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"Iron Man 2" is an example of a trend I’ve enjoyed over the last decade of real actors cast as super heroes. Actors like Tobey Maquire as Spiderman, Eric Bana or Ed Norton as the Hulk, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or even Christian Bale as Batman. (Despite his annoying, “I’m not wearing hockey pads,” Batman-voice). Even the directors of these films have roots in independent cinema like Batman’s Christopher Nolan or Spider Man’s Sam Raimi. As such, these movies tend to be pretty good. But because these actors and directors focus on character, (not a bad thing mind you), it seems they leave the action and associated special effects to the technical folks.
So perhaps we’ve come to a point where these artists capsize the normal action movie formula. A movie where the “talky” part is captivating and interesting, while the “actiony,” special effects part is, frankly, boring. Because, really, we’re at a point technologically that whatever you can imagine visually can be depicted realistically on film. Back in the day, we used to marvel at special effects, like stop motion skeletons battling Sinbad, because we were really marveling at the advancement of film making technology. In the last five years or so, special effects seem to have reached a plateau; we’ve become blasé. Thanks a lot “Lord of the Rings”. It’s hard to be impressed when you think a scene was developed with a few mouse clicks and 15 million dollars.
So, it’s back to basics. A movie “wows” us with good acting, writing, and a story that makes us care. For "Iron Man 2", that only happens in between CGI stuff blowing up.
"Iron Man 2" boasts a heavy weight cast of real actors: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel Jackson, Jon Favreau (who happen to be the director), Gary Shandling, and the brutally charismatic Mickey Rourke. They play the kind of character that can throw together a new element promising endless energy with some conduit, duct tape, a prism, plumber’s wrench, holographic blue prints, and bulging biceps – all to an aural backdrop of AC/DC.
One final thought on this film, "Iron Man 2" might be more aptly called Two Men of Plastic. Mickey Rourke, with his puffy lips and small tight eyes, is a well known example of plastic surgery gone wrong. He looks like hell. But it works for Mickey because so far his comeback roles are all men who’ve had their faces rearranged in hell. The other actor is none other than Gary Shandling. This once sly and irreverent comedian looks like he had a face transplant with the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. It’s weird. Hollywood’s plastic surgery fetish is pulling me out of the story. That’s not good if you’re a filmmaker.
"Iron Man 2" plays this weekend at Gross Alaska’s 20th Century Twin theater downtown. This is Clint Farr, so far surgery free, and Alone at the Movies.