What did we think?
There are a couple of accepted duds in the Marvel Studios slate, and this is one of them. Rewatching it, it is pretty clear seeing the problems, although there are plenty of wonderful moments.
The biggest problem is just the scale. It’s overblown, overlong, over complicated and yet there are huge sections where it drags. Having had such a big hit with Iron Man (2008), the filmmakers take it slightly for granted that we wanted to spend as much time as possible with these characters. There are long stretches in the middle where Tony gets boring. In particular his birthday party, and his arrogance. That opening sequence which used to seem fun, seems not so fun anymore.
Then there’s the world building. Coulson appears, and a few minutes later he’s gone, just to set up Thor (2011). There’s a lot of SHIELD, and a lot of politics. some of it would have been fine, but this is a long film. And it’s not like Coulson, or Romanoff, are much more than unsmiling, deliberately one dimensional archetypes for the moment.
And there’s a lot of plot holes. Why does Vanko like whips? Stark just creates elements in a day? This definitely falls into the category of film that if you think about it too muhc (like we have) it will drive you a little nuts. There was, as many have reported, a lot of studio interference. It does make more sense than other studio destroyed disasters like Spider-Man 3 or the Fantastic Four reboot.
There’s lots of good stuff here. The performances – Sam Rockwell and Don Cheadle in particular – light up the screen, and bring different elements to the party. Robert Downey Jr is still born for this role, with Favreau and Paltrow doing solid work. The main three make a great team, and if Avengers didn’t exist, those three could have carried off several sequels on their own.
It’s a lot of fun. All the different armours, all the gadgets. Two Whiplash suits, three Iron Man suits and two War Machines. Sometimes this felt like an action figure play set in the best way. And Black Widow kicked major ass.
By luck, Marvel pulled off Iron Man (2008), and yes, at the end of the day, they just about do it here too. But they will soon overcome a lot of the bloated-ness and the cliché on show here.
- Everyone looked like they were having fun and happy to be there, and gave it their best. Maybe not Mickey Rourke. But Rockwell, Cheadle, Downey and Favreau in particular.
- It’s a lot of fun. I want all the action figures. And that briefcase.
- The international adventure. Well, they go to Monaco at least.
- Hammer and Whiplash was a good way of doing two villians.
- Black Widow when she finally gets to kick some ass, and Happy Hogan is pretty great there too.
Not Best Bits
- Doesn’t seem like creating a new element, that is also a miracle cure, was any problem. Even after JARVIS said it was impossible.
- We spend a lot of time world building rather than spending time with characters we like.
- There’s a lot of product placement.
- Still a few bits that look like CGI fighting CGI on CGI.
- Still some terrible jokes. Stan Lee as Larry King?