Iron Man 2 Review
Superhero movie follow-ups have been a tough business lately. Iron Man 2 marks Marvel's first sequel since Spider-Man 3 left millions disappointed in 2007. So to quell any lingering fears, Iron Man 2 is not a letdown. It's far from it. To think director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. would lose sight of what they did that turned a lesser Marvel character into a multi-million-dollar franchise would be a gross underestimation.
Downey Jr. does not relinquish Iron Man's reputation as the wittiest superhero ever brought to the big screen. Iron Man 2 provides just as much of a humorous joyride as the 2008 film, backing up all the subtly outrageous dialogue with superb visual effects and action that seizes all attention. It all still works because Favreau has locked down the blend between not taking the story too seriously but still telling it with conviction.
But oh yes, Iron Man 2 complicates things a bit. Self-outted billionaire superhero Tony Stark aka Iron Man has a lot on his plate from government subpoenas asking him to hand his suit over to the people to a private matter: his fake heart -- the arc reactor -- is slowly poisoning him. Feeling like it all might cave in on him, Tony makes his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), Stark Industries' new C.E.O.
Screenwriter Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) accepts the responsibility of weaving these plot lines in with three new significant characters. Mickey Rourke assumes the villain role: silently vengeful Russian physicist Ivan Vanko, who after a failed attempt at using his own whip-toting arc-reactor suit to kill Tony in the film's first action sequence on a Monaco raceway, finds himself in the employ of Tony's arms-dealing nemesis, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). With Tony going in and out of the public's good graces, Hammer uses Vanko to create droid soldiers for the military, which would effectively make him the real "American hero." Scarlett Johansson goes redhead for a supporting role as one of Tony's new assistants who is more than she appears to be.
The busyness continues because of Marvel's commitment to an eventual "Avengers" film in 2012 combining Iron Man and heroes of future Marvel films. Samuel L. Jackson appears as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D, looking to recruit Tony for his team and nudging him in the right direction as Tony's deceased father, Howard, holds the answer to his "heart condition."
The overcrowding, however, never gets the best of Iron Man 2. Theroux has designed the story to move along quickly and effectively, letting the action and the humor carry the entertainment factor evenly throughout the film. The unfortunate trade-off is that very little resonates about Iron Man 2. Tony's attempt to find a new core element for his arc reactor is the one true through-line. Everything else from Tony's feuding with Pepper and his buddy Jim Rhodes (Cheadle) to Hammer's frustrations with Vanko's progress to Nick Fury all act in service of the plot. The element of Tony's irresponsibility and alcoholism, perhaps the greatest potential of the film to make any kind of statement, appears in only a couple brief scenes. Downey Jr. and Favreau give us many great Tony Stark moments, but he doesn't have a chance to grow -- just make us laugh and remember how great a character he is.
And honestly, how great a character he is. Downey Jr.'s shtick hasn't gotten old in the least despite his increased exposure the last two years and the writing caters to him even more this time around. Maybe a lesser actor playing a lesser character wouldn't be able to lift up a busy superhero story with this many subplots, but RDJ has that ability. With an imaginative visual effects crew at his back and a director who knows how to condense action and make it count, he'll likely continue providing easy-to-love action entertainment as Iron Man no matter how many different chinks these films develop in their armor.
Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Justin Theroux (screenplay), Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber (comics)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwenyth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke
Other Player Affinity Reviews:
"The cast is terrific. Downey Jr. gets to play Stark with even more charisma and arrogance, and every minute of it is incredible. Gwyneth Paltrow makes for a great Pepper Potts. While neither give the scene-stealing work that was promised in the trailers, Rockwell and Rourke deliver strong performances. Don Cheadle -- well -- the character of Rhodes simply doesn't work. Terrence Howard, who I usually like, was pretty terrible in the first film. To make matters worse, I'm not a Cheadle fan. As for the problems, there doesn't seem to be much motivation for the villains. Rourke's Vanko wants to bring shame to the Stark legacy, but some of his actions do nothing more than to bring shame to the legacy of his own family. Instead of being focused on the actual story of Stark, the film had more of a "let's promote The Avengers
as much as we can" mentality behind it. Despite the problems, Iron Man 2
is still a fun movie that entertains and thrills." Rating: 8/10
Simon thought: "Iron Man 2
isn’t as good as the original and despite what were likely deluded hopes it would be, it’s time everyone get over it and enjoy this superhero sequel for what it is: immensely entertaining, superbly acted throughout and boasting skilfully conceived action set pieces. In addition to what made the original succeed, director John Favreau one-ups himself by expertly utilizing two of the best actors working today, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell, both of whom play Tony Stark’s adversaries. Spider-man 3
showed us too many villains can result in narrative clutter so it was a sigh of relief to see that they were ultimately used smartly without taking too much focus away from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the entire film was the performance of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Not only was she sexy and smart but her fighting scenes are the best and most interesting in the entire movie, which needless to say this caught me off guard. No, Iron Man 2
isn’t quite as good as its predecessor but it comes damn close and if anything, has made me even more excited for the inevitable follow-up." Rating: 7/10
"When Iron Man
was released in 2008 it was a surprise hit. With critical and financial success and grant plans by Marvel Studios for The Avengers
a sequel was inevitable. Jon Favreau returns to the director’s chair with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow continuing in their roles as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. They are joined by a talented cast of actors: Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Samuel L. Jackson. Downey Jr. shows once again he has great range as an actor and was perfect as Iron Man. Rourke was a fantastic villain as Ivan Vanko and there was excellent chemistry between the whole cast. The tone is a little more serious then in the previous film, but Favreau makes sure the film is still a entertaining summer blockbuster. He shows more confidence as an action director, with impressive sequences throughout the film. But the screenplay is a little unfocused, with a few too many sub-plots and has the problem of having a few too many characters. It’s not as good as Iron Man
but it’s very close." Rating: 8/10
Dinah Thought: "Iron Man 2 plays like a pawn in the bigger Avengers game; it pretends to be a sequel but is obviously a lead in to a later feature. Don’t get me wrong, Iron Man and his alter ego Tony Spark are good, just not as awesome as you want a hugely anticipated summer tentpole to be. The film picks up pace about midway through, stalling frequently throughout due to “storyline stops” that will likely be relevant the next time we see the red suit light up. Scarlett Johansson is a sexy addition as Black Widow and Mickey Rourke is spot on as Whiplash but both characters are underutilized in favor of belaboring Tony Stark’s personal problems. The (few) action scenes, special effects, music and character interplay are great, but overall the film failed to stick up for itself apart from the arc leading to inevitable sequels." Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.4/10