Based on: ‘Iron Man’ comic by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Micky Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Scarlet Johansson, Greg Clark,
Iron Man 2 picks up six months from where the first one left off. Here Tony (Downey) must deal with the downside to coming out as Iron Man. His company, health, and reputation are suffering, and through all that, some heavy choices and discoveries happen.
The main question that’s asked, ‘is the Iron Man suit a weapon?’ If so, should it just be handed over to the government? This question is one of the main conflicts. The idea/fear is that not just anyone should build such a device; just because they can. That’s logical from a legal perspective; people can’t make explosives at home and use them. Or a nuke, if one was resourceful and intelligent enough. For Tony, it’s more-it’s also keeping him alive, so he argues. And yet, it’s the device in his chest that does that, not the suit. Still, it’s proprietary. He created it. Tony’s grandstanding and ego aside.
Mix the above with the lifetime grudge Ivan Vanko (Rourke) has for the Stark family, and the story begins to take shape. On his own, Ivan’s character and mission could never hold up as a plot. However, when Justin Hammer (Rockwell) joins the party, things fall into place. Yeah, Hammer is like that guy that shows up and tries to fit in but never quite does. Still, his desperate efforts and use of Ivan’s hatred tie in effortlessly with the government’s issues with Tony Stark as Iron Man. The merging of the subplots is clean, logical, and drives the story forward.
Iron Man and many of the components of the film also move forward seamlessly because of the CGI. The costumes, flying, explosions, race sequence, and fight scenes all add to the film but don’t overpower it. It’s balanced.
Agent Coulson (Clark), Happy Hogan (Favreau), and the voice of JARVIS (Bettany) all return for their respective roles. Other new additions are Nick Fury (Jackson), Natasha Romanoff (Johansson), and Lt. Col. Rhodes was recast with Don Cheadle. Everyone has more of a role in this film, and they execute their characters very well. It’s always nice to see character growth (development) with established characters.
Rourke’s performance is forgettable, but his character is meant to be. Ivan’s merely a plot device to further Tony’s journey and nothing more.
Hammer has always been a cast-off, a joke in the comics. Hammer tech is the two-star rated company you settle for because the best-rated ones are out of stock/back-ordered, and you can’t wait. Sam Rockwell really does a suburb job of bringing his character from page to screen.
A real treat is watching Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) bust some ass-kicking moves on a group of security personnel. In this film, the audience gets a glimpse that theres’ more to her than she lets on. Her character is instantly one you want to see more of.
RDJ continues to shape the character of Tony Stark/Iron Man in a performance that never disappoints.
Iron Man 2 is a good sequel and is a staging ground for many stories and characters to come. The film is worth a place on your watchlist for a fun watch with a good story and engaging characters. Be sure to stick around for the end credit scenes.
Directed by: Jon Favreau Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hrs 6 mins
Studio: Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment
Screenwriters: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Created by: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau
Iron Man isn’t the first superhero film out there. Not by a long shot. It will, however, be remembered as the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The one that launched Marvel into its golden age of cinema.
For those keeping track, this film is third chronologically.
Tony Stark is Iron Man, and they are played by Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ). RDJ’s depiction of the decades-old character is spot-on in multiple ways. It’s as if Tony Stark was a real person at some point in time, then reincarnated into RDJ, who would go on to play… himself. It’s rare to find an actor/actress who performs so well in character you forget it’s not real. But that’s how well RDJ cultivated this character.
The original material and RDJ’s natural charm and charisma were only two of the three ingredients that brought Iron Man to the masses. The third is director Jon Favreau. A genius for casting and creating in his own right. RDJ’s casting approval from Marvel came from Favreau not taking no for an answer to RDJ’s inclusion in the film.
If Iron Manis your favorite Marvel character, now or ever, because of the films, thank RDJ (duh!) and especially thank Jon Favreau.
Tony Stark/Iron Man’s story originally began in Vietnam. Shifting it to Afghanistan constructs a template for modern-day events and cultural relevance.
Both settings represent tension, greed, and war efforts, a sign of the respective times in each place. And yet, cinematic Iron Man follows his comic book material in de-escalating his companies role in war. A bold move considering the ongoing war in 2008. Still, the writers and Favreau re-crafted Tony Stark’s origin story to grow from that and not suffer the fate of his book material’s namesake. This Iron Man was destined for bigger things.
A rich weapons manufacture turned humanitarian, turned hero works as a plot. Audiences get to see the process, how it’s made, how it works, how much it can do, how far it can go. It’s a nerd and engineer’s dream.
The supporting cast members are terrific! Pepper Potts (Paltrow) is exactly right, as was Terrence Howard as Col. Rhodes. Their personalities and demeanors are an excellent counter-balance to Tony’s self-indulgent, eccentric, hyper-focused qualities. Obadiah Stain (Bridges) is the representation of how many view those that run gigantic companies. Hopefully without the literal cutthroat mentality. Bridges never has to work for presence in his scenes; he exudes it naturally.
The pace is something this story has from start to finish. Between the dialogue or action sequences, it flies along, shifting from scene to scene with ease.
Iron Man is more than explosions and destruction and amazing CGI. It’s rooted in the human condition and a compelling story with fantastic acting. The costume, a prop designed mainly through CGI, helps establishes this illusion of realism. A tool to keep Tony Stark alive, to right wrongs, and boggle the minds of engineers everywhere.
While Iron Man isn’t this writer’s favorite Marvel character or a top-five MCU film pick, it’s worth a spot on your watchlist. Alone, or indeed, if you’ve decided to follow the MCU road.
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio Story by: Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio and Will Beall
Cast: Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher,
Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons Rated: R
**This movie is LONG! Unpacking it is a chore, so I am breaking my review/commentary on it into two parts. Look for the second half on Monday. Thanks everyone!**
Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League movie was born from the efforts of a devoted fanbase. That is why this movie exists, pure and simple. They are all proud of this, and I might applaud their efforts if most of them weren’t so toxic. That is a conversational beast that doesn’t belong here. My review isn’t for them. They need no convincing to see this film one way or the other.
Once a bell is rung, it cannot be un-rung. In the same way, I cannot un-see a movie already watched. The memory is there, that crucial first impression ingrained. My goal is to review just ‘the Snyder Cut’ without comparing it too much to the 2017 Justice League.
That said, the first scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League shows the audience the end of the fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Except that it’s not. This scene is clearly meant to imply this sequence happened, but it didn’t. Basically, Snyder added it to this film in a show of ego of how he could improve something he didn’t have the foresight to do the first time around. This intro sequence certainly would have improved upon Lex Luthor’s (Jessie Eisenberg) lines said at the end of Dawn of Justice. Cementing the seriousness of what was to come in ‘Justice League.’ That aggravating clarification aside, Snyder does get points for including information in this introduction in a concise, straightforward way that explains how Lex knew certain things in the first place.
Kal-El’s (Cavill) cries are like a supersonic whistle that only three guarded boxes can hear. Pushing aside the 2017 Justice League movie, assuming you, the reader, haven’t seen that film, this introduction works:
It connects this film better to the previous one.
It sets the tone.
It sets up the plot.
All in the first five minutes without one spoken line. Not bad.
This film’s premise is that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) has been warned of a force coming to destroy the Earth in the wake of Superman’s death. With a fresh resolve to make up for his previous notions of Superman before his death, Bruce seeks out metahumans, with Diana/Wonder Woman’s (Gadot) help to protect Earth. Snyder presents this task and journey in the film into seven parts.
Sectioning off the film into parts doesn’t come across as chapters in a narrative as smoothly as they could have been. If anything, they serve to avoid jagged scene transitions. Personally, I find that lazy. Let’s review the film by these parts, not because I’m lazy but because it will act as headers and make it easier to read.
In the 2017 film, I didn’t know who to blame for giving Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) ice-blue eyes, Whedon or Snyder. They both knew a stand-alone Aquaman film was in the works, so why not consult about the character? In the 2017 film, his eyes were better looking than in ‘the Snyder cut’ because there is more color and brightness. Snyder has this depressing, overcast, muted tone thing going on in this movie. It loses the effectiveness of the choice to have his eyes this color the first place. Since then, the Aquaman movie came out and Zack Snyder’s choice to not change Arthur’s eye color to match is ridiculous. When establishing a movie franchise universe with different directors and visions, SOME consulting should be a given! A professional courtesy.
You’re probably thinking I’m just ranting and not reviewing, but I am. This lack of acknowledgment is repeated frequently in this film. When a director and studio allow this to happen, it can damage what is trying to be built. It also can confuse the audience. I’m giving my thoughts without giving anything away. Or trying to, at least.
The introduction and general use of Lois Lane (Adams) are better here. It connects her relationship to Clark, and the loss, in a way that is relatable for anyone who’s lost someone important. She’s not just a last resort plot mechanism.
There is a sequence in a bank where Wonder Woman busts out some unbelievable moves. Diana has impressive reflexes, true, but she’s not faster than the Flash. She’s not faster than (modern-day) speeding bullets either. It’s an example of speeding up a character beyond their established capabilities. It also made me question if children in Europe actually go on field trips to banks? We don’t in America, so it seems like a comic cliche add-on.
A favorite DC setting is brought back, the island of Themyscira. Here we get a look at another aspect of Amazonian responsibility. This is where Steppenwolf, the antagonist of the movie, is introduced. Previously, in the 2017 version, he looked more organic. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he resembles the shiniest, chrome-plated Decepticon ever seen. An expansion of what happens on the island in this version shows what goes down is more than just a short keep-away game. In that, and this is in the trailer, so it’s not a spoiler, think what it would take to destroy part of an island created by a god.
Steppenwolf’s goals and place in the universe are made more evident in this film. The audience gets a sense of it when DeSaad materializes to converse with Steppenwolf about his progress towards redeeming himself to Darkseid. The being Steppenwolf answers to. However, Snyder struggles to effectively elude to his ultimate plot within a plot.
Snyder does give a more intimate, personal introduction to Victor Stone/Cyborg’s (Fisher) storyline than he previously received. Ray Fisher does a wonderful job of portraying Cyborg, which I discuss in my review of the 2017 film.
The scenario where a woman jumps, climbs, or runs in high heels is a personal gripe I have every time it happens on TV or cinema. It’s a great example of men writing women characters poorly. Diana, who’s always in heels, jumps in hers and lands with them intact. Doesn’t break her shoes or ankles. She really is a Wonder Woman.
There are two moments where I question the musical choice for scenes. Like, what kind of mood are you trying to create from the one I was just in. The tone change doesn’t transition well. One is with Aquaman, the other is later with the Flash. Music is a fantastic tool in cinema, and this film’s musical scores did nothing for me. Both ‘Everybody Knows’ by Sigrid and ‘Come Together’ by Gary Clark Jr. & Junkie XL from the 2017 film are removed in the Snyder Cut. The removal of ‘Come Together’ is understandable; its tempo is too energetic for Snyder. Sigrid’s song is great, but there is no place for it in this movie, even one four hours long.
After almost an hour, Vulko (William Dafoe) finally refers to the three boxes as ‘Mother Boxes.’ I still don’t like how the boxes were adapted from how they are utilized in the comics. This scene could have benefited from Aquaman director James Wan and Snyder swapping notes since it messes with what ends up being part of Arthurs origin story.
In part two, Diana explains to Bruce who/what Darkseid is. She recounts the story of when he came to Earth before, and the wording is ambiguous. It’s frustrating because the script is so vague here. The writers hope the audience isn’t paying too close attention to details because they are not concise in their storytelling. They simply lack the imagination to connect this part of the storyline to a future plot point. I could sum it up, but that would involve spoilers. It creates questions for me about Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s original stories. Snyder blows some of that away without a care to the directors who gave fans notable films and storytelling. It’s so professionally fucking rude!
Who needs continuity in a franchise or any story? Right?
The Flash’s intro. In the 2017 version, Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) was the best part of the movie for me. He was a mix of vulnerable, funny, and honest, appreciating and in awe for what he was joining. His reactions were tremendously different from everyone else. He’s what a young Flash should be, too bright for his own good, quick with quips and occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, but in an enduring way. Zack Snyder got rid of that. Pity. In his version, Barry/Flash starts off as an excuse-ridden idiot with attention issues.
His intro sequence involves the introduction to Kiersey Clemons as Iris West. She’ll be in the stand-alone Flash movie for relevance. That said, she’s only in one scene, and frankly, it could have been shortened or cut altogether. The entire sequence does nothing for Barry’s character overall. There is an Easter egg here. This is the other scene when the musical choice makes me feel like I’ve been transported momentarily into a different film.
Victor Stone’s story is fleshed out more and elaborates better on how he became Cyborg. Every time his character’s backstory comes up, the audience sees a well-rounded character in development that you want to follow along with.
Barry meets Bruce, and that’s the same. There wasn’t anything wrong with that whole setup. What is tweaked is how Diana and Victor meet for the first time, but she is still patient and empathetic towards him, and that matters.
Steppenwolf goes to Atlantis, and I think Mera (Heard) is fleshed out a bit more, but not much. As is King Orm, who is only mentioned but gives the audience an idea of who he is before the Aquaman movie. I do wish Mera’s magic was utilized more; it’s an underused attribute of her character. A significant example in this section of the movie contradicts Mera’s character in this film against the Aquaman stand-alone. It’s like Zack Snyder has never bothered to see James Wan’s Aquaman! If you see this movie, can you pick up on it?
Directed by: Time Story Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Studio: 20th Century Fox Screenwriters: Mark Frost, Michael France, Stan Lee
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon
When you’re too broke to go to space on a whim to research a cosmic event that might help improve humanity, where do you turn? Your old school mate to ask to borrow his space station. Even though you two can’t stand each other. What could go wrong when cosmic radiation is in the mix, and you’re too smart to ever be wrong?
The Fantastic Four has had a horrible journey to the silver screen every time someone needs to put them there. Put them there? Yeah. It’s pathetic that each of the times this superhero team has been made into a film, it’s so some company wouldn’t lose their rights to create or distribute it. The two are not mutually exclusive. There was a 1994 Fantastic Four film made, but it should never be brought up in conversations. It was so awful it was never released. Marvel extended the rights to Constantin Films to make something better within seven years. Enter 2005s Fantastic Four.
While the introduction to the plot is rushed, it gets you where you need to be. There is a strong character setup right out the gate. It sets up the situations or circumstances that helped shape the purpose of the first scenes. It comes across as organic, which is something you should expect in people with history.
Julian McMahon was a great choice to portray the villain, Dr. Victor Von Doom. In this iteration, he’s a massive company CEO, but he’s also a scientist. That’s not a spoiler, but it helps those that don’t follow along with comics because it’s not overtly stated in this film. Otherwise, he comes off as a rich guy who wants to live vicariously through others via a power trip when he goes to space. That’s in the trailer, so, also, not a spoiler.
Dr. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, played by Ioan Gruffudd, has a history with Von Doom. That is displayed decently in this movie. You get the gist of their history without getting too deep. Gruffudd was a good casting choice for Richards, one he can act (like McMahon), and he looks like the image depicted in comics. When you first start off with a franchise based on something, it’s nice to stay faithful to the source material. It is what the fans are used to. Tweaking stuff can come later, depending on the box office results.
Tweaking stuff is the most basic explanation for what happens to the characters in this movie. Again, cosmic radiation is at play. None of them was “tweaked” more than Ben Grimes, the Thing, played by Michael Chiklis. Seeing emotion on his rock face is critical to connecting him to the human being he started off as. Chiklis did a decent job of performing (stunts) and acting (his lines) in that suit. With most superhero films’ costumes, I wonder how easy it is to get out of when you need to use the bathroom?
Decent acting is how Jessica Alba’s performance as Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman can be described. This is probably one of her better roles. She convincingly comes across as Reed’s irritated ex and Johnny’s annoyed sister. Her performance as The Invisible Woman was mediocre, but the script left her little to work within this area. Her character could have been developed better, but the movie itself was campy in many ways.
Campy, comedic-showboating, cheese describes many of the early 2000 films. However, in Fantastic Four, Chris Evans’s depiction of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch is gold. He’s cocky and impulsive with an obvious need for adrenaline. Yet, he also comes across as caring for Sue, Reed, and Ben. When he’s not annoying Ben like a little brother. Evans ability to bring to life this iconic character without going overboard is an aspect that makes this film fun to watch.
Kerry Washington is a stellar actress who is in only two scenes in this film. I want you to seriously consider if she’s a vampire. She has aged so well since this movie. Short though her part was, it is a humanizing connection for Ben’s character.
The movie moves at a pace that is balanced between the science and action sequences. At the time, this script’s casting choices were a fantastic mix (no pun, I swear) and performed better than this script deserved.
Fantastic Four has never been done right on the big screen, and it would take some magic to make it happen. Until a time comes when someone does this team/family justice, this adaptation is the best by far. So, if you want a fun watch that’s not too heavy with expectations of greatness, put Fantastic Four on your watchlist.