Iron Man 2
Summer 2010 brought us many-a-blockbuster and surely one of the most anticipated was Iron Man 2, the sequel to the hit 2008 comic book movie. Director Jon Favreau and leading man Robert Downey Jr. returned for the sequel as director and star, respectively, bringing along with them a sense of hope that this might be one of the few sequels to improve upon the first one. Sadly that didn't turn out to be the case.
Before we get to the negative, I just want to say that I consider Iron Man 2 to be a lot of fun, with a memorable villain in Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), some hugely entertaining set-pieces (the Monaco race track sequence stands out in particular) and some stunning special effects work.
However, when you compare Iron Man 2 to the resounding success that was the first film - it feels like a let down. To begin with, the first film managed to strike the right balance of Tony Stark (DowneyJr.) being cocky and smarmy but still likable, whereas the sequel made him more arrogant than anything else. This lead to it being harder to care about the main character, since he was acting like such an ungrateful ass a lot of the time.
Secondly, the final showdown between Iron Man, War Machine and Vanko was too reminiscent of the finale of the first film. It wasn't exactly the same, but the general “machines hitting and shooting each other until only one (or in this case two) is left standing” felt repetitive and rather unsatisfying, in my opinion.
Lastly – and perhaps most importantly - the film felt less like a standalone feature and more like a hold-over for the big Avengers film to come in 2012. The subplot about S.H.I.E.L.D. wanting to recruit Stark/Iron Man for The Avengers was referenced in the first film but didn't get in the way of things; in Iron Man 2 that point was belabored and detracted from the main storyline of Iron Man trying to stop Vanko and Stark's arms-dealer nemesis Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).
While Iron Man 2 is still a very fun and entertaining summer blockbuster, when you take into account just how good the first one was, the sequel can easily be labeled a disappointment. Here's hoping that Iron Man 3 – which will have a different director now that Favreau won't be returning – gets back up to the level of the first movie. It will have an easier task doing so, considering it will come after The Avengers and won't have to serve as a bridge film, as was the fate of Iron Man 2.
The Last Airbender
A lot of people were looking forward to the big-screen adaptation of the famed animated series The Last Airbender due to the first teaser trailer. It featured a mysterious shrouded figure performing martial arts in the middle of a circle of candles, ultimately blowing all them out with his mystical powers - and finally unveiling himself as a mere boy. Cut to outside of the cave where a massive fleet of warships launching fireballs hinted at an epic battle soon to unfold.
It's amazing what one teaser trailer can do, and this one definitely made people sit up and take notice of The Last Airbender, despite the name M. Night Shyamalan being plastered all over the film's posters and trailers. As it turns out, their anticipation would have been better placed somewhere else as this was not only a disappointing film, but one of the year's worst as well.
From the poorly-written dialogue (“We must go there” is about as sophisticated as it gets) and characters, to the lackluster action and boring storyline, the film made for one memorable experience... but not in a good way. The Last Airbender stuck in my mind for all the wrong reasons and proved that Shyamalan should probably stay away from making action/fantasy films altogether.
Even the admittedly impressive special effects weren't enough to make The Last Airbender worth checking out. If you were lucky enough to have missed this one in theaters, do yourself a huge favor and avoid it on DVD/Blu-ray.
Final nail in the coffin: Despite the implications of the Clash of the Titans debacle, The Last Airbender tried to also go the post-conversion 3D route, and turned out even worse than it already was, with colors so dark and murky it was like watching a movie with sunglasses on. Just awful.