Archive for Tony Stark

Avengers: Infinity War

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Having acquired the Power Stone from the planet Xandar, Thanos and his lieutenants—Ebony Maw, Cull Obsidian, Proxima Midnight, and Corvus Glaive—intercept the spaceship carrying the survivors of Asgard’s destruction. As they extract the Space Stone from the Tesseract, Thanos subdues Thor, overpowers Hulk, and kills Loki. Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth using the Bifröst before being killed. Thanos departs with his lieutenants and obliterates the spaceship.

Hulk crash-lands at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, reverting to Bruce Banner. He warns Stephen Strange and Wong about Thanos’ plan to kill half of all life in the universe; in response, Strange recruits Tony Stark. Maw and Obsidian arrive to retrieve the Time Stone from Strange, drawing the attention of Peter Parker. Maw captures Strange, but fails to take the Time Stone due to an enchantment. Stark and Parker pursue Maw’s spaceship, Banner contacts Steve Rogers, and Wong stays behind to guard the Sanctum.

In Scotland, Midnight and Glaive ambush Wanda Maximoff and Vision in order to retrieve the Mind Stone in Vision’s forehead. Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and Sam Wilson rescue them and take shelter with James Rhodes and Banner at the Avengers Compound. Vision offers to sacrifice himself by having Maximoff destroy the Mind Stone to keep Thanos from retrieving it. Rogers suggests they travel to Wakanda, which he believes has the resources to remove the stone without destroying Vision.

The Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call from the Asgardian ship and rescue Thor, who surmises Thanos seeks the Reality Stone, which is in the possession of the Collector on Knowhere. Rocket and Groot accompany Thor to Nidavellir, where they and Eitri create an enchanted battle-axe capable of killing Thanos. On Knowhere, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis find Thanos with the Reality Stone already in his possession. Thanos kidnaps Gamora, his adoptive daughter, who reveals the location of the Soul Stone to save her captive adoptive sister Nebula from torture. Thanos and Gamora travel to Vormir, where Red Skull, keeper of the Soul Stone, informs him the stone can only be retrieved by sacrificing someone he loves. Thanos reluctantly kills Gamora, earning the Stone.

Nebula escapes captivity and asks the remaining Guardians to meet her on Thanos’ destroyed homeworld, Titan. Stark and Parker kill Maw and rescue Strange. Landing on Titan, they meet Quill, Drax, and Mantis. The group forms a plan to remove Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet after Strange uses the Time Stone to view millions of possible futures, seeing only one in which Thanos loses. Thanos arrives, justifying his plans as necessary to ensure the survival of a universe threatened by overpopulation. The group subdues him until Nebula deduces that Thanos has killed Gamora. Enraged, Quill retaliates, allowing Thanos to break the group’s hold and overpower them. After Stark is seriously wounded by Thanos, Strange surrenders the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Stark. Thanos departs for Earth.

In Wakanda, Rogers reunites with Bucky Barnes before Thanos’ army invades. The Avengers, alongside T’Challa and the Wakandan forces, mount a defense while Shuri works to extract the Mind Stone from Vision. Banner, unable to transform into the Hulk, fights in Stark’s Hulkbuster armor. Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive to reinforce the Avengers; Midnight, Obsidian, and Glaive are killed and their army is routed. Thanos arrives and despite Maximoff’s attempt to destroy the Mind Stone, removes it from Vision, killing him.

Thor severely wounds Thanos, but Thanos activates the completed Infinity Gauntlet and teleports away. Half of all life across the universe disintegrates, including Barnes, T’Challa, Groot, Maximoff, Wilson, Mantis, Drax, Quill, Strange, and Parker. Stark and Nebula remain on Titan while Banner, M’Baku, Okoye, Rhodes, Rocket, Rogers, Romanoff, and Thor are left on the Wakandan battlefield. Meanwhile, Thanos recovers on another planet.

In a post-credits scene, Nick Fury transmits a signal as he, Maria Hill, and others disintegrate. The transmitter displays a star insignia on a red-and-blue background

REVIEW:

The moment has come! The big payoff! The reason we have sat through seemingly endless Marvel Cinematic Universe films, though they have all been enjoyable to varying degrees. 10 years in the making, complete with developing an entire universe, setting up some high stakes, and teasing us with the big bad, Avengers: Infinity War has arrived! Will it be the payoff all of us comic nerds, as well as the general public have been expecting?

What is this about?

As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.

What did I like?

Spread the wealth. From the moment this film was announced, it was clear that the cast was going to be huge. What we didn’t know was how the balance of screentime would play out. Would we get a heavy dose of Iron Man and Captain America, while Hulk and Dr. Strange are relegated to what amounts to glorified cameos? I can assure you that is not the case. Every character that we have been introduced to in the MCU to this point, with the exception of Hawkeye, Ant-Man (who has his own sequel coming later this summer, which takes place before this film, apparently), and a couple of others who i can’t think of at the moment, is included in this film. While not all time on screen is equal, each character is allowed to show their strengths and why we have grown to care about them over this time.

Mad Titan. Yesterday, I saw Josh Brolin as Cable in Deadpool 2 and, while he was good as that character, he feels more at home as Thanos. That’s not to say Brolin can’t play a cyborg mutant from the future, or that he should always seek out roles where he is a delusional psychopath with delusions of grandeur who has a strange misconception of what kind of balance the universe needs. Rather, he just seemed to have more fun as Thanos. I think he even said so himself. I can’t blame him. One the one hand, he could be a really strong time traveling cyborg who has to listen to Deadpool all day or be a universal titan that is nigh unstoppable. The latter seems to be the better option. As far as his plot is concerned, i think this is one of Marvel’s stronger villains. I won’t spoil it for you, but he does lay out and execute his plans with precision, rather than dawdle and monologue the way some earlier MCU villains have done (some in his employ).

Impact. The impact of the MCU has been felt ever since the first Avengers was released and other studios started taking notice of universe building. Now, if you notice there are many duplicators and imitators. DC has come the closest to recreating the formula, but something just isn’t right with them. When all is said and done with this film, though, the way it ends is sure to make a lasting impact on fans and probably moreso on those that aren’t fans. I can’t go into much detail about it without dabbling into spoiler territory, but i can say that something happens that will send shock waves through the audience, as it is something no one saw coming.

What didn’t I like?

Short end of the stick. Earlier, i mentioned the enormous cast and how not everyone was given equal screentime. For some reason *COUGH* ego*COUGH*, Iron Man gets the majority of the screentime. Meanwhile characters such as Bucky (Winter Soldier), Black Widow, Nebula, etc. have maybe 5 min on screen. In Nebula’s defense, she was a prisoner being tortured by Thanos for most of her time. This brings me to Black Panther. He, and the nation of Wakanda, play an important role later in the film, but that is all we get. Some have speculated that since this was filmed before the release of Black Panther, the studio had no idea of the impact that film would have and thus didn’t give T’Challa much to do in this film. There is an argument to made there, but my point is many characters, both major and minor didn’t receive as much time as they could have because of the amount of characters in this film. I’m not saying there were too many, just that, and I’m going to sound like Thanos here, ironically, more balance needs to be brought.

Offspring. Unless you are a fan of the comics, then you probably have no idea who Thanos’ “children” were. Myself, not being up to date on Thanos’ history, didn’t know who they were, either. Apparently, they are, much like Nebula and Gamora, the last children from worlds Thanos has conquered and destroyed who now serve him. That little bit of history doesn’t mean much, other than explain why they are fighting so hard for this big purple guy. They view him as their father and will do anything  for him. The way they seem to be portrayed in the film is equivalent to Stormtroopers, mindless clones who only serve one purpose.

Ground support. Granted, there isn’t much they could do and i just went on about too many characters, but i can’t help but think that the Defenders (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones), the Punisher, Ghost Rider, and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , along with anyone else that could help out with this (Inhumans, Deathlok, etc.) The world is in danger! I find it hard to believe that these heroes/anti-heroes would just sit idly by, especially Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. (note…i have not been watching this season). Real talk…the only reason none of these guys are making an appearance is because Marvel is desperately wanting to keep the MCU away from the Netflix universe. Don’t ask me why. It makes no sense!

Spoiler alert. This isn’t a complaint against the film, but rather internet culture. As you know, i am nearly a month late getting to see this. Life/work kept me away from the theater. In this day and age, spoilers are very hard to avoid, especially when you are in a Facebook group for comic book and movie nerds. However, i believe it was the Sunday after the film’s release that i was checking out the Venom trailer and had the film spoiled for me. How was it spoiled? Well, right as the trailer is about to end, some @#%$!^ inserted a 10 second clip of himself telling the world what happened. I ask you…who does that?!?

Final thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War? Man, what a ride! The emotional roller coaster this film takes you on from the opening beat down of the Asgardians, to the triumphant return of Steve Rogers (that entrance was…wow!), all the way to the events that happen in the second half of the film are sure to keep one on the edge of their seat. There are some things that could be cut as well as some scenes that probably should not have been cut. All in all, though, i had a great time watching this and can’t wait for the next one. Do i recommend it? Yes, very highly!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Invincible Iron Man

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

While attempting to unearth an ancient Chinese city using his company’s resources – while also diverting money into a project that will put Stark Enterprises on the cutting edge of technology – Tony Stark’s ambitions are thwarted when the Jade Dragons attack the excavation site, killing almost everyone and kidnapping his friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Traveling to the site to investigate, Tony is captured and injured by the Jade Dragons, his life saved by a Chinese shaman named Ho Yen and Rhodes’ skills as an army medic after a piece of shrapnel damages his heart.

The shaman tells Tony that the Dragons leader Wong-Chu seek to prevent the return of the Mandarin, an evil ruler of great power who ruled China three thousand years ago, and who the city commemorates. Should four rings created by the Mandarin – their purpose being to grant him power over death – be brought together after the city rises, the Mandarin will awaken. The Dragons force Tony to construct, within a week, a weapon to sink the city or he will face execution. To show they are serious they kill the shaman. Befriending Li Mei, a member of the group, Tony learns that she has a duty that has been passed down her family from father to son – she had no brothers – but she will not reveal what it is. Meanwhile, four elemental spirits are released when the city is raised, and they find two of the Mandarin’s four rings.

When the weapon that Stark and Rhodes created is revealed to be a fake, Chu is about to shoot Rhodes, but Li Mei shoots him from behind. Tony subsequently emerges in their true project; a suit of armor. Rescuing Rhodes, Tony flees the temple and return home, but Li Mei refuses his offer to take her with him. Studying a painting of the prophecy, Li Mei realizes that Tony is the ‘Iron Knight’ who it was foretold would battle the Mandarin, but this brings her no comfort, as the prophecy only states that one of the two shall die without specifying who. To spare Tony this fate, she leads the Jade Dragons in attempting to destroy the city, but the rest of the Dragons are killed and she is confronted by a shadowy dragon-like creature.

After returning to America, Tony and Rhodes are shocked to discover that they are wanted by S.H.I.E.L.D. for selling weapons to the Jade Dragons; Howard Stark, Tony’s father, sent Rhodes weapons to provide enhanced security for the site against Tony’s wishes, and, with the Dragons having stolen the shipment, he has apparently used Tony as a scapegoat to maintain his position.

Having escaped the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and sneaked into his office with the aid of his secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts, Tony reveals his secret project to Rhodes; multiple suits of armor, each one designed for tasks that human beings could not possibly accomplish alone. Taking an underwater suit of armor to the third temple at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (the temples’ locations provided on a map from the shaman) – Tony manages to defeat the Fire Elemental by throwing it into the water, but the other three escape with the ring.

Following a brief confrontation with his father over Howard framing Tony for arms dealing (during which it is revealed that the two men have long been at odds over their opinion regarding weapons, a division that has only worsened since the death of Tony’s mother), Tony dons another armor and flies to recover the last ring, located in an active volcano, Pepper and Rhodes allowing themselves to be arrested to buy Tony time. Although he defeats the Air and Water Elementals – he tricks the Water Elemental into freezing the Air Elemental before throwing the Water Elemental into the molten lava – and escapes with the ring, Tony’s armor is badly damaged by the Earth Elemental’s assault, forcing him to abandon the armor and make his own way home.

Having returned to New York, Tony is confronted by Li Mei, who begs him to give her the ring to prevent the Earth Elemental from attacking Tony. Deciding to try and destroy the temple, but unable to reach his more advanced armors due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel in the building, Tony and Li Mei return to China using the armor Tony developed while being held prisoner, which remains on the plane he and Rhodes used to return home.

Arriving at the city just as the Earth Elemental raises an army from the ground, Tony clashes with the Elemental, destroying his adversary with a final desperate mid-air collision. However, as he prepares to search for the last Ring, Li Mei reveals that her bracelet is the final ring; her family seeks to ensure the resurrection of the Mandarin rather than his defeat, and, as the last descendant of the Mandarin, only Li Mei can hold the Mandarin’s spirit, and only she can become the vessel he will need to walk the Earth again. Admitting that she was the one who gave S.H.I.E.L.D. the documents incriminating Tony for arms dealing in an attempt to protect him, Li Mei begs Tony to leave while he still can, but when he refuses, the army activates, forcing Tony to fight the soldiers as Li Mei advances towards the Mandarin’s tomb.

Although Tony vanquishes the soldiers, he is subsequently forced to fight a vast dragon as Li Mei makes contact with the Mandarin’s spirit. Despite his damaged armour, Tony manages to defeat the dragon by forcing a vat of liquid metal to expand and solidify inside it, but when he enters the temple, he finds Li Mei naked and under the control of the Mandarin. As his armor is torn even further apart by the assault, Tony begs Li Mei to remember who she is, managing to convince Li Mei to turn against the Mandarin. As she removes the rings from her hand, the Mandarin’s connection to the real world is broken, triggering a brief explosion before his spirit vanishes,but with his last breath, he unleashes an energy which blasts Li Mei. After thanking Tony for saving her with a kiss, Li Mei dies in his arms, leaving Tony alone in the temple to mourn her death.

Returning to the U.S, Tony is cleared of all charges by the Chinese government and S.H.I.E.L.D., subsequently buying up all available shares in Stark Enterprises, bringing the company under his complete control. However, he has only two actions to take: promoting Rhodes to the position of Chief Engineer for Advanced Technologies, and handing control of the company over to his father. Saying that he’s always regarded the company as a father/son enterprise, Howard and Tony shake hands, Howard subsequently firing the board of directors to free him and Tony from the bureaucracy that nearly tore them apart.

REVIEW:

Remember a few years ago when no one knew anything about Iron Man? That seems like forever ago, right? Well, before Iron Man was released, or at least around the same time, audiences were treated to the animated adventure, The Invincible Iron Man. Is this just another animated superhero origin tale or is it just another in a long line of forgettable films in the subgenre.

What is this about?

In this animated adventure, inventor Tony Stark digs up more than he bargained for when he unearths an evil entity buried for centuries in an ancient Chinese ruin. To protect himself from the destructive force, Tony designs a high-tech suit of armor.

What did I like?

Mandarin. Similar to Iron Man 3, this is not the true version of the Mandarin, but another interpretation. Normally, Mandarin is a green (in some interpretations) megalomaniac who uses 10 magical rings. In this interpretation, he uses 5 rings and was a murderous dictator who spirit inhabits his descendants after some strange ceremony that they voluntarily go through. I’m a purist, but this version is acceptable, as it makes Mandarin seem to be more of a threat, keeps some elements of the character, and doesn’t make him a stereotype (although I’ve never thought of him as such).

Howard. I’m not really sure what universe of Iron Man this takes place in, but apparently Howard Stark is still alive and Tony is in charge of the scientific division. Thinking back to all of the Iron Man animated series and films, I believe this is the only one that feature Howard. Sure, he appears in a couple of flashbacks here and there, but that’s about it. Nice to get him some screentime, if you ask me.

Shrapnel. The first issue of Iron Man that I read, incidentally, featured the Mandarin and a flashback to Tony Stark’s origin, which was him getting shrapnel lodged in his chest moving ever closer to his heart, hence the real reason he created the chest plate, which evolved into a full suit of armor. This has been retconned since then, and this is another version of it, but it does keep the hunk of metal lodged in his chest. Without that, you can’t really have Iron Man, now can you?

What didn’t I like?

Animation. For me, this anime style of character design was a big turn off for me. I actually think it is one of the reasons I have avoided this film for all these years. Also, the early CGI animation that they used was not doing it for me. I’m not really a fan of the stuff as it is, but for some reason, it didn’t seem to gel. It feel antique when used with the more modern look of the rest of the film.

Mandarin. Is it too much to ask for the real Mandarin? I mean come on, the spirit of a murderous dictator with 5 rings? No Fin Fang Foom? WTF?!? Also, what was the deal with the elementals? Why did they have to bring these guys in? I want to say they were just created so that the animators could use their crappy CGI, but I hesitate because they could be a part of the Mandarin’s origin that I am not aware of. Still, I want the Fu Manchu mustache having, green skinned, pure Mandarin. Guess I’ll just have to look up some Iron Man cartoons to get that, more specifically the 1994 show.

Pacing. The first hour of this film has very little in the way of action, but rather just seems to go on and on with family drama. Yes, it sets up the characters, but most people who are going to check this out come for some action, and we don’t get it until the last 30-45 minutes, and I’m not quite sure it is worth the wait.

The Invincible Iron Man is anything but invincible. There are flaws with this film, many of which are par for the course when it comes to Marvel Animated features. They try to be more adult, using violence and adult themes, but end up suffering from lackluster pacing and relying way too much on computer animation. Marvel may be winning the “war” at the box office, but DC has the leg up in the animated feature department. This could be an interesting film, but it just doesn’t capture one’s interest. For me, it is worth watching if you’re an Iron Man fan, but for everyone else, you’re best checking out the Robert Downey, Jr. films.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Iron Man 3

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Tony Stark recalls a New Years Eve party in 1999 with scientist Maya Hansen, inventor of Extremis – an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company Advanced Idea Mechanics, but is turned down.

Years later, Stark’s experiences during the alien invasion of New York are giving him panic attacks. Restless, he has built several Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts. A string of bombings by terrorist the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by lack of forensic evidence. When Stark Industries security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in one such attack, Stark overcomes his stupor and issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark’s home with helicopter gunships. Potts and Hansen, who had come to warn them, survive the attack. Stark then finds himself in rural Tennessee after his artificial intelligence JARVIS followed a flight plan from Stark’s investigation into the Mandarin. Stark’s experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.

Teaming with Harley, a precocious 10-year-old boy, Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the “bombings” were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis, which at this stage of development can cause certain subjects to explosively reject it. After veterans started exploding, their deaths were used to cover up Extremis’ flaws by manufacturing a terrorist plot. Stark witnesses Extremis firsthand when Mandarin agents Ellen Brandt and Eric Savin attack him.

With Harley’s help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually a British actor, Trevor Slattery, who says that he is oblivious to the actions carried out in his name. The Mandarin is a creation of Killian, who appropriated Hansen’s Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans. After capturing Stark, Killian reveals he is the true Mandarin; he has kidnapped Potts and subjected her to Extremis, intending to infuse her with superhuman abilities and turn her against Stark as leverage to gain Stark’s aid in fixing Extremis’ flaws. Killian kills Maya when she has a change of heart about the plan.

Killian has also manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin’s location, luring James Rhodes — the former War Machine, now re-branded as the Iron Patriot — into a trap to steal the armor. Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Remotely controlling his Iron Man armor, Stark saves some surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis. They trace Killian to an impounded oil-drilling platform where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The vice president will become a puppet leader, following Killian’s orders in exchange for Extremis to cure a little girl’s disability.

On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, and Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons each of his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by JARVIS, to provide air support. Rhodes secures the president and leads him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, before he can save her, a rig collapses around them and she falls to her apparent death. Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian.

After the battle, Stark orders JARVIS to destroy each Iron Man suit as a sign of his intention to devote more time to Potts. The vice president and Slattery are arrested. With Stark’s help, Potts’ Extremis effects are stablized, and Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing he will always be Iron Man, even without his armor.

In a present day post-credits scene, Stark wakes up Dr. Bruce Banner, who fell asleep listening at the beginning of Stark’s story.

REVIEW:

Last summer, The Avengers was the film everyone was looking forward to and talking about. This year, we are starting what Marvel Studios is calling Phase II leading up the second Avengers film with Iron Man 3. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on this film, not only to not drop the ball, but also because this is the first big blockbuster of the year.

What is this about?

Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

What did I like?

Tony, Tony, Tony. The last film was so focused on the Iron Man suit that we forgot there was a man inside, Tony Stark. Here we get back to basics with him, as he is without his suits and JARVIS for a good portion of the film. Yes, that is not necessarily a good thing for a summer blockbuster, but it just makes the final payoff that much better. Not to mention, Stark is a genius! Seeing his brilliant mind come up with innovative ways to escape and do things is something we haven’t seen since the first Iron Man. Say what you will, but Iron Man is ultimately nothing without the man behind him.

Stand alone. We all loved The Avengers and that is great, but what I really appreciated is how this stayed an Iron Man film. Yes, there were references to the events that happened in New York, and Stark has a bit of trauma from it, but that isn’t a major plot point. Admittedly, I was sort of afraid it would. Looking at the trailer for the new Thor movie, it doesn’t seem to be a problem in that one either. So, Marvel is doing things right. I don’t think we would have minded seeing Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and the others, I just felt that Stark needed some time to himself.

Comedy. Contrary to what some out there may want him to be, Iron Man has never been the dark, brooding type like Batman. The only dark thing about Stark is his alcoholism, which will never be covered on-screen as long as Downey is portraying him…for issues that would hit too close to home. So, getting moments of levity thrown in here and there are an absolute delight for me. It is what I know Iron Man to be and the cast seems to be having fun with these jokes, so how can you complain?

Kid. I’m not a fan of this kid they brought in, but for the purpose he serves, I suppose he works. It seems like they just wanted him to be a foil for Tony Stark and to remind the audience that while Stark is all about saving the world, he is still a total selfish douchebag, lest we forget.

What didn’t I like?

Final battle. In Transformers, one of the complaints was that you couldn’t tell who was who with all those gears and stuff clashing. In a way, that is how I felt watching this final scene. You’ve seen the trailer where all the Iron Man suits show up, right? Well, they all join in the fight, but it is very hard to tell who is who and what is going on. Part of that may be related to watching this in 3D and wearing those rented sunglasses, but it would have been nice to have a better sense of what was happening.

Yes, you have abs. Normally, I’m the last one to complain about seeing a woman in her sports bra, but when Gwyneth Paltrow is kidnapped, they strip her down to a sports bra. To me, it seemed like this was done for no other reason than for her to show her abs, especially since not long before that, we see another woman, but she was in her miliary gear.

Color scheme. This is a personal complaint, but who the hell told these people Iron Man is yellow and red instead of red and yellow?!? That just doesn’t look right! For me, it was distracting, I couldn’t wait for him to get out of that crappy paint job he calls a suit!

Imma call him War Machine. I would say this was done just for the movie, but there actually is an Iron Patriot. The armor is best associated with Norman Osborn, you know Green Goblin from Spider-Man. As far as I can tell, they changed it here for marketing reasons. Parents are so squeamish these days. Last thing they would want to do is buy a kid a toy called War Machine, but Iron Patriot? Not a problem. Isn’t that just sickening?

Botanist. This is a very small thing…hardly worth mentioning. You may remember Batman & Robin where a botanist was responsible for much of the evil that was happening. Well, this botanist doesn’t turn into a mad supervillain, but the idea did put me in mind of that film. I couldn’t help but think back to it, but that might just me overanalyzing things.

Mandarin. Let me tell you about the first Iron Man comic I read…It was the end of some storyline,  Stark came hom, poured a drink, took his armor off and got shot in the back. This would leave him paralyzed for quite some time. I keep hope that they’ll actually use this storyline in a future film. While he didn’t commit that heinous act, the Mandarin was the villain Iron Man had defeated before heading home. A sinister being of unspeakable power, thanks to his 10 rings. At first, the Mandarin here seems to be just as menacing a figure, then the proverbial curtain is pulled back. I’m not going to spoil anything about how they handled this interpretation, but I will say it pissed me off to no end to know that this is what they did to a great villain such as the Mandarin. Making matters even worse, they got Sir Ben Kingsley, who I felt would have been great as a true Mandarin, to do this. WTF?!? For a franchise that even through the changes it has made to the source material has had a pretty good track record of pleasing the fans, this was like a big F— you! All I can do is hope that he gets a true Mandarin-izing (yes, I just coined that phrase) before the next film. Prison has ways of changing a man, after all, and dammit does it need to do it quickly!

Iron Man 3 is sure to make a ton of $$$, but did you honestly think it wouldn’t? The new elements added to the already familiar story are hit and miss, but they work well enough when all is said and done. This new director, Shane Black, gave the film a darker tone which I am not sure I liked, but to each their own. I question what his obsession with Christmas time is, though. Ultimately, though, I had a good time with this film. It has some issues here and there, but still a really solid flick that you need to rush out and see ASAP. Yes, people, the summer movie season has officially arrived!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

The Avengers

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. The commander there, agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), explains that the Tesseract, an energy source of unknown potential, has activated and opened a mysterious portal. Through it, the exiled Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steps. Loki takes the Tesseract, and uses his abilities to control the minds of several S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel including agent Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), as well as physicist consultant Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), in order to aid in his getaway.

In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the Avengers Initiative. Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), while Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), approaches Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and requests that he review Selvig’s research. Fury himself approaches Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) with an assignment to retrieve the Tesseract from Loki. During his exile, Loki encountered the Other (Alexis Denisof), an alien conqueror who, in exchange for the Tesseract, offers Loki an army of the alien race called the Chitauri in order for him to subjugate Earth.

Rogers, Stark and Romanoff travel to Stuttgart, Germany, to apprehend Loki, who is recovering iridium needed to stabilize the Tesseract’s power and demanding that the civilians kneel before him. After a battle with Captain America and Iron Man, Loki surrenders and is escorted back to a S.H.I.E.L.D. plane. However, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki’s adoptive brother, arrives and attempts to free Loki to reason with him. Stark and Rogers confront Thor, and Loki is eventually returned to the Helicarrier, a flying aircraft carrier, and placed in a cell designed to hold the Hulk.

The Avengers are divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. planned to harness the Tesseract to develop weapons as a deterrent against hostile extraterrestrials. As the group argues, Barton and Loki’s other possessed agents attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. As Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, Thor attempts to stop the Hulk’s rampage, and Romanoff fights Barton. During this fight, a blow to the head knocks Barton unconscious, breaking Loki’s mind control. Loki escapes, killing Agent Coulson as he does so, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship.

Fury uses Coulson’s death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them in a very public way so as to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Using a device built by Selvig, Loki uses the Tesseract to open a portal to the Chitauri fleet over Manhattan, summoning a Chitauri invasion.

The Avengers rally in defense of New York, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers and Stark evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki’s control, reveals that Loki’s staff can be used to close the portal.

Meanwhile, Fury’s superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet before running out of power and plummeting back to Earth, but the Hulk catches him as he falls. Thor escorts Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard, while Fury notes that the Avengers will go their separate ways until such time as a new world-threatening menace emerges.

In a post-credits scene, the Other confers with his master3 about the attack on Earth. In a second post-credits scene, the Avengers — gathered at a shawarma restaurant — eat in silence.

REVIEW:

What a way to start the summer movie season!!!

Over the past four or so years, we have been getting teasers for this great team up of all the Marvel superheroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America). Many people had their doubts, but The Avengers hit theaters with, pardon the pun, a vengeance.

Yes, I know there are other Marvel heroes (Blade, The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Spider Man, the X-Men, and Elektra), but there are a host of reasons why they weren’t chosen for this film, mainly being that Iron Man was the beginning of the official Marvel Studios era, and most of those films were made before. Also, there is the little fact that with the exception of Daredevil and on occasion certain X-Men and Spider-Man, none of these are actually Avengers. While on the topic of Spider-Man, he has a film coming out in July, so ol’ webhead is a little busy.

Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what say we talk about this film, eh?

I can only think of one word to really explain how I felt coming out of this film…geekasm! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, as a comic book geek from days gone by, seeing some of my favorite characters on the big screen together and certain things that I thought would never happen, such as the helicarrier lifting off was a true delight.

3D is not my friend, as anyone who reads this blog will tell you, but I shelled out the extra bucks for the rental glasses and, I hve to say, this did not disappoint. I can’t say there is anything that you just have to see in 3D, but seeing it in 3D doesn’t hurt.

So, what works?

Direction. Joss Whedon does a great job with such a major undertaking. Can you imagine the amount of pressure that was on him with this picture? He does a gret job balancing the action and comedy, as well as making sure no one character takes over the film. Let us not forget how he delivers on this story, as well!

Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Some early reviews of this film have said he was the best part of it for them. I’m not a real big Hulk fan, but if they were to actually make a Hulk movie with this version, I’d be the first one to buy a ticket. Mark Ruffalo not only does a great job, and arguably the best ever job, as Bruce Banner, but he literally plays the Hulk. He did the motion capture for him, rather than just some CGI as his predecessors did. Don’t kid yourself. Can you really see Edward Norton taking the backseat role that he would have had to? Hell, the guy rewrote The Incredible Hulk just so he could get more screentime. Funny thing is, I actually didn’t think Ruffalo would work as the Hulk. See what happens when you assume something before it actually happens?

Loki. In Thor, we were introduced to this guy, and saw that he can be a pretty evil bad ass. Here, he takes that and multiplies it by 10. He really comes into his own and the Norse god of mischief, and has some great lines. However, his best scene may be with the Hulk!

Nick Fury. No matter which incarnation of Nick Fury we see in media, the one thing people always ask is what does the guy actually do besides sit around barking orders. Well, we get to see him in action during the heilicarrier scene. I just noticed something about Jackson’s portrayal of Fury, though. He appears to be wearing his coat from Shaft. On another side note, for those that don’t know, Fury actually started his career as a leader of Army commandos in the comics, but similar to the way the first Green Lantern (Alan Scott) is detached from just about all Lantern history, so is this part of Fury’s history, or at least it was during my day. They may have brought it into his backstory by now.

The helicarrier. I mention how this was one of those moments that we geeks have been wishing would finally come to fruition on the big screen. Well, the liftoff, anyway. Some of you may recall that there is a helicarrier in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, flown by an eye patch wearing commander of a secret organization. This one, though, is 100 times as awesome (and Nick Fury is 1000x the Colonel Frankie was).

Character development. Over the course of the film, we see each of these characters grow, as well as their relationship with each other. Honestly, though, did you expect anything less. The Avengers are not exactly best friends, unlike the Justice League (not counting Batman), but they come together for the common good.

Supporting characters from other films. It was good to see some characters from the other films pop up, one of them playing somewhat of a major role. It ties things together. There is even a picture of Natalie Portman’s character, Jane, when Thor is brought aboard.

Balance. The mixture of action and comedy strikes a nice balance that, quite honestly, only these Marvel films have been able to do. Hell, Nolan doesn’t even try with his Batman movies, though it looks like he may with Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, which it rather ironic, since he made the Joker such a serious character. Anyway, I appreciate Marvel for realizing that not everyone wants to be depressed when they come out of the theater, but rather feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth by mixing things up.

Cast. The cast is almost without flaw. How often has it been said that comic book films do one thing wrong that they never seem to learn from, which is have too many characters. This film proves, that no matter how many characters you have, each of them can get a decent amount of screen time and not feel like something the studios forced in at the last minute, like Venom in Spider Man 3.

Pacing. At nearly 2 1/2 hours long, you would think the audience would be bored and nearly out of it by the time you get to the denouement. However, with the exception of the rather slow beginning, the film gradually builds toward an awesometacular climax that makes it worth the wait. You don’t even realize that its been 2 hrs before you get there.

The final battle. This is what we came to see, a giant mashup of all these superpowered (with Black Widow and Hawkeye) individuals fighting to save the world. When the fight starts, it jumps around a lot, but that’s because you have everyone in different parts of the city, thanks to Captain America’s orders. Whedon is smart enough to realize that the audience doesn’t want to stay focused on what Thor is doing the whole time, but move on over to see what Iron Man is doing, then Hawkeye and Black Widow, etc, etc.

What didn’t work?

Hawkeye. Why is it Jeremy Renner couldn’t put on Hawkeye’s purple uniform? What, is he too good to wear a mask?

Cobie Smulders. I know that Maria Hill isn’t exactly the warmest of characters, but Smulders just doesn’t do anything to justify her being cast as this characters. As a matter of fact, if there was a weak spot in the picture, it was her. Perhaps she should just stay as the semi-hot friend on How I Met Your Mother. It turns out, though, that Whedon has a thing for her as an actress, so I’m sure this wont be the last we are forced to see of her.

Captain America’s costume. Remember Captain America: The First Avenger? Cap’s costume was authentic and believable. That was set in the 40s. Fast forward 70 yrs and they give him a new suit that looks like nothing more than some kind of cheap pajamas. On top of that, they kept taking his hood/helmet off. I don’t know whose fault this is, but it is a pet peeve I have with superhero films. If you’re gonna don the mask, then wear the thing. If you read any issue of any masked hero, then unless said face coverage has been severely damaged and/or stolen, they are not always taking their masks off, so why do they keep doing it these movies? My guess is the ego of these actors that play them, but considering how Evans has no issue wearing the mask all through his movie, this was probably more of a Whedon thing.

The Chitauri. As far as alien invasion forces go, these guys were not half bad, except it would have been nice to learn a little more about them, other than they think the Earth is week and have somehow teamed up with Loki to invade the Earth.

The Whedon death syndrome. When Whedon was first hired to direct this film, someone said that he was known for killing off pivotal characters. I thought maybe he’d avoid that with the material, since it isn’t part of the “Whedon-verse”. However, a certain character is killed off, and it leaves you wondering why. Best I figure is that they’re going to start pushing Maria Hill hard, especially since she’s actually in the books (a fairly major character, btw) and he isn’t.

The Avengers won one of my awards last year for most anticipated film. As of right now, it is a front-runner for movie of the year! The mixture of action, comedy, great characters, and a great story make for a great film. This is what I expect from my superhero movies. Spider-Man and Batman have some big shoes to fill, as do the rash of sequels that are sure to lead up to The Avengers 2, which hopefully will bring in characters such as Wasp, She-Hulk, Black Panther, Namor, Power Man & Iron Fist, Vision, Ms. Marvel, etc., but we’ll see. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Go see this awesome film ASAP!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Captain America, a U.S. soldier created with the “Super-Soldier Serum”, prevents a missile launch by the Nazis in the days of World War II. The missile explosion, however, sends him into a catatonic state, and he falls into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, presumed dead. In the present day, Captain America is found and revived by a S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by General Nick Fury. Also present are Bruce Banner and his girlfriend Betty Ross, who lead a team of government scientists working to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum in order to try and stop the real power that backed the Nazis – the alien Chitauri. Banner replaces Hank Pym in the project to recreate the serum. Pym leaves the project along with his wife Janet. Banner thinks the super soldier serum is the key to him controlling the Hulk. And he without anyone else’s knowledge uses his blood to try to create a cure and has no candidates for the rebirth procedure.

A Chitauri attack forces Nick Fury’s superiors to order the creation of “Project Avenger”, which involves the formation of a team of superhumans. Fury tries to recruit – with mixed success – Giant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and the Black Widow – and after several setbacks the team unite to fight the Chitauri. Although successful, the team must then battle an enraged Hulk, as Banner releases his alter ego to aid in the battle. The team managed to eventually distract the Hulk long enough for Betty to calm him, and Banner is then incarcerated. The heroes then celebrate their success.

REVIEW:

This time next year, I’ll be doing reviews of Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, and possibly The Avengers. In the meantime, I figured I’d bone up on some history of the characters.

As a youth, I read a few of the comics, but was more of a Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kind of guy, so once you get past Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and to a lesser extent, Thor, I don’t know much about the Avengers, short of bits and pieces here and there from their guest appearances/mentions in the comics and/or cartoons.

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is based on a variation on the superhero team different from what most of us grew up on. I’m not sure at what point in time they did a retcon, but they “updated” the characters’ origins and that is how we have this version.

Your basic Avengers are here, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Wasp, Ant-Man/Giant-Man, and The Hulk. Their personalities are there for the most part, but something seems a bit off. Now, this could just be the purist in me talking, but I would have preferred for them to have used the original origins. Just seems it would have been a better choice for a first film, but that’s just me.

The story here is apparently lifted straight from the comic, so I can’t complain about it. I do think they could have done more to establish the Chitauri. They way they are portrayed here is like they are some sentient beings capable of ultimate destruction. While that may be the case, they could have given the audience more of a background on them. Sure, most of the people who are going to take the time to actually watch this will be comic fans (or their significant others who are forced to sit through it against their will)., it would still make for a better film if they gave us more info on these creatures.

The Avengers themselves seem to be the kind of superheroes that you would not like if you were to meet them in person, except for Captain America, who had been frozen in ice, and Wasp. 

THe animation here is pretty good and is what you’d expect from Marvel Animation. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it’s what you expect when you sign on to watch these films.

The action seems to be non-existent in this picture until the last half. I don’t understand the reason for this. Sure, they are awesome and all that talking in the first half establishes a reason for it, as well as moves the story forward, but there could have been more.

Look, if you’re not a comic fan, then you’re not going to even bother with this thing anyway. It’s as simple as that. I wouldn’t suggest it if you’re not. You might get a bit confused and/or lost. For those of us comic geeks, this is pretty good, especially when you consider that this is Marvel Animation Studios first feature, but pale is comparison to the later works such as Hulk Vs.  However, it is a good viewing and worth the time.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Iron Man 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2010 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

Six months after revealing his identity as Iron Man, Stark Industries CEO Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has helped maintain world peace. He re-institutes the Stark Expo in Flushing, New York, to continue his father’s legacy. A United States Senate committee, led by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), demands Stark release the technology for military application. Stark refuses, publicly embarrassing rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) in demonstrating how competitors are at least five to ten years away from successfully recreating the technology, while he remarks that Hammer is 20 years away.

Stark has discovered the palladium in the arc reactor keeping him alive is slowly poisoning him. All attempts to find a substitute element have failed. Growing increasingly despondent and thrill-seeking as a consequence of what he believes to be his impending death, he appoints his former personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) CEO of Stark Industries, replacing her with Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson).

While participating in a race in Monaco, Stark is attacked by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who has constructed a miniaturized arc reactor of his own, including whip-like attachments harnessing the electrical energy. Defeating Vanko with the aid of his briefcase armor, Stark discovers that Vanko is the son of his father’s old business partner, disgraced Russian physicist Anton Vanko, who collaborated on the first arc reactor and has passed the technology on following his death. Ivan blames Tony and Howard Stark for Anton’s fate; Anton raised his son to believe Howard Stark betrayed him, having him deported back to the Soviet Union in order to receive all the credit for the arc reactor. Hammer has Vanko broken out of jail, and recruits Vanko to perfect a line of armored combat units that he will use to upstage Stark at his own Expo.

With the government leaning on him even harder following the revelation that arc reactor technology is in the hands of someone else, Stark throws what he believes will be his last birthday party and promptly proceeds to get drunk while wearing the Iron Man armor, becoming a danger to himself and others. His friend Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is forced to take the Mark II armor and subdue Tony, delivering the armor to the military afterward. Hammer arrives and showcases several different weapons (Caseless 9mm pistol, Auto shotgun, an FN-2000, Grenade Launcher, Vulcan Rotary cannon) to arm the suit with. Disgraced, Stark is approached by Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D (Samuel L. Jackson), who reveals Natalie is an undercover agent. He also provides Tony with a chest of his father’s old artifacts, which can hopefully be used to find a cure for his palladium poisoning. Fury also informed Stark that his father was one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. Stark realizes his father has left him a hidden message in the original diorama of the 1974 Stark Expo; the model is also a diagram of the atomic structure of an unknown element, which Howard was unable to synthesize due to the limits of his era’s technology. Tony builds a particle accelerator (held up partially by a halfway-constructed shield) in his home with the aid of his computer J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany) and creates the new element. The element is then loaded into a modified arc reactor chest piece and cures Stark’s palladium poisoning. Afterward, Ivan calls Stark, revealing that he is free and set on revenge.

At the Expo, Hammer unveils his new military drones captained by Rhodes in a heavily-weaponized version of the confiscated Mark II armor. Stark arrives as Iron Man intending to warn Rhodes, but Vanko takes control of both the drones and Rhodes’s new armor, setting them to attack Iron Man. As Stark battles against these remote-controlled enemies, Potts has Hammer arrested while Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Natalie race to Hammer’s Queens facility to stop Vanko. By the time they arrive, Vanko has already departed for the Expo in a new, more powerful suit of armor, but Natalie is able to give Rhodes control of his armor again so that he and Stark can fight together.

After taking down the drones, the two fight Vanko in his new armor. Stark and Rhodes try to damage Vanko’s Armor, but to no avail. They defeat him with a combined blast of their repulsor rays, but Vanko’s armor and drones are then revealed to have been equipped with self-destruct charges. As they begin to go off, Stark races to save Pepper, rescuing her at the last minute. After Stark flies Pepper to a nearby rooftop, she quits her CEO position, claiming it to be too stressful for her, and she and Stark finally kiss, thus beginning a relationship. Rhodes departs with the Mark II armor with little objection from Stark.

At a debriefing, Fury informs Stark that while he is “unsuitable” for the “Avengers Initiative”, S.H.I.E.L.D. wants him as a consultant and wants the Iron Man armor on the team with a more suitable person using it. Stark agrees on the condition that Senator Stern present him and Col. Rhodes with their medals for bravery.

In a post-credits scene, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) informs Fury over the phone, “We’ve found it”, as an impact crater in the New Mexico desert is shown to contain Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor.

REVIEW:

Before I get into the review, I have to get on my knees and thank the movie gods that this wasn’t in 3D. Sure, there were some scenes that theoretically could have looked better, but honestly, I think 3D takes hurts more than helps. Fact is, Iron Man 2 is more story driven, rather than effects, which is why 3D would not work. Not to mention, that chances are, at the end of the year, I predict this will still be one of the top films of the year(sequels to Toy Story, Shrek, Harry Potter, and Twilight…3 of 4 of these will be in 3D…will more than likely take the top spot), but to know that a film without 3D is making this kind of bank has to make those that think 3D is the only way to go nowadays, a bit wary.

Continuing where Iron Man left off, Iron Man 2 takes us on a journey with Tony Star after he has reveled himself to be Iron Man and the repercussions and changes that have come along with it.

The story here isn’t as good or deep as its predecessor. Some have said that Iron Man 2 suffered from “sequelitis”. I won’t go that far, but I did feel that this film seemed to be trying too hard to live up the standard set by the previous film. I really hate it when pictures do this. Each film is different, and they need to almost totally forget about what the previous film was like and make another just as good if not better.

The cast is great, headlined by Robert Downey, Jr., wo again seems like he was born to play Tony Stark. Aside from his typical snarky demeanor, Downey taps into the drama of the character of Tony Stark with the whole palladium poisoning angle (I belive this is a substitute for the alcoholism that Stark had in the comics, since Downey is a former alcoholic).

Gwyneth Paltrow was a shining star in Iron Man, but her character has lost some of the lustre here and she just seems to be going through the motions.

There was a lot of hype and controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson being cast as Black Widow, especially since she seemed to have lost her delicious curves just for this role (yet they seem to have returned in the poster). I love Scarlett, but this was not the role for her. Like Paltrow, she came off as cold. Granted, her character is supposed to be a deadly assassin of some sort, but she does have a personality. That is the thing that Scarlett didn’t bring to the screen here. It’s all good to get in shape and do the stunts, but when it all comes down to it, you have to be able to deliver a good performance, which she does not.

Don Cheadle takes over the mantle of James Rhodes from Terrence Howard because of some money issues. This is a huge mistake. Cheadle is a great actor, but he makes Rhodes seem like the jealous little brother who gets his hand on big brother’s prize possession and runs off with it. His attitude throughout the whole picture, except the film’s climax, is that of a lifeless military brainwashed drone, totally forgetting that he and Stark are best friends. I think part of this has to do with how his character was written, but Howard just did so much the better job. On top of that, he just doesn’t scream James Rhodes or War Machine to me the way Terrance Howard seemed to just click. Not to mention, with his size, he seemed better suited to wear armor than Cheadle.

Getting to the villains, I have a beef to pick with the filmmakers for choosing Ivan Vanko. I don’t have anything against Ivan Vanko, but in the comics he is supposed to be one of the Crimson Dynamos. Whiplash is a totally different character, so I have to wonder what made them mix and match like this. I could probably overlook this, but this is a film made by Marvel. They are responsible for creating Iron Man, as well as many other major characters is comic lore. Mickey Rourke does a decent job with the character, but I was distracted with his leather-like looks, not to mention his accent didn’t quite seem to gel for me.

 Justin Hammer is a Stark’s rival in the comics, and Sam Rockwell brings him to life with the same energy and vigor that the character deserves. Aside from Downey, he gives the best performance of the film.

The fight scenes are incredible. It is obvious that Favreau has learned a little bit about directing these action sequences since the first film. Black Widow’s infiltration of Hammer’s compound and subsequent takedown of all his men is impressive, though I’m not sure if that’s because of her skills or because of the skin-tight catsuit she wears.

Adding War Machine to the lineup was great, but that’s enough with these multiple armor fight scenes. In the first film, it was ok to have Iron Man vs. Iron Monger, but here we get Iron Man vs. Mark II (soon to be made into War Machine), and Iron Man and War Machine vs Iron Man drones and Iron Man, War Machine vs. some kind of Iron Monger/Whiplash hybrid. While this was cool, I was disappointed with how the Whiplash fight ended so quickly, especially since he made such an impact with how he was introduced.

If they make a third Iron Man movie, the climactic battle needs to get away from these armor battles. It gets old quick.

Another aspect I didn’t care for was how there wasn’t enough Iron Man. About halfway through, we lose Iron Man and get some kind Tony Stark melodrama. sure it developed his character and all, but it wasn’t really all that necessary and could have just as easily been replaced with some better development for Ivan Vanko.

Speaking of Vanko, he was billed as the main antagonist of the film, yet except for his intro in the racetrack scene and the 10 seconds in the film’s climax, he doesn’t really do much except build stuff for Hammer. That is fine and dandy, but it’s not what you expect to see from this guy…at least I didn’t.

All the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff really has nothing to do with the plot of the film, except maybe the stuff related to his father and the palladium, so having sp much of it in here was kind of  waste of time. To further worsen things, they had some sort of unfinished Captain America shield that Stark uses when he makes the new element and Thor’s hammer appears at the end to the post-credits. The hammer I can deal with. It was handled subtly, but the shield, especially since Tony was looking for a new element and any good fanboy knows that Cap’s shield is made of some sort of indestructible metal. On top of that, it was just oddly placed in there.

Some sequels live up to or surpass their predecessors, others fall well below the expectations of the original. Iron Man 2 doesn’t totally falter, but at the same time it doesn’t make one forget the original. I think there are two things hurting this flick more than anything, expectations from the first film. If you will recall, Iron Man was being billed as the best film of 2008 and what superhero movies should be until everyone started wetting their pants at the overrated The Dark Knight, which overshadowed shellhead. My biggest complaints re lack of scenes with Iron Man and the lull in the middle that seems to derail the plot. I really liked this film, but not quite loved it. Still has some issues to fix before it ca be perfect. For a good summer flick, Iron Man 2 is a good start to the season, especially since it is in 2D and will probably dwarf almost every other film to be released this year (with the exception of Toy Story 3). It is definitely worth checking out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Iron Man

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) avoids his own Apogee Awards ceremony to gamble at a Las Vegas casino, leaving his deceased father’s friend and business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) to collect the award. As Stark leaves the casino with his entourage, he is approached by Vanity Fair reporter Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb), whom he charms into a one-night stand at his Malibu house. As she awakens in the morning, she is escorted from the house by Pepper Potts, Stark’s personal assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow), who tells her Stark is away on a business trip, though Stark is really still in the house, until Potts informs him how late he is. On Stark’s way back from the business trip in Afghanistan, where he demonstrated Stark Industries’ new weapon, the “Jericho” cluster missile, the military convoy is attacked. In the ensuing firefight, Stark is wounded by one of his own company’s bombs, which knocks him unconscious and embeds shrapnel in his chest, one fragment dangerously close to his heart. Waking up hours later in an Afghan cave, Stark discovers an electromagnet attached to his chest, powered by a car battery and designed to keep the shrapnel from piercing his heart and killing him.

Stark has been captured by the terrorist group known as the Ten Rings, who order him to build a Jericho missile for them. Instead, during the three months of his captivity, he and fellow captive Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub) begin building a miniature “arc reactor”, a smaller version of a power source previously invented by Tony’s father, Howard. With the reactor powering his electromagnet, Stark and Yinsen secretly build a crude but strong power armor as a means of escape. Unfortunately, the process of activating the armor takes more time than expected and Yinsen hurries out to buy time. Once the armor is ready, Stark charges through the caves. Near the exit, he comes across a dying Yinsen, who tells him “Don’t waste your life.” Upon leaving Yinsen, Stark burns all the Stark Industries munitions the terrorists have accumulated and then attempts to fly away, only to crash into the desert a few miles away. After being rescued by his friend and company military liaison Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and returned to the United States, Stark declares at a press conference that his company will no longer manufacture weapons. Stane tells him shortly thereafter that this move is being blocked by the members of the board of directors of Stark Industries.

Returning home, Stark retreats from the public eye and instead focuses on the design of his power suit, refining its size and improving its flight and fighting capability while making an improved arc reactor for his chest. During his work, Potts gives Stark his first miniature arc reactor as a gift encased in glass and bearing the inscription, “Proof that Tony Stark has a heart.” During Stark’s first public appearance since his return, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, he spots Potts, who is wearing the dress she bought for herself as a birthday present on his behalf. He is struck by her beauty and briefly dances with her, causing him to realize that he has romantic feelings for his assistant. As they’re about to share a kiss, Potts interrupts by asking for a martini, as a ploy to hide her insecurity because of Stark’s promiscuity. While ordering the drinks, Stark is accosted by Everhart, who shows him pictures of Stark Industries weapons back in the hands of terrorist groups, including Jericho missiles. He realizes that Stane has been “dealing under the table” by supplying both the Americans and their enemies, and that Stane has been attempting to remove Stark from power. Enraged, Stark modifies his palm thrusters for use as weapons, dons the power suit, flies to Afghanistan and rescues Yinsen’s village from the Ten Rings. During the operation, Stark inadvertently attracts the attention of the United States Air Force and Lt. Col. Rhodes, who dispatches two F-22 Raptors to intercept and eliminate the unknown target. During the dogfight, one of the planes is accidentally destroyed, but the pilot is rescued by Stark, who during the fight privately calls Rhodes to reveal that he “is” the unidentified object. Rhodes later classifies the incident as a training accident to the press, at Stark’s recommendation.

Determined to amend his mistakes, Stark sends Potts to find the shipping records of Stark Industries, so he can track the illicit shipments and destroy them. While hacking into the system, she discovers that Stane hired the Ten Rings to kill Stark and the group reneged on the deal upon discovering Stark was the true target. She also learns Stane has recovered the power suit prototype and reverse-engineered his own version, but his engineers are unable to duplicate the miniature arc reactor to power the new suit. Stane ambushes Stark in his house, using an experimental Stark Industries device to temporarily paralyze him. Stane removes the arc reactor from Stark’s chest to power his own suit. The dying Stark manages to re-install his first reactor from Pepper’s gift and Rhodes finds Stark in bad shape but alive. Although his first reactor was not designed to power his latest armor, Stark takes it to battle with Stane atop Stark Industries, the surrounding streets and up into the air. Stark lures Stane atop the full-sized arc reactor at Stark Industries to end the battle. With no more power left for his suit, Stark instructs Potts to overload the arc reactor. Potts overloads the reactor, causing a massive electrical surge that knocks Stane unconscious, causing him to fall through the ceiling into the reactor itself, destroying the facility, the armor and Stane.

In the next day, the press named Stark’s alter ego “Iron Man.” Rhodes informs a press conference that what happened at the company’s site was a malfunctioning of a robotic prototype, and one of Stark’s security personnel was the Iron Man who bravely donned a prototype exoskeleton he designed to stop it. Before speaking, Stark briefly makes an attempt to establish a romantic relationship with Potts, but is put on hold. During the press conference, Stark tries to tell the cover story given to him by his S.H.I.E.L.D. contact, but after inadvertently revealing hints about his alter-ego, Stark abandons the alibi and announces to the press: “I am Iron Man.”

In a post-credits scene, Stark is visited by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who notes that Stark is not the only “super hero” in the world, and states he wants to discuss the “Avenger Initiative”.

REVIEW:

Forget The Dark Knight, Iron Manis the best film of the summer, and possibly the year. On top of that, you can count this film as the one that relaunched Robert Downey, Jr.’s career.

Movies based on Marvel superheros tend to be more faithful to the source material (with a few exceptions) especially since they launched Marvel studios. This one is dead on with exception of some modernization of the origin. Once again, though, as with every other super hero movie, they spend too much time on the origin, but it is my understanding that this is the first of a trilogy, so that kind of makes up for it.

Robert Downey, Jr. fully captures Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow has never looked better than she does as Pepper Potts. Terrence Howard is grossly underusedas  James Rhodes, but doesa good job, nonetheless. It’s a shame he won’t be returning for the sequels.

I love the fact that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and inserts some levity into the proceedings with the scenes with the constriction of the Iron Man armor and Stark’s robotic help.

Obadiah Stane is a despicable character in the comic and may be even more so on screen thanks to Jeff Bridges. He really brings a trustable evil to the role.

This is my favorite film of 2008 so far. I think it’s head and shoulders above The Dark Knight, and its high time people realize that. I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed

5 out of 5 stars