is going to be a great year for movies. I’m confident of this. Since
we’re in this ride together I figured we’d get ready for the year in a
fun and exciting new way. First, over the course of the next fifteen
weekdays we’re going to highlight one mainstream film a day. Some of
them are slam dunks, some of them have a cloud of trouble floating
above them, but all represent a great way to spend a Friday night at
the movie theater even if it results in you ripping its ass thereafter.

of the things this site is built on is a love of movies. Some folks
think we’ve let some of that go by the wayside. I disagree, but
regardless, I want 2010 to be a year where this site restores some of
that wonder. Though the glass can never truly be half-full in a
business so driven by rehashes and hollow entertainment, we’re going to
have fun with it and prepare you guys with as many tools as possible to
make the moviegoing experience worth it. Especially as the internet
gets more and more bogged down with people who have no right serving as
an authority of film blabbering all over blogs and Twitter and beyond.

There’s a reason you come here.

Day Three

Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey, Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johanssen, Leslie Bibb
Written by Justin Theroux
Based on the Marvel Comic

The Gist
The sequel to the sneak attack (if any film costing $140,000,000 can be considered a sneak attack) comic book hit from 2008. Widely considered a second or third tier character by people who don’t realize that Iron Man is one of the richer and more interesting comic book properties, the film went on to do nearly $600,000,000 worldwide and do fabulous numbers in ancillary markets.

But fuck the business of it. Iron Man is a terrific movie. In its casting, its ability to approximate a reality where a man in a suit could be cool, effective, and not feel cheesy, it’s a resounding success. Most of the problems with the film lie in the limitations and checks and balances in creating a new property and delivering enough thrills to justify its tentpole status.

Part two is bigger in every way (though I think Terrence Howard is technically bigger than Don Cheadle, who replaces him as James Rhodes/War Machine). This film will not get away with having a lackluster climax (though the Iron Monger design was aces), and though it may have too many adversaries (Whiplash/Black Widow/Justin Hammer) it is a giant summer superhero movie with a very grounded and detail oriented filmmaker pulling the strings.

Iron Man is public, Tony Stark faces new threats, including the prominently marketed Whiplash. There’s nothing not to be excited about here.

Participants to Watch
Don Cheadle has some big shoes to fill. Though given limited screen time, his predecessor did a very good job with what he had and there was considerable chemistry between he and the leading man. Cheadle gets to do a lot of fun stuff here in the War Machine uni, but will he gel with Downey as well? Time will tell, though there’s no denying the man’s skill. If you haven’t, you need to see his work in Devil in a Blue Dress.

Mickey Rourke is in that tricky phase after his latest comeback and this is his first really high profile project. There’s no denying his talent, watch Diner, The Pope of Greenwich Village, or The Wrestler. But since Iron Man is the haven for talented actors in need of a boost, Mickey’s the man on the spot here. He gets to kick ass, wield a Russkie timbre, and work with FX (which in my experience is not a common Rourke thing), and be seen by millions upon millions of worldwide fans. If he delivers, he may not need another comeback.

Scarlett Johanssen is able to keep working despite not appearing in very many successful films. Plus, I think she’s made some choices that have some questioning if she’s up to the task of competing with the Winslets and Portmans of the world. Instead of appearing as a Woody Allen muse in a film that sees 400 screens, she’s going on the biggest stage possible. This will help the world decide if she’s a solid second-tier go-to person or the kind of gal possibly worthy of another big starring gig.

The Buzz
There aren’t many filmmakers as available and honest and energized as Jon Favreau. He delivered unprecedented access for the first film and has continued the trend here. Because of the FX and accelerated schedule there’s not going to be much buzz. But Favreau is almost at a locked cut and there are few films (Devin’s follow-up article of 30 smaller films which begins next week contains a lock on a similar level) as guaranteed to thrill as this. You can almost take this to the bank.

Best Case
The kids love Iron Man, so there’s no reason to think this can’t eclipse the original. It won’t do The Dark Knight business because that was a unique situation. But there aren’t many people who won’t see this at least once.

Worst Case
The film needs to deliver more spectacle than the first but not at the expense of the character stuff that made the franchise viable. If the film is forgettable and doesn’t extend the franchise, it could be damaging to The Avengers and beyond.

CHUD’s Prognosis
It’s going to be huge. And great. Great and huge.

Useful links
Official Site
Jon Favreau’s Twitter
Watch the Trailer
My amazing DVD review of the original
Devin’s review of the first movie

Useful Lynx

Discuss this column here.

Tomorrow: This movie, for lack of a better word… is good.