18. Iron Man 2

Speaking of a few great scenes surrounded by predictable fluff…

Look, Robert Downey, Jr. is a national treasure. Every line read he does during this movie is pitch perfect, the sort of world-weary sardonic take that’s effortless for him but forced by everyone else.

But sometimes the rest of the movie doesn’t hold up around him, so much so that even the director, Jon Favreau, was forced to admit it in interviews later. Of course, that’s not really his fault.  Marvel clearly wanted to use this movie as leverage for their whole Avengers franchise, and a good deal of the movie is pointless b-story as a result: Nick Fury and the Black Widow try to convince him to join the Avengers for a while, then he talks to the agent who represents them for a while. It has nothing to do with plot even a little, and if this was a serialized TV show, some of what they were saying would be interesting as we anticipated a developing storyline. But this is a movie, not a TV show, and when I leave the theater, I don’t want to say “well, that was a little dull, but that other movie they kept referencing that’ll be out two years from now should be amazing!”

Some superhero movies are better the second time around, when the hero’s themes can be more fully explored: Superman II, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2, etc. And Iron Man is the perfect candidate for a darker, more introspective film – he has father issues, dependency issues, self-absorption issues, not to mention alcoholism. Tony Stark is an intriguing, complex, character who can be unwrapped over time, not a blank metaphor like Superman or Batman. And it seemed that the movie that Favreau wanted to make was more about that. But this script seemed like a bunch of studio executives all jamming their vision into one movie – Scarlett Johansson fighting people! An Iron Man suit that comes in a suitcase! Robots soldiers with rocket launchers! Sam Rockwell acting crazy! Micky Rourke acting crazy! – rather than being its own thing. Sometimes we don’t just want a collection of cool ideas and flashy visuals and explosions in our summer movies. Sometimes we want a real movie.