Iron Man 2 was Awesome.
What. Did you expect more? Did you expect a negative review from a certifiable Marvel fangirl who thought the first movie was a cinematic breakthrough? I saw the latest Marvel movie, and I thought it was awesome. Headline! If you didn't like it however (and there's always someone out there who didn't, or won't see it, or takes reviews to heart and accepts it as their own point of view before seeing it themselves), please keep reading. People who saw it and don't understand why the guy next to him turned up his nose? Keep reading, too. Hopefully some complaints can be laid to rest.
It is a crying shame that Jon Favreau is not going to be directing the Avengers movie. Nothing against Joss Whedon, but after seeing Iron Man 2 at a midnight showing and walking out with the target demographic of teenagers, college kids and fanboys, I have to admit that all of them had something positive to say. Sure, teenagers won't have a clue about some references, college guys will think some parts of it were slow and fanboys will always nitpick, but there was something in Iron Man 2 for everyone in the audience.
The interesting thing was that not everyone would have the same something.
WARNING: No Spoilers. It was hard because so much awesomeness should be shared with the public but not everyone's seen the movie yet. There's nothing more in here than what you could get on IMDB. Well, maybe some little hint. Read on!
The first Iron Man movie was a colossal hit. Jon Favreau, an amazing team of writers, special effects artists, an amazing cast and crew, all of these people put together a movie that knocked people's socks off. Tony Stark became a household name, there were kids' Iron Man Halloween costumes, the new Invincible Iron Man #1 by Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca was a hit. That movie was Marvel's baby; they put in the work, their production company and all the executive decisions were made at home by the people behind the property instead of say Fox or Sony. Considering how badly some of their movies had done, making this step was and still is huge.
So what do you do for an encore? How do you top yourself taking the biggest leap of faith in yourself and your properties in a whole new medium? Comics are not like movies. They are two different forms of art and to one from the other is not as easy as they make it look. They broadened their audience with their success and the only way to keep that audience is to keep it broad.
The story, the actors, the special effects and the theme of the story is all designed to make as many people happy as possible. Speaking personally, I loved the Iron Man and War Machine effects, the action scenes were fantastic and the CGI was realistic without losing themselves in the details. We are talking powered armor suits and superheroics, let's keep our wonder with the technology while seeing recognizable physical detail. On the other hand, I just so happened to be attending the midnight showing of Iron Man 2 with the Scarlett Johansson fan club; the college dudes behind me were coming unglued at every twitch of her hips or pose for the camera. Samuel L. Jackson got a big outburst of applause (probably not for the same reasons as Scarlett Johansson), the violence was just under the wire for being safe for an unfussy parent to sate their child's thirst for superheroes (keep in mind Jurassic Park was a PG-13 movie and I saw plenty of under 13 year olds in the theater in 1993), politics were kept in as a threat and moved plot but didn't linger or get in the way of powered armor fights with robots, nerdgasm-inducing Easter Eggs ranged from blatant to blink-and-you-might-miss-that-cool-thing. The movie was multi-national and talked about the global effect the Iron Man armor had on the world and included everyone into that picture, for good or for ill.
Comics are still finding their way into the mainstream; despite the wide and wonderful amount of books out there in as many varied and unique themes, art styles, topics and cultures, the American audience still sees comics as a niche market. Movies, on the other hand, are accepted by everyone. No one's discounting the moving pictures for being just a fad, we've moved past that nearly a century ago. To escape the idea of being 'just a superhero movie', comic book- based films have to be so much more than the medium that gave them life. They have to have something for everyone and that includes things you might not like.
We're a little sheltered when it comes to that; sure, we complain about too many Deadpool books or event storytelling, but they sell comics, don't they? Art's subjective, sales numbers aren't. While a comic could have critical acclaim, it could still be cancelled (unless it's Spider-Girl and then it's immortal). Marvel is Your Universe and we fans can take that very literally, so the idea that the mainstream could get into Our Universe can take a little bit away from that. On the other hand, sometimes the mainstream can demand too much from something as simple and as honest as superheroic storytelling. Not everyone is going to be The Dark Knight; hands down, I think most everyone will agree that movie was cinematic gold but it's not something you'd take your kids to. Your average girlfriend might be entranced by Heath Ledger's last performance but the violence might be too much. It's got a very specific crowd and it did gangbusters with them.
Iron Man 2 wants more. They want to be global. They want to be mainstream and loved by all, from kids to grandparents. And while Memaw might be a little shocked by all the shooting and explosions, fighting for freedom and world peace, being a better person and the sly touch of some 'archival footage' probably isn't shocking at all. (Please note: I'm not telling you to take your grandma to see Iron Man 2. Unless she's super cool.)
The best part about being more mainstream and trying to attract a bigger audience? There's a better chance that you might sell a comic book. When The Dark Knight came out, not too many people came in to see what that story came from. Working retail, I can't say that we had a big upswing in Batman book sales. I can say that Invincible Iron Man #1 by Fraction and LaRocca sold amazingly well; considering there was already an Iron Man title at the time, embroiled in a great deal of event plotting and character changes, the new Invincible Iron Man book made sure that for people walking out of the theater, there was somewhere else to go. It was accessible, it was cheaper than buying an Essential to starting from the beginning and buyers had an option of getting the original Iron Man or something "more like the movie".
Iron Man 2 is amazing in scope, detail and storytelling. Marvel is doing something unheard of by creating movies that not only lead people to the printed word, but lead into other movies as well. This is a series, a volume one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and when you go to the theater, you not only get a solid movie experience, but you get a little tease of all the incredible work to come. Everyone can get a little something out of this summer blockbuster and not only that, not only did they aim for a broad, mainstream audience, but they're also aiming for the future.
And Tony Stark will tell you that the future's what it's all about.