Iron Man 2 Review

(2.5 STARS)

Iron Man 2 could’ve been a disaster. The film was rushed out only two years after its predecessor captured the hearts (and dollars) of audiences across the country. The high number of new characters made me shudder—thinking of the disastrous Spider-Man 3. And while the post-credits teaser after the original “Iron Man” got me excited for the eventual Avengers film, I worried Marvel would simply use this film as a stepping stone to get to that point, rather than establish a solid Iron Man adventure. Thankfully, such an adventure was still possible. Despite everything going against it, Iron Man 2 is an entertaining, albeit flawed, summer blockbuster.

When we last left Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he revealed to the world that he was Iron Man, and in the beginning of Iron Man 2, he is relishing the role of purveyor or world peace. The US government wants him to surrender the “Iron Man weapon,” but things are more peaceful than ever before, so as Tony says, why mess with a good thing? But Tony is surprised, as is the world, when a brilliant Russian scientist, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), shows up to a grand prix in Monaco with an Iron Man-like suit and a vendetta against everyone’s favorite superhero. Seeing the damage that could be done to Stark and his reputation, rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) snatches up Vanko and commissions him to build him an army of Iron Men.

Meanwhile, Tony is dying. The element used to keep him alive is actually poisoning his blood, and the Iron Man suit is just accelerating the process. He makes his loyal sidekick, and possible love interest, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), CEO of his company. He hires the sexy Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) as his new assistant—but she may not be all she seems. Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle, stepping in for Terrence Howard) is growing more and more frustrated with his best friend’s antics, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has a handful of scenes, advancing the Avengers plot a little further.

So all of my concerns were legitimate—there are a number of plot holes, which indicates the filmmakers didn’t take enough time to develop the story. The film was has too many characters and, as a result, too many subplots. And far too much time is devoted to setting up future movies rather than focusing on this one. Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Iron Man 2. I’ll discuss the missteps in a bit, seeing as I actually liked the film, I’ll start with the positives.

Unsurprisingly, the best thing about Iron Man 2 is Robert Downey Jr. Casting him as Tony Stark in the first film was an absolute stroke of genius, and his shtick hasn’t grown old. The one-liners are, for the most part, funny. And he has enough charisma to help us get past some of his more negative qualities. The rest of the actors are solid, as well. Mickey Rourke doesn’t have enough to do, but he’s pretty menacing. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrific as Pepper. She and Downey have better chemistry than any other superhero couple in recent memory. Don Cheadle is a suitable replacement for Terrence Howard, but he isn’t used nearly enough. Scarlett Johansson’s character is interesting, and will likely be a major player in future Marvel stories, but the actress doesn’t bring much to the role, other than sex appeal. The best of the supporting cast is easily Sam Rockwell. Justin Hammer is essentially a Tony Stark wannabe, and Rockwell has the charm to make him seem like a used-car salesman. I loved this character and hope he appears again in the future.

The biggest problem, as you probably have guessed at this point, is that the film tries to do way too much. There’s enough material here to fill two films, and as a result, subplots are dropped at a rapid pace. I could’ve used less Black Widow/Nick Fury and more War Machine/Whiplash. Save the Avengers stuff for “The Avengers.”

There were also two major contrivances that seriously bothered me. The first involves Vanko and the grand prix scene; the other involved Black Widow and the conclusion of her fight scene. I won’t get into them further here, but they indicate weak screenplay. Credited writer Justin Theroux made many missteps with the screenplay (in addition to these problems, the film contains some really clunky dialogue in spots, and I also took objection to the War Machine/Iron Man party fight, which was inappropriately played for laughs), but these two contrivances were the worst parts of it.

This film was a tough one because it should’ve been better, but could’ve been a lot worse. I guess I should just be happy that it was entertaining. Summer movies are generally equated with mindless fun, and while that’s true to a certain extent, the best blockbusters are those that make you use your brain just a little bit. Iron Man 2 doesn’t hit that benchmark, but it does provide a level of enjoyment uncommon in many summer films, especially superhero films. Last year, summer started out with a whimper (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). This year, it is starting with a muffled bang.

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