Last Christmas, I was watching Robert Downey Jr. put a modern spin on the title character of Sherlock Holmes (2009) on the film's opening day, here in Hong Kong. Today, I was more anxiously awaiting Downey's return to the role that made me love him as an actor: Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, in Iron Man 2 (2010).
(By the way, that theater wall last week had a Charlene Choi, Beauty on Duty poster up even though the film was rapidly exiting most theaters here, and not even playing this theater near my hotel.)
Here are some basic thoughts on Iron Man 2 (2010) -- a little review, if you will -- so [SPOILERS BEGIN]:
Iron Man has always been the story of an asshole -- an alcoholic asshole -- who wants to do the right thing. Bruce Wayne is the comparison from the world of DC Comics. However, Bruce Wayne is called The Dark Knight for a reason as his soul is that of a knight -- he's got a code of honour, a sense of duty, all that.
Tony Stark, while a similar bad boy playboy, is a bit of a messy character. Even after that change of heart from Iron Man (2008), he's still got conflicting motives of pleasure and love, business and duty, friendship and egoism.
As a film, Iron Man 2 doesn't have a reason to exist; there's no story that has to be told. However, the characters progress nicely and that is a story in itself sometimes.
The biggest plus for me is the replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle. I'm a big Don Cheadle fan -- have been ever since Boogie Nights (1997) -- and while I might not seek out every film he makes, I do look forward to his presence in a film because it usually means that there will be at least one good performance in an otherwise crappy film -- see Swordfish (2001).
And as I watched this film, I honestly didn't think Terrence Howard could have done so much with so little here. Cheadle somehow immediately makes Rhodey more likeable and appealing to the audience before the War Machine armor is even donned despite the fact that his best lines are later in the picture, sometimes after his mask is on.
On that note, it's worth noting that the film's appeal for me remains the characters -- characters I grew up with, really. It's not that I want to see two big mecha-guys fight it out, as cool as that might be; I want to see these two characters argue and fight it out and it just so happens that they are in armored suits and shooting repulsor rays at each other.
That's the difference I try to explain to non-geeks: this isn't Transformers or something. It's the characters that come first and then the special effects. I can forgive a weak plot and too many things blowing up if the characters seem like the ones I read in the Marvel comics as a kid.
Which brings us to Black Widow, a character never even called that name. Scarlett Johansson looks okay in the outfit but I still couldn't quite buy her as the character; she's too young and soft. Famke Janssen would have been perfect.
But, like Halle Berry as Storm in X-Men (2000), it's just something a fanboy has got to live with.
Sam Rockwell was largely funny and seemed to be underplaying for most of his scenes; Mickey Rourke is menacing but Whiplash is not exactly the villain to normally strike fear into anyone's heart -- though here his first appearance in Monaco does seem to strike that chord of fear that was necessary to propel the story forward.
There's a bit with Stark's dad that felt too Superman: The Movie (1978), and some nice links to future Marvel projects -- stick around after the credits for a nice treat just like in the first film!
And there are a few action sequences that are a lot of fun with the final battle being more exciting on many levels than that last big fight in the first film.
So after the film, I rode a streetcar to North Point -- you can see some of the video below.
I found a nice Vietnamese restaurant in Tin Hau/Fortress Hill/North Point -- hard to tell exactly where I was today.
These spring rolls were good and certainly different and better than anything called a "spring roll" in America...
I tried to catch a shot of the nice, soothing view from the restaurant before the lunch crowd rushed in...
More in that area...
This video from the streetcar near Causeway Bay/Victoria Park features a quick shot of Sedap Gurih for duriandave. Also, check out the large Sammi Cheng billboard -- also on the left -- after we pass the restaurant...