'Iron Man 2' swaggers through premiere
By Steven Zeitchik
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
"Figure out what the audience wants and give it to them," Robert Downey Jr. said from the podium outside the El Capitan Theatre at the "Iron Man 2" premiere Monday night.
Downey may have been kidding, in that knowing, smirking, I'm-in-on-the-joke-too way that defies you not to like him. But the statement may also have well captioned the evening, summing up how the presentation of the franchise has neutralized many criticisms of its popcorn charms.
"Iron Man 2" opens in theaters in Hawai'i at midnight Thursday.
Downey and Marvel know the commercial juggernaut they have here, and as they've done since they started rolling out the movie at Comic-Con last summer (and as Tony Stark himself might do), they not only flashed that confidence but turned it into a selling point.
Indeed, the premiere of the Marvel-produced, Paramount-distributed, Justin Theroux-penned sequel pleased the crowd, as director and co-star Jon Favreau, standing on a makeshift podium on Hollywood Boulevard, introduced the stars, from Mickey Rourke and Gwyneth Paltrow to Samuel Jackson and Downey himself.
Then out came The Ironettes (Rockettes-style dancers with a superhero motif) who did a heels-up, devil-may-care number to parallel a performance scene from one of the film's first sequences.
The El Capitan setting of the premiere showed just how entwined Disney is with studio/producer Marvel, which it acquired last year — the premiere began with a live organist performance, as nearly all screenings at the El Cap do.
We'll of course wait for the Los Angeles Times' critics and other reviewers to offer their assessments of the movie, but our own quick reaction was of a film rich in flash, generous in wit (never before has such a fast-talking, confidence-brimming wiseacre donned a superhero costume) and thin on meaningful storytelling (but thick with the false-start kind).
Several colleagues we spoke to afterward similarly did not find themselves in a pose of jaw-dropping awe but, like us, they felt that the film has a sense of confidence in its own mission that almost wills you into liking it (or distracts you from its convolutions).
What this movie will offer its broad quilt-work of fans is, of course, the key question.
For a film that will be one the biggest of the summer — and possibly the biggest three-day opener of all time — "Iron Man 2" has a tricky job, commercially speaking. It needs to satisfy those who crave more of the mythology introduced by the first film, but also needs to stand alone as it aims to bring in even more people than the first (and squash that movie's $98 million opening and $318 million total).
And as it does all of this, it needs to set up future movies in the Marvel canon, particularly the ensemble-oriented "Avengers," which it devotes a fair amount of time to doing, at the risk of complicating the storytelling.
We'll stay away from major spoilers, but here's a small one (skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it): Downey's Tony Stark offers to come in as a "consultant" to the Avengers group being organized by Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury. That doughnut scene from the early footage is only the beginning.
If the wisdom based on some of the early tracking has it that "Iron Man 2" has the potential to be a blockbuster of epic proportions, Monday night did little to tamp down those expectations.
When you have the flashy goods, you may as well show them off.
Both Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. could tell you that.