‘Iron Man 2’

On The Aisle

By Tony Macklin

“Iron Man 2” is a raucous, mediocre movie. It’s a loud, inarticulate shout to greet the summer. It introduces the summer movies with generic noise and patented chaos. It’s as summery as a Slurpee. Summer is the season of silly, bombastic action and rapid-fire buffoonery. “Iron Man 2” has both.

But there is no season for bad writing, and “Iron Man 2” has more than its share.

One always hopes a movie will take full advantage of its assets. “Iron Man 2” has a large, very gifted cast, led by Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It could be “Chaplin” meets “The Wrestler” meets “Shakespeare in Love” meets Stan Lee. Instead, it’s more The Stooges meet Sara Lee.

“Iron Man 2” is the story of how the government wants to take over Tony Stark’s (Downey) Iron Man. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the head of Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems, wants to lead the Pentagon in weaponry for the future. He enlists Ivan Vanko (Rourke), a bitter Russian, to create weaponry that will outdo Stark. Iron Man is under attack, both by weaponry and noise pollution dialogue.

The rest of the cast also is first-rate talent: Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Shandling, Paul Bettany. That’s a terrific bunch of actors.

But the rub is the script. Actors, whatever the plot, at times can transcend shallow writing, but they really need imaginative writing to help them create characters who have depth and personality.

In contemporary movies, most of the time good writing seems irrelevant. A name cast and special effects are everything. A script is nothing.

The original “Iron Man” (2008) had four writers, and the sequel has only one. Four usually is disaster, but in this case they might help.

The writer of “Iron Man 2” is Justin Theroux, actor turned scribbler. Theroux was executive producer and wrote “Tropic Thunder.”

In “Iron Man 2” Theroux’s dialogue is mostly trite. Downey’s ability to fire bon mots is wasted since the dialogue is often witless.

Hammer says, “I want to leave a dump on Tony’s front yard.” That’s brilliant. And Theroux trots out exhausted Freud when he has Tony say about his father, “He never told me he loved me.” Even Downey can’t make that crap credible.

The writing is more unctuous than urbane. Theroux’s favorite dialogue is tone-deaf chatter. It’s a glib, shallow, charmless script offering stick figures and empty suits, as leaden as they may be.

Downey and Rourke gulp their dialogue; it is not their beverage of choice. Rourke sneaks some vodka into his character.

The best dialogue is given to Rourke’s Ivan Vanko/Whiplash’s cockatoo. The cockatoo gives the film’s best performance … it doesn’t speak.

“Iron Man 2” smacks of egotism. Obviously Tony Stark and Downey are vividly eccentric, but director Jon Favreau even indulges himself, having his character win a heroic fight. Keep that in your home movies, Jon.

Favreau, who also directed the entertaining original “Iron Man,” is much less successful this time out. Favreau is good with intimacy as he showed in the charming “Elf,” but he is clumsy with big toys.

Favreau may be the worst director of crowd scenes in movies today. The crowd reactions are laughable, and the standing ovation is trite. There’s an awful blonde bit player who must have come directly from the casting couch. She has no speaking part, but she looks like she’d be perfect for Theroux’s dialogue.

Tony Macklin, a former college English and film professor, is still foraging for truth in literature and film, in Arkansas, Las Vegas and beyond.

Categories: Entertainment