MovieMantz Review: ‘Iron Man 2’
First Published: April 28, 2010 3:02 PM EDT Credit:
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- “Full Metal Racket”
“Iron Man 2” Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke Directed by Jon Favreau
Robert Downey Jr., who reprises his role as flamboyant billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in “Iron Man 2,” knows how to make an entrance.
Encased in the powerful red-and-gold metal suit that he originally created to stay alive, he leaps out of an airplane and rockets into the festive Stark Expo, where he touches down on a huge stage surrounded by an adoring crowd and scantily clad cheerleaders to the tune of AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill.” The mechanical suit gives way to a beaming Stark, who raises his hands in triumph, basks in the glow of his adulation and proudly announces, “It’s good to be back!”
He would know. Before the first “Iron Man” opened on May 2, 2008, Downey’s career was in shambles. But when “Iron Man” got great reviews from critics and grossed more than $582 million worldwide, he made the comeback of a lifetime. More than just being one of the best comic book movies ever made (next to “The Dark Knight,” which broke box office records later that summer), it gave Downey the chance to shine with the role that he was born to play.
When “Iron Man” was over, moviegoers wanted more, and now, just two years later, they’re getting it with “Iron Man 2,” which arrives with huge expectations. It’s obvious that screenwriter Justin Theroux and returning director Jon Favreau tried hard to meet those expectations, but maybe they tried too hard, since the resulting film suffers from the same trappings as past superhero sequels: too many characters, rushed pacing and poor plotting.
It’s not that “Iron Man 2” isn’t good. In fact, it’s good enough, but it falls short of its predecessor, which surprised both fanboys and general moviegoers by being such a fun, vibrant and classy superhero movie. But even with humor and great action scenes, it feels too conventional, especially after a decade that saw the likes of the first two “X-Men” films, the first two “Spider-Man” movies, the most recent “Batman” installments and last month’s outrageous “Kick-Ass.”
The first “Iron Man” ended with Tony Stark revealing his identity to the world on live television. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, everyone wants a piece of him – or rather, his costume, which would give any nation possessing it a huge military advantage. But in an effort to preserve world peace, Stark vows to keep it close to the vest, much to the dismay of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a fast-talking rival who’s vying to pick up where Stark left off in the weapons game.
It turns out that Hammer is the least of Starks problems, when a revenge-fueled Russian scientist named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a.k.a. Whiplash, crashes Stark’s party at the Monaco Grand Prix by brandishing the same technology that powers the Iron Man suit. If that wasn’t enough, Stark’s living on borrowed time, as the power source that initially saved his life is now killing him. With the help of his thorough second-in-command, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his loyal friend, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Tony Stark must prove to the world just how invincible Iron Man really is.
Where the first “Iron Man” was a straightforward origin story that gave Downey breathing room to show off Tony Stark’s swagger and confidence, “Iron Man 2” almost smothers that charisma. That’s because the busy story is rushed along and feels too derivative of another superhero sequel that left fans disappointed: “Spider-Man 3.” Like that film, “Iron Man 2” finds its hero falling from grace and fighting his best friend who betrayed him in a gratuitous battle scene.
It also has too many characters, and none are fully developed. That’s especially true with Mickey Rourke, who’s hot off “The Wrestler” with bulging muscles and tattoos all over his body. But his villain has a weak motive that’s been done far too many times before, while his final battle with Iron Man looks a lot like the battle that closed the first movie. At least Sam Rockwell is fun to watch, since he chews his scenes in much the same way that Downey chews his (perhaps that’s why Rockwell was one of the original choices to play Stark).
Scarlett Johansson, who plays secret agent Black Widow (though she is never actually called that by name), barely makes her mark with just one action scene, while Gwyneth Paltrow has less to do than she did in the first film. Don Cheadle takes over as “Rhodey” Rhodes from Terrence Howard (who dropped out of the sequel over a reported salary dispute with Marvel), and he makes the role his own, especially after he finally suits up as War Machine.
The setup for the eventual “Avengers” movie continues, as Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury, Captain America’s shield comes in handy during one of Stark’s experiments and even Thor makes a very brief appearance. And since “Iron Man 2” is guaranteed to make a killing at the box office, “Iron Man 3” is a no-brainer. But here’s hoping that the next time around, the focus will come back to Tony Stark, which is what made the first movie so terrific.
Regardless, one thing’s for sure about “Iron Man 3” – Robert Downey Jr. is bound to make an unforgettable entrance.
Verdict: SEE IT!
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