Iron Man 2 Review: A Little Rusty
Iron Man 2 has a lot to live up to. The first movie was bombastic, fun, witty, successfully re-established Robert Downey Jr. as a big league player in Hollywood and remains the best adaptation of a Marvel comic by some distance.
This sequel sees billionaire weapons manufacturer turned mechanical superhero Tony Stark return. His secret identity is now out and Tony is struggling with the US Senate who want to claim the Iron Man suit as a weapon for the military, leaving best friend Colonel Rhodes conflicted as to where his loyalties lie.
Behind the scenes, Tony’s health is suffering as the implant that is keeping him alive is also slowly poisoning his blood. Meanwhile, the dispossessed son of a former partner of Stark’s Dad, Ivan Vanko, is assembling his own version of the Iron Man technology and is out for vengeance, aided and abetted by Justin Hammer, a slimy rival weapons manufacturer.
Director Jon Favreau is determined to keep the tone light and the introspectively dark plot elements alluding to Stark’s mortality are pushed aside in favour of high-tech hijinks and scantily clad cheerleaders. You can’t help feel that some trick has been missed here – any chance for character development shouldn’t be sneezed at (will Tony’s comic storyline in which he battles alcoholism ever be touched upon?) and it sacrifices emotional punch for explosions and wisecracks.
However, there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a laugh and the film certainly delivers that in spades. The dialogue is often fresh, witty and surprisingly funny; Downey Jr’s charisma makes Tony Stark effortlessly likable; his wisecracking comebacks and childish pique inject the character with an energy that is almost impossible not to love.
There’s a whiff of comic-sequel blues about the production – a tendency to try to cram too many characters on screen without developing them first. His burgeoning romance with newly promoted CEO Pepper Potts is tragically brief – Paltrow comes across as more nagging than concerned and Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff is barely touched upon, a sexy but pointless stint as a double agent, clearly designed to set up the forthcoming Avengers movie.
For an action movie about a man in a flying destructo-suit, it’s fairly light on the action. The standout scene is the first appearance of Vanko/Whiplash. Wielding twin ropes of crackling energy, he effortlessly cuts through cars as Tony Stark runs for his life. It’s the only scene where you feel that Stark might actually be in danger and it’s a shame that this doesn’t extend to the film’s other action scenes.
The climactic battle which has Iron Man and a newly suited Rhodes as War Machine take on an army of mechanical drones lacks punch. As you can’t see their expression behind the faceplates, it quickly becomes droid against droid – two metal men bashing the hell out of some other metal men.
Iron Man 2 is decent popcorn movie but often feels like a stepping stone to its inevitable sequels and lacks the emotional thrust really needed to make it outstanding. But if you’re in the mood for explosions, wisecracks and Scarlett Johansson in a cat suit, then you won’t go far wrong.