Iron Man 2 Directed by: Jon Favreau Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell Running Time: 2 hr 5 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 7, 2010
PLOT: Billionaire Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) returns with his ego and super-suit to battle non-believers and mortal enemies (Rourke). At his side are his assistant and romantic interest Pepper, (Paltrow), his military acquaintance James Rhodes (Cheadle), and mysterious secretary Natasha Romanoff (Johansson). Leading a movement to create more super-suits like the one that makes Iron Man so powerful is a weapons executive named Justin Hammer (Rockwell).
WHO'S IT FOR?: They don’t make superhero movies of this size just to appease one demographic. And regardless of whether it’s good or not, most fans of all calibers will see this anyway. Surprisingly enough, this is one of the more friendly PG-13 superhero movies for children, but an explanation of the gentler side of Iron Man will be discussed below.
EXPECTATIONS: Coming just two years after the first, my speculations were high about whether a second Iron Man would be able to pull itself together well enough to properly blast back into theaters. I was not one of the more enthusiastic supporters of the original, but I enjoyed the bits of Grade-A summer movie excitement that film had to offer.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man: Since we last saw Stark, he and his suit have become a big deal for both business and world defense (as he says with no humility, “I’ve privatized world peace"). At the same time, the power of the Iron Man suit is starting to poison his body while simultaneously adding gasoline to his already flamboyant ego. In our second following of the extremely charismatic Stark and his tech-heavy alter-persona, the story introduces some thoughts about his immortality - along with his presence as a “weapon of mass destruction" offering neither of these ideas the proper time to latch onto anything significant. While the story dawdles around with what angle it wants to take its dramatic elements, Downey Jr. has little difficulty in entertaining his constantly laughing audience. He’s often in the iron suit, but is only using it in battle for a few occasions. Even if he were working with a truly terrible script, make no doubt about, Downey Jr. is Iron Man. Score: 7
Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes: Like Potts, he tries to control the wild Stark while maintaining the professional aura Downey Jr.’s character throws out the window with little regard. And like Hammer, we are to assume he’s got some control simply because of the way he looks. As for action, later on in the film he inherits his own Iron Man suit, which allows for the opportunity for greatness. In reality, he’s only got one scene of which he is fully in control and kicking ass, and its as Iron Man's sidekick. Score: 5
Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff: For the most part she is Potts’ assistant. The austerity floating in Potts’ office passes into Romanov’s business work, even when she is doing Stark-control for S.H.I.E.L.D and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Speaking of suit-work, Johansson has only one scene where she lets her hips do the work. I’m talking about when she uses her legs in some over-stylized form of martial arts that looks like it was all performed by a stunt-woman, with Johansson being filmed at the end of each bad-guy dispatch and told to look up at the camera, with a light prey-searching gaze. Score: 4
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts: Always focused on cleaning up after Stark, she’s one of the less lively of superhero romantic interests. She’s a case where we know that Stark is interested in her, but when one really thinks about it, we’re not sure why. In comparison to Stark’s spark, she’s pretty lame (if you catch my drift). Potts is a character meant to stay quiet in the background, and Paltrow doesn’t flub up any of the small parts she’s given. Score: 4
Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash: Rourke's character is another causality of a story that requires more balance. In the first third of the film, his introduction and subsequent course of events shape him into a bad ass of recognizable size, and he even makes the sometimes-corny slow-motion-walk-away-from-explosion shot work (twice). In the second third, the movie practically forgets about him, and only compels the audience by showing him tinkering on robots and talking about his bird. In his grand finale, he’s reduced to what he truly is, but what we’d rather not see him as – a techgeek. Whiplash’s most disappointing feature is that he disappears from the center of the story for far too long, and then returns as a relatively harmless, easily beatable adversary who spends most of his chaos-creating time behind a computer keyboard. Score: 6
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer: Leave it to the Guy Fleegman from Galaxyquest to play one of the funnier versions of “Dork Who Thinks His Sharp 7,000 Dollar Suits And The Power Given To Him By His Job Make Him Commander Cool.” Hammer is not a quarter as hip as he thinks he is, which is what makes him a very amusing pipsqueak of a villain. Rockwell takes on the role with a certain pride, and fits those suits quite nicely. Score: 6
TALKING: Everyone is a comedian in Iron Man 2. With a slight exception of the stoic Rhodes, all lead members are given funny dialogue. The most laughs are doled to Hammer and Stark, with their assumed coolness protected by their straight-up smart-ass remarks. Humor is utilized so often here that it can't be considered with the dismissive title of "comic relief," as jokes seem to have a higher priority than that of an action sequence. As for Mickey Rourke, his Russian accent and delivery are natural, which can be chalked up as a huge relief, considering the devastation it could have done to his performance. Score: 7
SIGHTS: The special effects, including imagery of the Iron Man suit whether in battle or not, are up to par, and certainly do not disappoint. The action scenes are a bit weaker in pacing, but when they get down to business are edited relatively cohesively to offer brief moments of superhero action zeal. Still, this is one movie that could require an IMAX screen less than many others. It’s more talking and laughing here, something that can be experienced on a much smaller screen for the same effect. That being said, I await when the graphics of Iron Man 2 can be experienced on my Blu-ray player, presented on my medium-sized television. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Rock group AC/DC is only played a handful of times throughout, despite their total dominance of the film soundtrack (their name is bigger than on the film’s title on the CD cover). The Clash are heard a couple of times also. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: The introduction of Whiplash during the Grand Prix in Monaco will make your heart race the fastest.
ENDING: The sequel does not end on a note as sharp as the original. The most involving part of the conclusion is reserved for after the credits. A tiny bridge leading towards the next Marvel movie, it made a young man in the theater shout from the bottom of his heart “THOR!!!”
QUESTIONS: Why can't Sam Rockwell be on a Super Big Gulp Slurpee cup also?
REWATCHABILITY: I am curious to see it again, but wondering how much of the jokes will last while the action feels more and more scattered. Especially when the quick witticisms are committed to memory, will certain chunks of Iron Man 2 lend itself to a relatively boring experience?
Director Jon Favreau has a small part in the movie as Stark’s limo driver, but has a blast offering humorous bits amidst intense action. Unfortunately, this mentality runs too deep into the core of Iron Man 2, and the movie itself becomes too laid back for its own good. Allowing its characters to wander around and wait for whatever confrontation comes next, the editing has little control over any sort of established story, and characters that have the chance to be unforgettable (War Machine, Whiplash) are left out of the picture more than they should be. Filling in the vacancy left by lack of action are jokes, which amuse the audience, but do not make-up for the emptiness that is much of the second act. During this time, Iron Man 2 lets Marvel Comics fans trip over themselves with the most intense teasing of the upcoming Avengers film seen yet. But if those proper nouns don’t mean anything to you, neither will a few “important” scenes in this movie.
The light handling of something as seriously massive of Iron Man 2 affects its action, as little feels at stake throughout the entire experience. Despite his size and motivation, Whiplash feels more like a pest than a mortal enemy. He’s a villain whose evil potential is only demonstrated in pieces, with his background making up for a large chunk of the reasons explaining why he should be feared.
While Whiplash lacks much of a spark, his heroic adversaries are too immortal for their own good. Even for a superhero wearing a computer suit, Iron Man’s gracefulness in action sequences is a bit discouraging for those who see the character as a person, not as a stylized motherboard with a person inside of it. Of course, the power of Iron Man adds for some truly awesome moments, but watching a character that has absolutely zero potential of being defeated is discerning. This lends itself to the almost PG-level violence of the movie. Iron Man 2 wants to get the job done, but it doesn’t want to pull a Tony Stark and intentionally upset someone with any form of terror that makes the call for vigilantism even more worth it.
The dips into the scenes heavy with dialogue (and funny jokes, yes) are reminiscent of something as polarizing as Superman Returns, but at least that movie dealt strongly with its lead character’s mortality, and attempted to thrill its audience by confronting a true vulnerability of its hero. While Black Sabbath’s song “Iron Man” is nowhere to be heard in this round, the Iron Man movies should always maintain that tune’s explosive rawness. They shouldn’t kick back, lounge around, and maybe have a drink or two like the Cardigans’ hotel-elevator-friendly version of the same song.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10