Iron Man 2 Vs. Ip Man 2: Who's The Man

Posted by Grey Monday, May 10, 2010

An age old battle between East and West continue this past week in the box office over this corner of the world, as two blockbuster film went head-to-head to answer the one question: Who's the man?

While it is definitely no secret that Marvel's Iron Man 2, sequel to the critically acclaimed 2008's original is one of the most anticipated film of the year, in this part of the world, movie-goers are probably almost equally eager to Donnie Yen's Ip Man 2 (葉問2:宗師傳奇), the sequel to 2008's well-received Ip Man (葉問), incidentally the winner of "Best Film" in the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards. For those wondering if the similarities between both film ended there, well, both sequels were released on the first weekend of May.

So here we are, Iron or Ip, who's the man?



Ip Man 2 (葉問2:宗師傳奇)
Release Date: Asia: April 29, 2010
Genre: Action
Language: Cantonese
Mandarin
English
Directed by: Wilson Yip
Produced by: Raymond Wong
Written by: Edmond Wong
Starring:
Donnie Yen
Sammo Hung
Lynn Hung
Huang Xiaoming





Picking up directly where the first film left off, we see Ip Man (Donnie Yen in a career-changing role), together with his family (consisting of a heavily pregnant wife and a young son), arriving in Hong Kong and attempting to establish his own Wing Chun Martial Arts School to little fanfare. Business soon pick up, along with some cool action sequences at a fish market, which in turn led to an all-out martial arts inter-school battle royale, pitting the local martial arts schools, headlined by Samo Hung (as an early antagonist in the film) against Ip Man.

The above is a brief description of the first half of the film, and it is indeed every bit as exciting as it sounded.

Too bad, the movie doesn't end at the aforementioned round table (literally!) battle royale. While the business of Ip Man's Wing Chun School does pick from hereon, the film goes downhill and never look back. As Samo Hung's intriguing antagonist role takes a blatant face turn, Darren Shahlavi appeared to fill in the main antagonist role as possibly one of the worst caricature of the archetypal Great British Bully we were force-fed back in the 70s and 80s. The character is so impossibly ignorant and simply failed in comparison to the sturdy antagonist (the silent Japanese general) in the first film.

With the appearance of Shahlavi's cartoon villain, Twister the British boxing champion, the film predictably fall into the stereotypical Chinese vs. Foreigners style of old school Kungfu movie story-telling that culminated in a, what else other than a much-publicized one-on-one match in the ring. While you might thought that this plot development is reminiscent of Jet Li's 2006 film, Fearless, where the main character, Huo Yuanjia, faced off many foreign opponents in the ring, the consistently brilliant action choreography of Ip Man 2 unfortunately took a disappointing turn in this aspect as well.

This ain't no mixed martial arts match-up, thus handicapping the villain tremendously as both Samo Hung's Hung Ga and Donnie Yen's Wing Chun utilizes deadly kicks respectively. Simply put, they are entirely different fighting styles and are unfair to pit them in the same ring. It is only until the second half of the final fight that Twister and his gang realized that and changed the rules to no kicking. From this fact alone, you can't help but wonder if the production team are just making things up as they go along. In classic good-versus-evil scenario, you can't be handicapping the villain and at the same time expect the hero to look good coming out of this. When Jet Li's Huo Yuanjia went against the Caucasian "devil", namely Nathan Jones's Hercules O'Brien, it was Kungfu versus wrestling, making a perfectly reasonable action sequence all the more poignant.



All in all, Ip Man 2 somewhat retained its standards of engagingly outstanding action sequences, but lost the plot when the overall intention is to tread the same ground yet again for the second time. The classic story-telling won't work all the time. While most reviewers in Asia have turned up favorable reviews, I can totally see how this is one movie that Asian wanted to embraced so much, especially in the face of another Caucasian "devil", Tony Stark AKA Iron Man.

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Iron Man 2
Release Date: US (wide): May 7, 2010
Genre: Action, Super-Hero
Language: English
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Produced by: Kevin Feige, Susan Downey
Written by: Justin Theroux
Starring:
Robert Downey, Jr.
Don Cheadle
Mickey Rourke
Gwyneth Paltrow
Scarlett Johansson
Sam Rockwell
Samuel L. Jackson
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Production Company: Marvel Studios



"Oh, it's good to be back!"

With that, Robert Downey, Jr., returns to his break-out role, Tony Stark AKA the eponymous Iron Man, welcoming comic fans and movie buffs alike back to the wonderful world of Iron Man, in the film's second opening scene at the Stark Expo. Not to mentioned effectually kicking off the Summer blockbuster season with a bang.

Stark is back, bigger and badder, literally. With an increasingly enormous ego (declaring himself a one-man nuclear deterrent who privatized world peace), he certainly isn't entirely behaving as a staple role model for the superhero type (let's just say he did something that we have always wonder about the ol' shellhead in his most 'desperate' moment). And deep down, there's a reason why: Slowly dying of blood poisoning by pallandium caused by the very same Arc-Reactor energy core that was used to save his life, he is living literally the last days of his life. With Pepper Potts struggling to adapt to her newly promoted role of the CEO of Stark Industries and best buddy, Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terence Howard for the role) caught between the military and Stark, good ol'Tony is slowly and surely relishing his own self-destruction. Adding to his long list of misery, not one but two new antagonists have arise, one from Russia, bearing deep grudges against the Starks family and is coming forth with a no-frills version of weaponry powered by the very same Arc-Reactor; and one in the form of a rival weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer.

In an earlier interview with Collider, President of Production at Marvel, Kevin Feige said, “I want Tony Stark…the name Tony Stark to be as recognizable as James Bond. Even more so than Peter Parker, even more so than Bruce Wayne because it doesn’t just stand for the secret identity of the other, he’s the hero. It’s one and the same.” And I believed there is little doubt to the success of that, given Downey, Jr.'s renewed stardom. The 2008 Iron Man firmly sets itself apart from the usual superhero films (with the obvious exception of Christopher Nolan's Batman and a small number of others), being totally character-driven, thus providing Downey, Jr. the perfect showcase for an amalgam of comic's Tony Stark and his very own quirky personality.

Iron Man 2 followed the very same formula of being a character-driven piece, revolving around Stark and occasionally shifts the spotlight on other characters. While the endlessly entertaining banter between Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Stark still sparkle, most of the rest of the cast are somehow on a guest-starring stint. Nevertheless, Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer, a poor man's Stark, is a great addition to the roster, being a dependable source of comic relief with his used car salesman demeanor. Also notable would be Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko (despite the hype, he was never addressed or acknowledged as Whiplash in the film), making the weird but gritty villain shine despite the limited screen time.



For those still in doubt, Iron Man 2 is quite possibly the movie of this Summer, being the bigger, badder, faster, harder improvement over the already brilliant original. An escalation in all senses, the threat got bigger, the action scenes got louder, and the pace, despite its dialogue-heavy sequences, is an improvement over the somewhat uneven original.

Word out on the street and reviews that I have read thus far seemed to be indicative of an efficient though slightly inferior sequel, where its many conversation pieces bogged down the paces and a lackluster ending. In contrary, I begged to differ, and will be the first to argue on the necessity and quality of the aforementioned conversation pieces. As for the ending, it is agreeable that it falls somehow on the short but an satisfying end, but the death of Ivan Vanko and his cause of action are in fact logical given his self-destructive nature, evident from the incredible scene at the Monaco racetrack. For everything else, there's Scarlett Johansson, knocking off all your collective jaws, both by doing absolutely nothing and by kicking asses.

Oh, and all the insanely blatant easter eggs that you can find littered all over the film. (We'll get to that later.)

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The Rundown: We have a winner. Iron Man is... still the man!

A little post-script note for those who have watched Iron Man 2 and were feeling unsure of any easter eggs that they could have missed... CHUD.com have thankfully provided a list of easter eggs to watch out for in the film. Check it our right here.

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