D: Jon Favreau. DP: Matthew Libatique. W: Justin Theroux. Starring: Robert Downey Jr./Gwyneth Paltrow/Sam Rockwell/Don Cheadle/Mickey Rourke/Scarlett Johansson/Samuel L. Jackson/Favreau/John Slatterly/Clark Gregg/Paul Bettany (voice)/Leslie Bibb. (NOTE: Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby.)
Don’t you just love sequels? They give you more of what you want, while somehow never quite being as good as you hoped or were promised (with few exceptions of course, The Dark Knight). What a delightful play of pleasure and disappointment, right? But, also, sometimes, they sport lovely titles like this. Iron Man 2. Straight, to the point, and fully riding on prior success. The summer is officially here!
Iron Man 2 starts with a bang and continues to play around with it until the credits roll. Robert Downey Jr. returns as philandering narcissist Tony Stark and seems all at home with sleaze and iron suits. Now having officially privatized world peace, Downey Jr. must deal with the physical and mental pressure of his role and the competition. Don Cheadle joins his side as his militarized best friend Colonel Rhodes (replacing Terrence Howard from the first film due to his falling out with the studio, according to imdb.com). Cheadle is ample here as is Gwyneth Paltrow as Downey’s loyal personal assistant and new love interest.
Where the film really loses its footing is in these personal relationships. Specifically, there is hardly a drop of sexual tension between Paltrow and Downey Jr. or even romance. Rather, with the introduction of Johansson as Downey Jr.’s new assistant (and secret Black Widow) one gets the sense that Downey Jr. still runs around. That being said, Johansson (who replaced Emily Blunt due to scheduling conflicts) only purpose seems to be to slither into a body suit and kick some ass. Fun, but not entirely, what’s the word…necessary. Even Sam Rockwell’s Tony Hammer seems one-dimensional as he is pitted against Downey Jr.’s Stark. Is there more to this feud than playground competition?
Yet, the action and violence of the film has a very specific style to it. Mostly it will remind audiences of playing video games. Throughout the major climactic action sequence the camera switches back and forth between POV of Downey Jr. and Cheadle as they make decisions and react to the offensive around them. Communicating and calling the shots, the pair work together as their nemesis moves his play pieces like pawns around a map before surfacing himself. The nemesis is Russian vigilante, Ivan Vanko, played by a committed and menacing Mickey Rourke. Although obviously delving into Russian culture and such, Rourke’s physicality and attitude remain much his own. Making the wonderment statement of the film, is this a character or just Rourke’s russian bad-asser side?
Lastly though and thankfully, Iron Man 2 is not overly franchised. Favreau clearly has fun directing this group and presenting a common man, although a scientifically brilliant one, as a super hero. Despite his attempt to allude to the developing Avengers film (directed by Joss Whedon!!!) which was sadly a bit sloppy. It didn’t all quite make sense and felt like Favreau just inserted the scenes in to explain Johansson and pacify Samuel L. Jackson’s demands. But Iron Man 2 is still all fun and enjoyment, you won’t get anything unexpected, but hey it’s only May.