What I Learned At “Iron Man 2”

The resounding split among the jury of my movie peers concerning “Iron Man 2” goes three ways: some people loved it, others hated it and others, still, thought it was okay. I place myself in the third category.

“Iron Man 2” whetted my appetite for an action movie filled with violence, jokes and attractive women. While it pales in comparison to “Iron Man,” Robert Downey, Jr. continues to entertain as the arrogant genius Tony Stark, taking Stark’s rock star status to an exaggerated high since the first installment. When people have asked me whether “Iron Man 2” was good, I say that it was “good enough.” And even if the post-credits teaser doesn’t live up to the lonely applause it elicited from me in it’s full-length feature form, the overall experience is what I’ve come to expect from a Marvel Comics adaptation.

Instead of a play-by-play of “Iron Man 2,” here is a report of what I learned watching the movie. Leave it to an action movie about a billionaire physicist to be educational:

Scarlett Johansson should never do another romance movie, comedic or otherwise

I used to think Scarlett Johansson was the bee’s knees all the way back to “Ghost World.” My feelings changed when she fell in with Woody Allen and her personal life became tabloid fodder. Then she consistently played roles that were downright repugnant, including her recent work in “He’s Just Not That Into You” (Yeah, I saw it.  And you know what? I’m glad I did, if only for its contribution to this entry.). It got so bad that I would roll my eyes whenever I saw her likeness anywhere.

Thanks to “Iron Man 2,” Scarlett may have won me back. It turns out that using her sex appeal to sell movie tickets is just fine as long as she also gets to promptly kick serious ass in the same movie. “The Island” didn’t exactly honor this formula (there was just too much running and too much bad movie), but “Iron Man 2” is the kind of Scarlett Johansson I’d prefer to see from now on.

Don Cheadle was the better choice for James Rhodes all along

Don Cheadle’s emotional range alone makes him a better choice for Rhodes than Terrence Howard ever was. Throw in the height disparity between Howard (6’0”½) and Downey (5’8”½), and the superficial aspect also points to Don Cheadle as the better choice. Cheadle probably didn’t demand the kind of pay that Howard did, either (more than any other actor in the movie). It’s likely that Cheadle was unavailable (or not even considered) during the casting of “Iron Man,” but it’s nice to have a James Rhodes who doesn’t have a terrible R&B album to his credit.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful actress

Generally, I don’t care for Gwyneth Paltrow one way or t’other. With the exception of “Great Expectations” and “Running With Scissors,” there aren’t any noteworthy performances of hers that I’ve seen.

Then in walked Pepper Potts. The combination of power and vulnerability that Paltrow exhibits as Tony Starks’s complicated love interest is a female role that exemplifies the kind of complexity to which many roles (regardless of gender) should aspire. The dimension that Paltrow lends to the role proves to the audience that Pepper Potts is a strong and caring woman who deserves to be appreciated and valued. And that, friends, is beauty. Hats off!

Mickey Rourke has pretty weird fingernails

I noticed this in “The Wrestler” and left it to chance that his fingernails underwent some kind of make-up for a subtle effect of the hardships of a professional wrestler. Alas, Ivan Vanko’s fingernails also look like the windshield on a Robinson R22 helicopter. Before Rourke, I’d never seen anything like it. Rourke is living proof that it takes all kinds.

Sam Rockwell can be a box office draw

Mr. Rockwell has come a long way from stealing televisions with the Foot Clan in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” His list of credits demonstrates that he’s been working consistently since 1988. But he has somehow found a way below the radar as far as having Hollywood star power. As Justin Hammer, he brought comic relief to a role that could have easily been simply a heel that the audience loves to hate. You have to love an action movie, of limited substance, where the actors don’t mail it in when no one would care if they did. Thank you, Sam.

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