Sequels are problematic to say the least. There are precious few good ones, and the bad ones are typically very bad. But why? Sequels are made because people liked the original, and they are typically made by the same people, so why do they tend to go so awry? Jon Favreau’s recent blockbuster Iron Man 2 is a great answer to this question.
The typical conceit of a sequel is that it brings more to the table, whether that be more villains, more heroes, more fighting robots, more explosions, more love interests, more everything. A great example of this is in T2: Judgement Day‘s immortal tagline, “This time…there are TWO.” Iron Man 2 has literally all of the “mores” listed above, and then some. But of all of those, it seemed as though the word of the day in the script writing sessions was “plot”. “How can we possibly cram as many plotlines into this movie as possible?”. And believe me, they tried. We have the theme of legacy, with Tony and our villain Ivan Vanko, played hammily by Mickey Rourke, both trying to live up to and continue the work of their fathers. We know this because the word “legacy” is thrown around every ten minutes. We have the plotline where Tony believes that he is dying, and goes on a drunken rampage of enjoyment. We even have the mini-plot embedded into that one, that being that the arc reactor in his chest is the thing killing him. We have a plot about him promoting Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow, given nothing to do), to the position of CEO, and therefore a plot about his new secretary(Scarlett Johansson), who is really a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, in another plotline. Then there’s the plot about his friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle, also given nothing to work with), being a better superhero than him. There’s the plot about the Iron Man suit being subpoenaed by Congress, the plot about Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, not courageous enough to ham it up more, which ruins the performance) wanting to re-create and sell Iron Man suits of his own, the plot about Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, why was he in this movie?) trying to assess Stark’s readiness to join the Avengers. Somehow, all of that is crammed into two hours, and, shockingly, it doesn’t work. And that’s not even all of them. This script is like a train wreck of ideas, all of them quite good, but none of them belonging together in one movie. Sound familiar?
If you thought Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, you are correct! Another film with dozens of cool ideas and themes, none of which are connected or relevant by the end. If I showed someone five minutes of Transformers 2 or Iron Man 2, they would probably think that they were both really cool movies. But when all of those elements collide, it ends up in an enormous, almost galactic collision of things, a shining example of the classic line, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The film pretends to put forth interesting ideas, but it doesn’t trust any one of them enough to carry the film, instead relying on all of them to drag this bloated mess to the finish line.
But, to be fair, the film wasn’t a complete disaster. Downey Jr. was his usual Downey Jr. self, but to be honest, I’m kind of tired of it. The acting is fine, but the script can’t support the performance. Very few lines felt like things that Tony Stark would actually say. The best scenes came when Downey was clearly improvising. And make no mistake, they throw this movie directly on his shoulders, and his alone. Because he basically stole the entire first film, they give him the task this time around. Here’s the problem. He wasn’t given the movie to carry the first time, which is why his performance was that much more enjoyable. You relished the time that he spent on screen. This time, he’s in this movie so much that I began to get sick of him after a while. As for the supporting cast, as mentioned above, they are given absolutely nothing to do. I was more interested in what they were doing, but I never got to see it.
The editing in the film was very awkward. It seemed, many times, as though scenes were cut short. This was probably to save time, but for most of the movie, it felt like we were getting a great setup, but being deprived of the punchline. On that note, it’s bizarre how much footage from this film was in the trailer, but cut from the film itself. This happens all the time, but never to this extent. Anyway, the direction was pretty bad. Favreau seems to be unable to distinguish a good cut from a bad one, and the action sequences are a blur of muzzle flashes and the occasional red-and-gold blur. Speaking of the final battle, remember how I complained about all of those plotlines? Literally all of them are dropped by the end in favor of a big robot fight. And since he’s fighting drones, without people inside, we can have more destruction than ever! Not to mention the fact that the big final battle is over within seconds due to Iron Man having ridiculously powerful weapons at his disposal. What a waste.
Iron Man 2 is a textbook example of a bad sequel. Rather than trying to make a good film, it rehashes what the filmmakers thought were the best aspects of the original, and adds a lot more bad aspects to the mix. It isn’t funny, it isn’t exciting, it isn’t even enjoyable for the performances alone. Skip it.