwell was brilliant -- and briliantly cast -- as Justin Hammer, the wonderfully sleazy weapons maker who smells opportunity now that old Tony Stark (swoon) is off promoting peace and trying to survive his curious health condition caused by his suit. Honestly, Rockwell's ability to channel sleaze is rivaled only by Gary Oldman.

Oldman in "The Professional"

As the film opens, Stark walks out onto a stage in front of roaring fans; he's got sweet shades on, he walks with a strut and swagger only a superhero's alter ego can pull off, and, at that, I knew I was already a little in love with a movie that certainly packs in some unnecessary mini-plot points and lacks a bit of the last script's bite.

The gist: The U.S. government wants Tony to turnover his secret Suit's technology. A walking, talking specimen of Cool, we're treated to a delightful court scene where Tony tells the senator (Garry Shandling) demanding the tech to go jump in a lake, donning his ubiquitous sunglasses, and bowing out with a "But, I have successfully privatized world peace." Bam.

At that, Hammer (Rockwell) recruits Rourke to help develop new technology; conveniently, the Russian has old scores to settle with the Stark family.

Enter, more villains, several sequences that involve Whiplash working on a fleet of new robot suits, many, many close-ups of Johansson's ridiculously pouty lips that are pretty to look at, and, of course shots of Whiplash using those wonderful electric whips to slice cars in half.

I thought it was very, very fun, and rarely did my mind wander during the action scenes, something it's prone to doing.

There's a great little piece over at Entertainment Weekly that discusses the film's notably high appeal to starry-eyed ladies like myself and why they flocked to IM2 and walked out with a smile: The power of the film's characters' overwhelming charm. (And, having talked to many males about the subject, I don't think the seduction of the charm-laden film is limited to ladies.)

According to a studio distribution exec, EW quotes, You would expect such numbers from a film like Sex and the City 2." The author then puts into words better than I could've mustered what I, and most everyone I've talked to about it, seems to agree with:
Iron Man 2 succeeds on the charm of its characters rather than on the ka-chunk, ka-chunk of its warfare and impersonal CG action sequences. And chicks like charm. Heck, everyone likes charm, real charm. Which is why Robert Downey Jr. is currently the master of his domain. It also helps that in Iron Man 2, Gwyneth Paltrow is spunky-charming, Sam Rockwell is smarmy-charming, Mickey Rourke is psycho-charming, Scarlett Johansson is slinky-charming, and Samuel L. Jackson is eyepatch-charming.
For someone who claims RDJ as one of her first loves (Bueller may have come first, and Newman certainly later surpassed him -- but just like with all real loves, some part of it never dies.), it warms my Ice Cold Heart (let's be honest, the only "real loves" I have exist on-screen) to know that RDJ is once again "master of his [charm] domain."

As for the PopSci article on the IM2 suit, the top half of it was engineered by some very high-tech designers who told me in detail about the intricacies of his gloves, down to how many metal braces went around each of his digits; the bottom half of the suit was CGI.

Iron Man/RDJ was pants-less in the filming -- or, at least he wasn't wearing the Iron Man legs throughout. That also kind of warmed the Ice Heart, and made me giggle at the idea of him protecting world peace in his undies.

Movie Trivia: Sam Rockwell was the "Head Thug" in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, back in 1990 (ripe age of 22). Awesome.

TMNT trailer: