Director/producer Jon Favreau is quite familiar with Marvel Studios — he directed Iron Man and has produced other hits for Marvel, including The Avengers — and with fellow director Edgar Wright, who last month walked away from the Ant-Man movie he had been nurturing since 2006.
In an interview published on ShortList.com, Favreau said this about Wright and Ant-Man:
Edgar’s a dear friend of mine – I was so looking forward to his version of Ant-Man. All Edgar’s films have been studio films; it’s not like he’s never made one before. I think he’s been used to a situation where he can have tremendous creative say around his story and casting, and Marvel has built an entire franchise around their style of telling stories. I know both parties well, and I respect his decision to see that he wasn’t going to be fulfilled in the process. That’s all I can really say.
Another summer weekend brings another comic-book adaptation to the big screen, and this week’s Cowboys & Aliens materialized with quite a pedigree: directed by Iron Man and Iron Man 2‘s Jon Favreau, produced by (among others) Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. So how can a movie from that brain trust be so lacking in imagination? After the initial idea of the mash-up, the movie – like its taciturn lead – doesn’t have much to say about either genre.
Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert of Arizona in 1873 literally as a man with no name: He has no memory of who he is or how he got there. However, he does have an unfamiliar metal bracelet clamped to his left wrist. At the nearest town, Lonergan attracts the attention of enigmatic beauty Emma (Olivia Wilde), who senses something off about Lonergan and his anachronistic jewelry. Then Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) identifies Lonergan as a wanted outlaw. When Taggart attempts to ship Lonergan out of town along with the ne’r-do-well son of the local cattle baron, the group is confronted by a furious daddy Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). However, their standoff is interrupted by strange flying machines that kidnap a number of townsfolk and nearly kill the rest – except that Lonergan’s bracelet suddenly reveals itself as an alien weapon capable of shooting down the fighters. Dolarhyde enlists Lonergan and Emma to help him rescue his son and the rest of the kidnap victims from the unearthly menace.
They don’t build ‘em like they used to, and they don’t make Iron Man movies like they used to, either. Iron Man 2 is basically more of the same — but slightly less entertaining. And that’s the movie’s only real flaw: It’s just not as fresh and original as the first film. If you loved the first one, you will be very happy with this one.
Robert Downey Jr. is still the center of the film, and he still plays playboy inventor Tony Stark as light a mixture between a petulant child, a nerd, Hugh Hefner — and Capt. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. The self-indulgent Stark is (sort of) reined in by his coolly-efficient assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — until he realizes that she really is better at doing his job than he is.
Stark’s job in this movie is to fend off rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who could be Stark’s less-competent twin. Hammer teams up with Russian madman Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who feels that his father was cheated by Stark’s father, Howard, and creates a supersuit of his own that employs energy whips to incapacitate his foes. Rourke certainly looks and sounds like a survivor of a corrupt Russian prison system, but Vanko’s motives are only barely hinted at — a weakness of the script, not Rourke, who gives it his all. He makes Vanko mad in the sense of being both angry and crazy.