Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Recap: "Iron Man 2" Part 2: Blood and Iron

So. Tony Stark is dying, but he still had to dodge an assassination attempt. Talk about adding insult to injury. Why can't the world just let him die in a drunken stupor like he wants?

Leave Tony alone!
Tony soon heads to the prison, where the people in charge telling him everything they know. You know, I'm not sure how the legal system works in Monaco, but I'm pretty sure that the law enforcement doesn't just fork over the info like this, even if you are the victim. Then again, Tony Stark is a superhero.

The man in charge replies in French. Luckily, there are helpful subtitles.

Subtitle: “We ran his prints. We got nothing back, not even a name.”

Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint, right?

Tony asks for five minutes with his would-be assassin, and gets his wish.

Tony Stark: “Pretty decent tech. Cycles per second were a little low.”

Because a team of Stark Industries scientists were unable to create a miniature Arc Reactor, that fact that this guy had one is the most important question. Tony Stark did it in a cave with a box of scraps, but that’s because he’s the genius son of the original inventor. What’s this guy’s excuse?

Ivan gives cryptic hints about his father, Anton, being the reason the Arc Reactor exists.

But why was Plan A attacking Tony instead of selling the design? And why is he claiming victory? He explains that he was avenging the lives destroyed by the Starks as Tony tried to rewrite his own history. And if I watched Game of Thrones, I could probably put some clever reference to it right here.

Ivan: “If you can make God bleed, the people would cease to believe in him. And there will be blood in the water. And the sharks will come.”

The goal was not to kill Tony. Okay, it was, but Ivan knew that even if he failed, the damage would be done. Despite Tony’s insistence that working exoskeletons won’t fall into the hands of the bad guys for at least five-to-ten years (and even then, they’ll still be far behind Iron Man), some random Russian whipped up an Arc Reactor and a powered suit. You can’t unfry things. Like it or not, people know that the Iron Man tech has been cracked. And people will soon come to take advantage of that.

Ivan: “All I have to do is sit here and watch while the world will consume you.”
Tony Stark: “Where will you be watching the world consume me from? That’s right; a prison cell. I’ll send you a bar of soap.”
Ivan: “Hey, Tony. Before you go. Palladium in the chest. Painful way to die.”

Later, in America, one of the very sharks Ivan spoke of, Senator Stern, is on TV saying that this latest incident proves that Tony Stark is wielding the world’s greatest weapon like a toy. Pepper and Tony watch him on the plane ride home.

Tony Stark: “He should be giving me a medal. That’s the truth.”

He presents Pepper with some, well, I hesitate to call it “food,” that he cooked himself. And because cooking things is actually difficult to do at altitude….

It looks... somewhat like food. Is that a mushroom or a potato in there?
But Pepper knows something’s up. Tony has always lived in the moment, but now he’s planning for the future while at the same time pulling reckless stunts that lessen his chances of having a future. Tony tells her that they should just cancel his birthday party and go somewhere. Just the two of them. Like Venice.

Tony Stark: “It’s a great place to… be healthy.”

Which explains why they won’t actually be going to Venice.

Pepper decides that, being the CEO, she needs to actually be there while this crisis goes in at Stark Industries. Over with Ivan, he gets a nice tray of plastic explosives to eat in his cell. To be fair, it probably would taste better than actual prison food. A guard comes in with a decoy prisoner, and the escape is on.

Ivan leaves the unlocked cell after knocking out his roommate, leaving the explosives behind to distract the guards with a nice kaboom. Two guards put a bag over his head and take him to a secure location. When the bag is removed, Ivan finds himself in a nice hangar with pleasant music playing as Justin Hammer sits at a table for two, offering his hospitality to the Russian terrorist. The French “guards” talk to Justin for a second before he dismisses them with a “Oui, oui." And that's probably all the French he knows. Because Justin Hammer, in case it wasn’t clear, is an idiot. And that’s actually drawing on the themes of the movie.

His terrible fake tan that he forgot to wash off of his hands is actually a thematic element, from a certain point of view.
Tony Stark’s past and present are conspiring to destroy him. His past as an arms dealer won’t be buried no matter how hard he tries, and his present as a reborn hero is slowly killing him. Justin Hammer, the warmongering idiot billionaire is the personification of Tony’s past, and Ivan Vanko, the son of a genius who leads a crusade with a homemade Arc Reactor represents Tony’s present. Though these two parts of Tony’s life are both leading to his downfall, they don’t mix entirely well, as this next scene shows.

Hammer tells Ivan that he’s a huge fan of his work in the whole ”trying to kill Tony Stark” department, though he suggests that Ivan should have tried to go after Stark’s legacy.

Justin Hammer: “The only difference between you and I is that I have resources.”

And a few IQ points in Ivan’s direction. “You and me,” incidentally, Justin.

To Justin’s amused frustration, Ivan replies in Russian just to screw with him. But he ends up agreeing to Justin’s offer, but on one condition. Back in Moscow, he had a bird.

Ivan: “I want my bird.”
Justin: “A bird? You want a bird?”
Ivan: “I want my bird.”
Justin: “I can get you a bird. I can get you ten birds.”
Ivan: “I want my bird.”

Justin begins trying to wrap his head around how hard it would be to get a bird flown over from Russia as Pepper, back at the Stark household, is on the phone with the board of directors.

Pepper: “Yes, but the fundamentals of the company are still very, very strong despite the events in Monaco.”

And we saw how well that claim worked for John McCain, didn’t we, Pepper? “Fundamentals.” What are you, a basketball team? If I wanted to be reminded of basketball during a movie about a guy in an armored suit… well, I still wouldn’t watch Steel.

Rhodey shows up to the house as Pepper continues her interview over the phone regarding whether or not Iron Man is necessary. In the armory, Tony Stark watches the holographic screen as JARVIS projects the results of the Google search on Anton Vanko.

JARVIS: “Anton Vanko was a Soviet physicist who defected to the United States in 1963."

Heh, because the character's first appearance was in '63.

JARVIS: "However, he was accused of espionage and was deported in 1967. His son, Ivan, who is also a physicist, was convicted of selling Soviet-era weapons-grade plutonium to Pakistan, and served 15 years in Kopeisk prison.”

Keep that information in mind for later on. Just tuck it away in the back of your mind.

Rhodey enters the armory to tell Tony to get upstairs to handle the situation. It seems as though the Army wants to send in a few tanks to take the Iron Man suits by force. He walks up to Tony and gets a look at his face. Either Robert Downey Jr.’s back on the drugs or Tony Stark is very sick. Rhodey helps Tony back to his desk and helps him replace his reactor’s core.

Rhodey: “You wanna do this whole lone gunslinger act and it’s unnecessary. You don’t have to do this alone.”
Tony Stark: “You know, I wish I could believe that. I really do. But you’ve gotta trust me. Contrary to popular belief, I know exactly what I’m doing.”

And as we’ll soon see, he does. Over in Queens, NY, Justin Hammer is getting Ivan settled into his new digs. He shows Ivan the suit prototypes he’s had made. They’re ready to go, they just need… you know. To work. Apparently, no one wants to test them out after that one guy got his spine twisted. But that’s what Ivan’s here for. Ivan hacks his way into the system because the firewalls are a bit lax, seeing as how Hammer has always been overconfident in his tech.

Ivan: “Software shit.”

He goes ahead and rips the head off one of the armors and takes a look inside.

Ivan: “What you want them do?”
Justin: “Well, long term, I want them to put me in the Pentagon for the next 25 years. I wanna make Iron Man look like an antique. I wanna go to that Stark Expo, I wanna take a dump in Tony’s front yard.”

Ivan tells Justin he can make it happen. Later that night, cars are lined up outside Tony’s house for his birth day party as the man himself sits in his room and looks at his chest in the mirror. The palladium concentration’s at 89%. “Natalie” comes in asking which watch he wants to wear and makes him a martini. She applies a bit of makeup to one of the cuts on his face from Monaco, and he starts asking her questions.

Tony Stark: “It’s hard to get a read on you. Where are you from?”
“Natalie”: “Legal.”

Including a question that’s been on his mind probably for some time.

Tony Stark: “If this was your last birthday party you were ever gonna have, how would you celebrate it?”
“Natalie”: “I’d do whatever I wanted to do with whoever I wanted to do it with.”

Or as she and Hawkeye call it, “Budapest.”

So we cut to Tony, hours later, drunk as a skunk, using DJ AM’s turntable in full Iron Man getup.

Meanwhile, Rhodey’s outside telling some kind of Army guy on the phone that he’s got the situation well in hand. He enters the house, and Pepper shows him the problem. Iron Man is drunk and disorderly at his own birthday party, tripping around and rambling into the microphone.

Tony Stark: “You know, the question I get asked most often is ‘Tony, how do you go to the bathroom in the suit?’ …just like that.”

Now, when a man is not only peeing himself, but loudly announcing that he’s doing so, he’s clearly had more than enough to drink. Pepper comes up, puts on a happy smile for the crowd, thanks Tony for a wonderful night, and starts to wind things down. But Tony insists that he’s not as think as she drunk he is.

Pepper: “You just peed the suit.”
Tony Stark: “I know. It has a filtration system.”
Pepper: “It’s not sexy.”
Tony Stark: “You could drink that water.”

But Tony ends up agreeing that it’s time to end the party.

Tony Stark: “The after-party starts in fifteen minutes! And if anybody, Pepper, doesn’t like it, there’s the door!”

He punctuates this with a repulsor blast that takes out a glass wall. The crowd eats this up and decides to play a game of “throw things into the air for the drunk guy to shoot at,” which is probably a sadly common pastime here in America. So now there’s a drunk guy shooting glass bottles, breaking them apart and showering the crowd with broken glass. At least one of the bimbos has the common sense to bring over a watermelon instead of something breakable and sharp.

Tony Stark: “I think she wants the Gallagher!”

She wants you to give a racist and homophobic rant for two hours before proceeding to smash fruit in a routine that got stale forty years ago? Thank goodness Tony skips the first part and goes straight to shooting the watermelon.

Looks like it’s time for Don Cheadle to follow up on Terrence Howard’s promise of “next time.” He heads into the armory and suits up in the old Mark II before going back upstairs and telling the partygoers to get out.

"Bite my shiny metal ass, folks."
He tells Tony to shut his suit down.

Tony Stark: “Goldstein?”
DJ AM: “Yes, Mr. Stark?”
Tony Stark: “Give me a phat beat to beat my buddy’s ass to.”

That line was an ad-lib, and RDJ couldn’t keep a straight face as he gave it, but the laughing worked so well that they kept it in the movie.

RDJ was a bit of a giggling fool that day.
DJ AM (in his last role before his unfortunate passing) whips up a remix of "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Robot Rock." The music plays as Tony and Rhodey fly into the weight room and hit each other with weights for a little bit, eventually spilling over to the living room where Pepper’s yelling at “Natalie” for causing all sorts of problems since she arrived.

At least they cut out the part where she was egging him on even more than what we saw.
Tony and Rhodey hit each other for a while longer before Tony yells at his guests, scaring them away. At this point, Rhodey's probably getting a bit desperate. He's hit Tony with everything but the kitchen sink and he hasn't gone down yet.

Time for the sink, then.
Rhodey gets one last hit in with the sink before the two of them aim their repulsors at each other.

Tony Stark: “You think you got what it takes to wear that suit?”
Rhodey: “We don’t have to do this, Tony.”
Tony Stark: “You wanna be the war machine, take your shot.”

And we're two-for-two for offhanded code names in the Iron Man series.

They fire their repulsors at each other. As always happens in movies, the two beams hit each other dead on and cause a small energy blast between the two. Tony gets knocked against the wall and Rhodey flies off without a word to Edwards Air Force Base, where he arrives early the next day. Tony, meanwhile, is off eating donuts inside the famous Randy’s Donuts sign when a familiar face shows up.

Nick Fury: “Sir! I’m gonna have to ask you to exit the donut.”

"I paid for a colossal donut, and I'm going to get a colossal donut!
Tony and Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) meet inside Randy's Donuts as we finally learn what happened after the end of the first Iron Man. As it turns out, Tony declined the offer to join the “Avengers Initiative.” Tony admits that he’s still hungover and isn’t quite sure if Fury’s real.

Nick Fury: “I am very real. I’m the realest person you’re ever gonna meet.”

Fury makes note of Tony’s palladium poisoning as “Natalie” come over wearing a skintight catsuit that freaked out Scarlett Johansson the first time she saw it because she had no idea how she was going to move in it.

Tony: “You’re fired.”
“Natalie”: “That’s not up to you.”

They explain that she’s really Agent Romanoff, sent to keep track of the ill Tony Stark.

So, uh, where did the whole "tell Tony Stark to do whatever the heck he wants" thing tie into keeping him on track?
Nick Fury: “You’ve been very busy. You made your girl your CEO, you’re giving away all your stuff. You let your friend fly away with your suit. Now, if I didn’t know better….”
Tony Stark: “You don’t know better. I didn’t give it to him. He took it.”

A little defensive there, Tony. Of course, that’s only because you did give it to him.

Natasha: “Well, according to Mr. Stark’s database security guidelines, there are redundancies to prevent unauthorized usage.”

Step Three: Find a new Iron Man.

Tony knows he’s dying. He passed on the job of Stark Industries CEO to Pepper, and he needed to know if he could pass on the suit to Rhodey. The suits don’t work without an Arc Reactor, and Tony uses the one in his chest to power whichever one he wears. So how come Rhodey could use the suit? Tony left another reactor in the older armors in the hopes that, when push came to shove, Rhodey would step up to the plate and use it to do what was right.

See the glowing chests? They're right there, waiting for Rhodey.
Iron Man may have indeed been drunk, but it was all to test to see if Rhodey was willing to wear the suit to stop him. After all, what was that thing he said to Rhodey?

Tony Stark: “Contrary to popular belief, I know exactly what I’m doing.”

Because if Rhodey had the chops to be Iron Man, then the government would stop hounding Pepper to get an Iron Man suit, and Rhodey would have the common sense to know when and how the suit should be used. All part of the plan. And of course Tony could pull it off drunk. Remember the last movie?

Yinsen: "If I had been that drunk, I wouldn't have been able to stand, much less give a lecture on, uh, integrated circuits."

The man is a master of functioning while absolutely tanked.

Fury tells Tony that he’s got problems over in the southwest to deal with, so he wants to get Tony back on his feet ASAP. They shoot him up with lithium dioxide to get rid of his symptoms for a bit, but it’s not a cure. Tony needs to find a replacement element for palladium. Tony denies that such an element exists, having tried all the ones that do, and Fury tells him that there’s one he hasn’t tried.

Over with Ivan, Justin just brought him a bird. Not the bird, but a bird.

Justin: “I mean, you know, look, don’t get so attached to things. Learn to let go.”

It doesn’t matter though. See, I don’t think Ivan even wants the bird. While Justin’s been off organizing this bird hunt, Ivan’s been using the lack of oversight to modify the armors into unmanned drones.

Ivan: “People make problem. Trust me. Drone better.”

Justin’s not happy with this, because he wanted to beat Tony at his own game.

Ivan: “Don’t get too attached to things. Learn to let go.”

Over at Edwards Air Force Base, a General plans on getting Justin Hammer to weaponized the Mark II so it can introduce Hammer’s tech at the Stark Expo. Over at the Stark residence, Fury informs Tony that the Arc Reactor is, essentially, unfinished technology.

Nick Fury: “He was about to kick off an energy race that was gonna dwarf the arms race.”

Tony mentions Anton Vanko, and Fury tells him what’s up.

Nick Fury: “Anton Vanko is the other side of that coin. Anton saw it as a way to get rich. When your father found out, he had him deported. When the Russians found out he couldn’t deliver, they shipped his ass off to Siberia.”

And this is where the cracks in the Anton Vanko story seem to show.

Anton Vanko defected to the United States in ’63, whereupon he and Howard Stark began work on the Arc Reactor to “shut the hippies up.” Anton was deported in ’67. According to the montage in the first film, Tony was born in 1970. Howard Stark named his son, Anthony, after Anton Vanko. Notably, after Anton had been deported. Clearly, Howard wasn't holding a grudge. But if he wasn't holding a grudge, then why Howard get Anton deported back to the USSR?

He didn't.

Anton Vanko was allegedly deported because he wanted to get rich, which is not the goal of a Communist spy. A Communist spy would have sent the specs back to the USSR in secret so they could make a power generator to power their red Communist goals. A "Crimson Dynamo," if you will. Pun intended. And if Anton really had dubious goals for the technology, you’d think Howard wouldn’t have been so quick to name his son after the guy.

My conclusion? I admit that it’s only a theory, but I think Anton Vanko was framed by someone very close to Howard Stark. Then this same person had Anton deported, which Howard probably reluctantly agreed to after some convincing. The goal of this whole plan would be to eliminate Anton and usurp his position as Tony's partner. But for whatever reason, Howard got suspicious and decided not to chase after whatever goal he had for the Arc Reactor, leaving it as a half-finished curiosity to be finished by a successor. As much of a setback as it would be, Howard was no longer worth the trouble and would have to be dealt with.

Problem solved.
But Howard had already produced a son. With a little pulling of strings, Howard's betrayer would end up inheriting Stark Industries until Tony was ready to take his rightful place, while at the same time posing as a mentor figure to take advantage of Tony's budding genius until the day he would need to be disposed of. On that day, Tony would no doubt fall victim to another unfortunate accident. One that would leave a power vacuum that would be reclaimed by the man who betrayed both Howard and Tony Stark.

"Well, that was the plan, anyway."
But like I said, it’s only a theory.

Fury tells Tony that Howard always said Tony would be able to finish the work, which Tony has a bit of trouble believing, seeing as how he and his father never quite got on.

Tony Stark: “He never told me he loved me. He never even told me he liked me.”

Tony facetiously says that Fury must have known Howard better than he did. And Fury agrees.

Nick Fury: “He was one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) gets brought in with a chest of Howard’s belongings to look after Tony as they place him under house arrest so he can buckle down and figure this problem out. Tony, not having Pepper around, starts ordering Coulson out to get coffee.

Agent Coulson: “I’ve been authorized by Director Fury to use any means necessary to keep you on premises. If you attempt to leave or play any games, I will tase you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet.”

Can this guy get his own show?

Oh, wait, he did.

Coming up in Part 3! Will Tony Stark die? Will Ivan Vanko have his revenge? Most importantly, will Sam Rockwell do a little dance, make a little love, and, time permitting, get down tonight? At least one of those will happen.

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