Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle
Writer: Justin Theroux
Director: Jon Favreau
Company: Paramount Pictures

Iron Man is the cornerstone of the new Marvel movies franchise, with its 2008 installment raking in gobs of money and beginning the process of intertwining all of its in-house productions with each other, eventually resulting in the superhero team up The Avengers (to be released in 2012). Although a B-level character in the comic book world, the exploits of Tony Stark have set Hollywood on fire, due to the fun and lighthearted thrills it gave audiences and the excellent performance of Robert Downey Jr. as the lead.

If you think about it, Iron Man 2 was going to have to pull off a miracle in order to match the excellence of the original and sadly, it does not. Although a good movie in its own right, especially RDJ's performance once again as well as the always excellent Sam Rockwell, Iron Man 2 does not have the same magic as the original had.

Iron Man 2 follows the life of Tony Stark (RDJ) six months after revealing himself to be the person behind the mysterious "Iron Man". He is now even more of a celebrity and credited with helping to bring peace amongst the world. When we join Stark, he is giving the keynote speech at the Stark Expo, a year long event in Flushing, NY featuring inventors of all-kinds getting together and helping to shape the future of the world. However, all the pageantry and fun begins to bleed away to personal problems; first off, Stark is being hassled by the United States government, Senator Stern (Gary Shandling...I know right?) especially, who want to get the Iron Man technology from Stark for use in their military. Also, the device he invented which not only powers the Iron Man suits but keeps him alive, is starting to poison his body. The longer he is exposed to it, the quicker he will die. He also faces stiff competition from Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a less talented manufacturer and his direct competitor, who is attempting to recreate the Iron Man technology to horrible results.

There is another threat though, a threat Stark is completely unaware of; deep in the heart of Russia, a former physicist named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is hard at work on weapons of his own, for the sole intent of killing Stark and destroying his whole corporation. The Vanko family has a bone to pick with the Stark family, and Ivan has taken it upon himself to take revenge, by any means necessary.

Now, there's a lot to like about Iron Man 2. RDJ gives another great performance as the egomaniac Tony Stark, bringing both humor and a subtle depth to him. This is a star role and if RDJ is smart enough, he will keep playing it until they run out of ideas. Don Cheadle is also leagues better than Terrance Howard was in the role of James Rhodes, and he does a good job with the scenes he's in. Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Stark's assistant/love interest/rock Pepper Potts, gives another great supporting performance, often playing the straight woman to Stark's exploits as well as having to clean up his messes.

Scarlett Johansson, who plays Stark's new assistant (after Pepper is named new CEO of Stark's company) Natalie Rushman, is good here, and a fine addition. She isn't a great actress, but this doesn't ask her to do much, other than pretty much do what Pepper did in the first film and then kick ass when the time is right (and her action scene is the best out of the whole movie).

The best addition to the series, however, is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell's character of Justin Hammer is smug, obsessed with money and women, and only is in it for the glory. In other words, he is Tony Stark were Tony Stark less likable. Hammer is the true villain of the story. He has a fake niceness that gives away to professional frustration that turns him into an asshole as time goes on. All he wants to do is be better than Stark, but he doesn't have the talent or the charisma to do so. He is second best, and it drives him insane. Sam Rockwell's performance stole the show for me. He was just so unlikable that he became likable and he was the perfect foil for Stark; the ego without the talent. Rockwell continues to do great work and even though this won't get him an Oscar (MEH!), hopefully this will land him bigger roles that finally get him there.

I also really enjoyed the ways they continued to build to The Avengers. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes a longer appearance this time around to talk some sense into Stark, and they make allusions to future events. There are also easter eggs thrown in here and there that hint at the future of the Marvel movie universe and as a nerd, I loved those little nuggets they gave me. It just gets me more excited for 2012 when that movie finally drops.

Now even though there's a lot to like, Iron Man 2 seems to be missing something that made the first one so good. This installment is a lot longer, and you can feel it. Some scenes seemed pretty useless, and they throw in a lot of new blood to mix up the story a bit. Also, they gave more screen time to Stark's bodyguard Happy (played by director Jon Favreau) which made for some good moments, but did not need to really happen. He was better in smaller doses. It seemed more bogged down than the first one, trying to do too many things at once; building up the Avengers, turning Rhodes into War Machine, Stark's drinking problem, Stark's impending doom, the future of his company, etc. There is a lot more to take in this time and while I appreciated that, it felt like too much to throw in.

Mickey Rourke also felt kind of tacked in, and to be honest, his character of Whiplash is lame. He speaks in a bad Russian accent and flings around electricity whips, which look really dumb. He is not very threatening and Rourke does what he can, but the role itself is just not very good...or very meaty. Believe me folks, Iron Man 2 not Iron Man Vs. Whiplash as the previews make it out to be.

The action is light as well, and there are only two to three major scenes so if you're looking for an action packed beginning to your summer season, wait for Robin Hood next week. The action scenes are excellent, but not plentiful. This is more of a character/plot-driven story that is moving the overall story along as opposed to just something where stuff gets blown up.

Iron Man 2 isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's very different than what the previews make it out to be. Rourke's character isn't very important and the action is few and far between. There are some funny moments and good scenes, but overall this sequel feels like it is missing something its original has, although I can't quite place what that exactly is. Still, Iron Man 2 has kicked off the summer season with a bang and if you liked the first one, there is no reason you shouldn't check this out.

Final Verdict:

5/15/2010 09:43:19 am

The movie doesn't really go anywhere. Although it's full of subplot and characters, we don't learn much of anything new about the Iron Man universe. Pretty much every thing we knew from Iron Man is regurgitated here. An entertaining watch but quite disappointing given how empty it ultimately is.


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