Earlier this week I took a group of underprivileged kids to see the first big blockbuster of the summer movie season, Iron Man 2. Or at least they sounded underprivileged — when I pulled into the Come-N-Go to fill up my tank, they asked if I’d buy them some beer.

I of course was smart enough to know that their request was nothing more than a cry for help and computer-generated movie magic, so with the promise of free overpriced candy at the theater, I enticed the kids into my windowless van and we were off. Besides, I’m bound to be sentenced to community service one of these days, so I figured my good deed was likely to be looked upon favorably by a judge as “time served.”

The kids had a great time at Iron Man 2 and showed their appreciation for Jon Favreau’s sequel by throwing the contents of half-pound bags of M&M’s at moviegoers who didn’t share their enthusiasm. Two of them had fun reenacting the big kiss between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) a full 90 minutes before it took place in the movie, adding some R-rated pelvic thrusts for good measure, while the youngest in the group, 14-year-old Cyrus, downloaded a pirated copy of Iron Man 2 onto his phone and watched it from there. One moviegoer politely asked him to “turn that [four expletives deleted] thing off,” but Cyrus couldn’t hear him over the movie’s AC/DC-stuffed soundtrack album, which he’d also illegally downloaded and decided was a good replacement for the film’s dialogue.

I can’t say I blame him. Downey was clearly having a blast in the original film just two years ago, but in Iron Man 2 the actors look a little lost, as if only one copy of the script was printed for the entire cast and included stage directions like “RDJ should say something funny here.” The film was green-lit three days after the original opened to huge box office and glowing reviews, but Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux could’ve benefited from another year of script development.

Unfortunately, Marvel Studios already had next summer booked for its Thor and Captain America movies, leading up to a 2012 Avengers movie featuring those two superheroes, the Hulk, and Iron Man. Hollywood is often accused of having an assembly-line mentality when it comes to manufacturing its blockbusters, but Marvel, in its attempts to place its superstars in one connected “universe,” may end up falling to earth much quicker than anticipated.

Oh, who am I kidding? As if the target audience for these films really cares if the romantic banter is snappy. They want Transformers-type battles between metal men who have heavy artillery and impossible technology at their disposal yet still prefer to wage war by punching each other in the face. They also want villains who make explosive entrances and laugh mirthlessly and mercilessly (try saying that fast three times). And they want Scarlett Johansson walking around in tight rubber suits.

Come to think of it, so do I. But can’t all of those things be … gee, I don’t know … smarter?

I will say this — as far as I know, Iron Man 2 is the world’s first metrosexual comic book movie. Not only does Tony Stark look like George Michael throughout most of the film, sporting unisex shades and sculpted facial hair, but Mickey Rourke, as the film’s main villain, wears some eyeglasses I swear he borrowed from an ex-girlfriend of mine.

Stark and his enemies are all pretty vain dudes, but they’re honest about who they are. So how come Favreau and Theroux decided to leave out all the principals’ superhero names aside from Stark’s? Johansson’s character is a superspy named Black Widow in the Marvel comic books, but you wouldn’t know it from the movie. Ditto for Don Cheadle, who plays James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a.k.a. Iron Man’s sidekick, War Machine, but does Stark pat him on the back and affectionately call him “Warry” or “Dubya M” at the end of the film? Nope. Even Rourke’s character’s nickname is never spoken, even though the Whiplash Whopper is an Iron Man 2-related menu item at Burger King this summer.

Maybe the filmmakers thought Iron Man 2 would seem more realistic without the comic book monikers. Well, fat chance when they include scenes like the one where Stark’s chauffeur (Favreau, in a way-too-extended cameo) drives into the Monaco Grand Prix and dodges Formula One racers head-on at 90 mph, or the one where flying robot drones dive-bomb into the ground and explode without a single innocent bystander getting hurt. Lacking any sense of danger, Iron Man 2 abandons realism as soon as the opening credits are done.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t lacking that sense once I woke up from my third-act nap and noticed the underprivileged kids were missing, along with my wallet and keys. Realizing I wouldn’t be seeing my van again anytime soon, I snacked on some M&M’s I found on the theater floor and went back to sleep.

This week’s bootleg, courtesy of Matt Wardlaw, has nothing to do with AC/DC. Or the Clash, for that matter, who have as many songs prominently featured in Iron Man 2 as the Australian hard rockers — a grand total of two — but probably haven’t seen their albums fly off the shelves at Walmart in the past 30 years, so there you go.

However, this sixth volume of Y100 Sonic Sessions, taken from performances recorded in 2002 for Philadelphia’s WPLY 100.3 FM, features tracks by Alien Ant Farm, Default, Sum 41, and Pete Yorn, all of whom appeared on the Spider-Man soundtrack that same year.

The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)
Interstate Love Song (Stone Temple Pilots)
Movies (Alien Ant Farm)
Panic/Life on a Chain (Pete Yorn)
Seein’ Red (Unwritten Law)
Blurry (Puddle of Mudd)
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (Good Charlotte)
Wasting My Time (Default)
Screaming Infidelities (Dashboard Confessional)
You Wouldn’t Believe (311)
Good Souls (Starsailor)
Motivation (Sum 41)
Here Is Gone (The Goo Goo Dolls)
Crawling in the Dark (Hoobastank)
California (Phantom Planet)
In My Place (Coldplay)

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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