Iron Man 2 Suffices as a Serviceable Sequel
- Thursday, May 06, 2010
DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: May 7, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Adaptation and Sequel
Run Time: 124 min.
Director: Jon Favreau
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
Iron Man 2 suffers from a typical problem with sequels. It has a little too much of everything—too many characters, too many subplots and a running time that's too long. But it's not half bad.
Sure, it could have done a better job of fleshing out the character of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) or his friend Lt. Col James "Rhodey" Rhoades (Don Cheadle), and it might have given either of its villains, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), more than one dimension. But what else should we expect from a movie series based on comic book characters? It all goes down rather easily, and if it doesn't rise to the level of better summer blockbusters, it at least holds its own against the original, wildly successful Iron Man. If you liked that first film, you'll likely enjoy this sequel. If you didn't, don't come to the sequel expecting any improvements.
Stark, having revealed his identity as Iron Man at the end of the first film, has, early in the new film, brought about global peace. "Iron Man Stabilizes East-West Relations" shouts a newspaper headline. Six months later, Iron Man is jumping out of a plane and landing onstage at the Stark Expo, a yearlong event organized by the egotistical Stark. He's still delighted by provocatively dressed dancers, but this time they support Stark's own stage act rather than give him private performances, as they did in the first film. "It's not about me," Stark says, as he speaks to attendees of Stark Expo. "It's about legacy." Stark hopes to leave behind a better, more peaceful world, thanks to his efforts as Iron Man.
It's Stark's legacy that Vanko can't live with. Seeking revenge for the death of his father, which he blames on Stark's father, Vanko shows up in Monaco to disrupt a car race in which Stark is participating. A physicist by training, Vanko wields electrified whips that cut through metal and steel, and subdue, if not paralyze, Stark in his Iron Man suit.
That's not the only problem with the suit. Outfitted with firepower, it has been deemed a weapon by U.S. politicians. Sen. Stern (Gary Shandling) calls Stark to appear at a hearing into the technology behind the suit, during which he demands to know the secrets behind the technology of the Iron Man get-ups. Stark "has created a sword, but insists it's a shield," Stern intones, but Stark refuses to be bullied into giving up his prized possessions.
Also after Stark's suits: Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), an arms manufacturer and Stark rival who sees an opportunity to team with Vanko and finally best his nemesis. Helping Stark are Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom Stark promotes to CEO of his company, and Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson). Just for good measure, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) drops by a couple of times to ponder recruiting Stark to be part of his team.
Hanging over the entire affair is the issue of Stark's mortality. Stark's faltering replacement heart and use of the Iron Man suit have his blood toxicity levels on the rise. His upcoming birthday party will be, he believes, his last. There's a lot going on in Iron Man 2—did I mention Stark's friendship with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)?—but the film never bogs down for long stretches. The battle scenes aren't taxing, and Rourke has at least as much fun in his limited role as Jeff Bridges had playing the villain in the first Iron Man. Stark's behavioral excesses are still problematic, but his humor plays a little better in this second installment. Maybe familiarity with Stark breeds something other than contempt.
There are no real high points in Iron Man 2—no standout scenes that will have audiences talking as they leave the theater—but the overall product is sufficient to satisfy audiences in search of another dose of the Iron Man franchise. If it's not a sharper Iron, neither is it a duller one.
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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