Time for the real Real Steel.
2) Iron Man vs War Machine
- Iron Man, aka Tony Stark. You know the drill. Played by Robert Downey Jr.
- Armed with: the Iron Man Mark IV armor– he’s made some unknown improvements to the Mark III he finished the last film in.
- War Machine, aka Lt. Col James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the U.S. military’s liaison to Stark Industries and Tony’s BFF. Rhodey has an inner playfulness that helps him bond with Stark, but most of the time he’s very much the no-nonsense type and has to play frustrated straight man to his friend’s antics. Note that while Tony uses the term “war machine” in this scene, it’s an offhand remark and he’s never formally called that in the movie, though by Iron Man 3 it’s acknowledged he did officially go by his comic book alias for a while before switching to (sigh) Iron Patriot. Played by Don Cheadle, who is not Terence Howard.
- Armed with: One of Tony’s Mark II prototype suits, unpainted and plain, but still quite formidable. It’s unstated in the film but between the fact that the suit has an external power source and also how well Rhodes handles himself in it, Stark has clearly built this suit FOR his friend to use and has already let him practice in it.
The Setup: At the peak of his dying-induced nihilism, Stark is holding a birthday bash at his house, and is entertaining a legion of phony “friends” by hosting in his Iron Man armor and engaging in reckless entertainment. (If anything, this element is probably the biggest contributor to Iron Man 2 leaving a sour taste in many fans’ mouths: narratively necessary and ultimately redeemed such antics might be, it’s just not that fun to see Tony Stark act like a self-destructive dick for such a chunk of the movie.)
Rhodes heads out to not only stop this behavior, but as a last-ditch effort to get Tony to comply with the US government’s demand to turn over his Iron Man technology. Unfortunately Rhodey’s pleas fall on deaf ears, so he has to go downstairs and hop into something that’ll help him be heard.
Ordering everyone out (you only have to ask once with a giant suit of advanced armor), Rhodes tells Stark he doesn’t deserve to have such amazing technology. Remarkably, the DJ has stuck around, and Tony orders him to play some music for them to fight to. The DJ picks “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, so it’s good to know Tony got his money’s worth when he hired the guy.
The Fight: They grapple a bit and Tony rockets the pair through a wall. They land in Tony’s personal gym which, fittingly enough, has its own boxing ring. Iron Man tries to dismissively walk away, but Rhodey starts throwing weight plates at him. Stark retaliates by grabbing a barbell, shaking the bottom weights off, and whacking Rhodey with it like a baseball bat, sending him right through the arena.
Rhodes seizes another pole (hard to see, probably one of the boxing ring’s corners) and knocks his friend through the ceiling, which takes the fight into a foyer where most of the guests had fled (are they waiting for their valets or something?). Here the two exchange in some extended fisticuffs.
It’s amusing to watch them go back & forth, punching and throwing. Each blow lands with a distinctive clang that is both exciting and funny. Eventually Rhodey goes down pretty hard, leaving Tony to face a crowd of frightened onlookers. After a pause he leans in and angrily roars at them until they run away. It’s right about here that the music dies down, signaling that, like many parties hosted by an narcissistic drunk we’ve all been to, we’ve shifted from fun & games to self-hating anger. Hopped up on booze and adrenaline, Tony is disgusted with himself and everyone around him.
War Machine gets back up and brains his friend with the DJ’s turntable (that’s why the music stopped!), sending him into the fireplace. Rhodes just want to de-escalate the situation, but Tony points his repulsor-charged hand at Rhodey and goads him into doing the same. After a quick exchange of frantic dialogue, they blast at nearly the same time and the beams hit each other in the middle, creating a huge explosion which separates them and dazes Tony.
Rhodes flies off with the armor, leaving Stark to stew in self-pity and a wrecked house.
Like most of Favreau’s action sequences, this is short but packed with so much rapid-fire goodness, if not greatness (the movie’s still saving all of its best cards for later). It plays out exactly like such a thing should play out. Yes, that seems like an obvious thing to say/expect, but that really is so much more difficult to pull off than it sounds, when it comes to a mix of CGI and live-action depicting two Iron Men (one of whom is drunk) having a contained brawl inside a mansion, so hats off to the special effects guys, sound team, storyboarders, etc. Downey and Cheadle do great work as well, albeit mostly as voices and occasional disembodied faces, their dialogue a perfect mix of genuine frustration and macho taunts.
In addition to injecting a much-needed burst of action into the film, this fight serves its purpose well in kicking off the final plummet to Tony’s personal nadir. The fact that it’s quite a bit of snappy fun at first makes it go down easier, but when it turns harsh at the end, the movie doesn’t shy away from the genuine ugliness of what the hero’s going through. Favreau pulls off the neat trick of making you want to see Tony take a good beating here, but still feel bad for him when it’s all over.
Coming Attractions: Justin Hammer’s guards have 99 problems, and they are ALL this lady.