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FILM: Iron Man 2

Written by Marcus Campbell on April 28, 2010

Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau
Staring Robert Downey Jnr. Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell

After the hugely successful original of 2008 that raked in just under 600 million worldwide, it was only a matter of time before Robert Downey Jnr. suited back up as billionaire Tony Stark and his engineered ultra-ego Iron Man. The original was a fresh blast from a series of hit and miss (mostly miss) Marvel film adaptations. Eric Bana failed as the Hulk, Nicolas Cage and Ghost Rider didn’t work and Ben Affleck ruined Daredevil for most people. Even the last Spiderman was too weird to be even remotely satisfying. Robert Downey’s Iron Man worked however, his mumbling, egotistical genius routine worked brilliantly in the context of the spoilt-rich playboy character of Tony Stark. There are a lot of people out there who would say of an Iron Man sequel “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Fair enough, but what if the same tricks don’t work twice?

The previous film concluded with Tony Stark proclaiming to the ravenous media following him everywhere that “I am Iron Man”, after deciding that probably wasn’t such a good idea. Now with his identity known, the staple premise of superhero universes’ is to have psychopathic villains emerge to attack him, while the defenceless citizens try to outlaw him. Iron Man 2 is no exception. Congress is trying to have Stark’s suits turned over to the military suggesting that he can’t protect everyone, while degenerate Russian physicist Ivan Vanko aka ‘Whiplash’ (Mickey Rourke) plans his revenge for the death of his father. Helped by Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Stark’s major competition in the international arms business, Vanko steps up the arms race to be able to enact his vengeance for the crimes of Stark enterprises. While all this is going on, Tony is being poisoned by the palladium core in his chest that is a necessity for him to live.

Stark’s path of self destruction ultimately puts Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle) further into the story then they were during the first film, which is nothing but a good thing. The pair’s babysitting and bickering with Stark makes up most of the good dialogue and comic relief of the film, especially when Rhodey dons his ‘War Machine’ suit and argues with Iron Man about who is the ‘big gun’ out of the pair. Yes of course superhero dick-measuring competitions are funny, but moments like this are rarer than the original and leave room for far too many clichéd moments. One reoccurring cliché is the addition of eye-pleaser Scarlet Johansson’s Natalie Rushman character, who continually surprises Jon Favreau with her ability to beat up men. Maybe if Favreau wasn’t in the scenes he’s directing, maybe he could see how unfunny and outdated is the feigned surprise at a woman who can actually beat you up. Another thing is the quick dialogue; Downey Jnr. has mastered that fast paced cynicism that was hilarious in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and does very well in Iron Man, but here the writing is sloppy rather than witty and tends to leave you wondering what happened between films.

Maybe it is a little harsh to be getting stuck on such little issues, but it was the little things that made the first film so great. We liked seeing the awesome power of the Iron Man suit in action, but what made the film stand out were Tony Stark’s hilarious egotistical ramblings along with the slapstick moments of his robotic companions. We liked seeing him be humbled when captured in Afghanistan and his rebirth as Iron Man was a journey that hooked you for its high adventure and complex science. It had a strong and defined contrast between the serious Stark and the playful Downey Jnr. wanderings, where the second film tries to blend them with his impending doom. It doesn’t work; it is too much of a bright film franchise to have Downey Jnr. getting depressed especially when held up to the original. Supporting roles by Rourke, Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson serve their purposes but fail to show us anything special, each only having about 10 lines shared between them. Sam Rockwell (one of the most underrated actors alive) dumbs it down here to maintain being the face of an evil, self-interested American arms corporation. His imitations of Stark are humorous but leave the actor with very little room to excel.

The music is great with AC/DC everywhere, The Clash and Daft Punk making appearances as well as Tom Morello doing some guitar stuff here and there. For those comic buffs that are hanging out to see if their predictions of cameos and revelations of the Avengers come true, sadly there is only one obscure reference to a certain member’s shield but very little else. Don’t bother sitting through the credits because they go for about 5 minutes and unfortunately there’s no new words of wisdom from Nick Fury. Entertaining sequel, but it needed to push the boundaries of the original to keep audiences amazed. Leave this one alone if you’re hard to impress.

You will love this if: You are easily distracted by flashing lights and big explosions.

You will hate this if: You’re a comic book or film fanatic that expects more from their hero movies.

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