One of my main issues with this film has always been its overabundance of plot. Vanko's desire for revenge on the Starks, Hammer's vendetta against Tony, and their decision to work together could carry a whole movie by itself; so could Tony's illness, out-of-control behavior, and search for a cure. Throw into that the introduction of SHIELD and War Machine, and that's a lot of balls in the air. The film makes a valiant attempt to juggle them all, but it doesn't quite succeed -- Tony's transition from dead-man-walking to perfectly fine is too seamless, and Vanko is a cardboard cut out villain. (I've come to appreciate Hammer more with repeated viewings. His portrayal of a corporate rat who only cares about his own profits and self importance is pulled off really well -- the character doesn't have much nuance, but he doesn't need nuance. Sam Rockwell throws himself into the role with a weaselly glee that makes me love to hate him.) I'm not sure how I would have fixed it, but the end result is a bit of a mess. A fun mess, mind you, but still a mess.
Things I do like: Tony giving Pepper the company -- no, it's not at all realistic, but I like how she's brilliant at it, and her opportunities to shine in her area of expertise. Her shutdown of Hammer is one of my favorite parts of the film. The final showdown with Tony, Rhodey, and the drones/Vanko. Father-son bonding over a 40-year-old recording. The reappearance of snarky Rhodey at the end (as I mentioned previously, I do like Don Cheadle in the role, but he plays it a little bit serious in the beginning). Once again, I keenly miss the deleted scenes that better develop Tony's friendship with Rhodey. Another problem with trying to shoehorn in so much plot. I do like the progression of Tony and Pepper's relationship, through the ups and the downs -- the pacing feels natural to me, and the kiss comes at just the right time.
I feel like I didn't talk enough about Pepper and her awesomeness in my Iron Man entry. Maybe it's just because I take Pepper being awesome as read, so I don't feel like I need to go into more detail. I adore Pepper. She's not a superhero, she's just ("just") super-organized and the most competent person in the room. (Let me tell you about my competent ladies kink, and how hard Marvel hits it, at almost every turn. Pepper, Peggy, Natasha, Jane Foster, Maria Hill, Melinda May...) I love that she's a natural at being a CEO, clearly far better at the job than Tony ever was, even after only a week. I love that she gets upset when things fall apart around her, like any normal person would, but then she also pulls herself together and does what needs to be done (getting the suit to Tony in Monaco, attempting to shut down the party when Tony spirals out of control, taking control of the situation at the Expo). She supports Tony while also calling him out on his bullshit -- because sometimes, supporting someone means calling them out on their bullshit, and enforcing boundaries, and modeling healthy behavior. Pepper deserves a medal, basically, and I'm glad that the Iron Man movies realize this.
That's about it, really. On to Thor, probably sometime next week.
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