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Iron Man 2 (2010) ***

May 6, 2010

written by: Justin Theroux
produced by: Kevin Feige, Avi Arad & Susan Downey
directed by: Jon Favreau
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language. 124 min.
U.S. release date: May 7th, 2010
Crank the AC/DC to eleven and tighten your seat belt, cuz Robert Downey, Jr. has returned as Tony Stark and both of them are bringing some heavy metal to theaters! That’s right, it’s no surprise….Iron Man is back. Missing from the cineplex for a mere two years, director Jon Favreau adds bigger everything to the familiar while adding some new faces to the ever-expanding Marvel Cineverse. The key word is familiar, meaning much of what you’ll find here will remind you of the stellar first film in almost every way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the elements and formula already established worked like a charm (primarily due to Downey’s charm) but it would have been nice to embrace a sequel that is somehow different or better.
Seeing more of the same didn’t bother me in the least though since watching Downey do Stark is so much fun. In fact, it’s hard to tell the two apart since Downey plays the billionaire playboy so well that it’s easy to imagine hardly any separation between the two. It’s also easy to forget that Stark is a genius when he plays such an incorrigible cad.
IRON MAN 2 Iron Man
The story picks up right where the last one ended. Stark has outed himself as Iron Man is riding high on his celebrity as he declares, “I’ve successfully privatized world peace.” He can say that because no one is more powerful than he is and he just happens to be the most powerful weapon. That’s that. Well, not quite.
Obviously, this does not sit well with those who want Stark’s weaponry for themselves. One of which is Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) who brings Tony before a Senate hearing right after his rockstar appearance at the brand new Stark Expo. Stern wants Stark to hand over his armor, seeing it as way to bolster the U.S. defense and even recruits rival arms industrialist, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to aide his agenda. But Hammer is just a Stark wannabe, he’s got bank but no brains. Still, that doesn’t stop Hammer from doing whatever he can to usurp Tony. Both Shandling and Rockwell relish their roles and really shine as they counter well with Downey’s quit wit.
The other guy who has it in for Stark is introduced during the opening credits. Tattoed Russian physicist/criminal Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), has kept a vigilant eye on Stark’s rise. He’s convinced that Stark’s patriarch poppa, is responsible for ruining the life of his father, once a promising physicist. Rourke spews hatred well and hams it up with an indecipherable accent complete with a gold grill and a pet cockatoo (If ya can’t do the crime, Mickey?) that he calls “my boid”. But at least he’s a villain with purpose and presence. Which he proves when he attacks Stark in the first thrilling action sequence at Monaco’s Grand Prix. Vanko swings his self-styled electric whips he created using Stark’s own blueprints, much to Tony’s surprise. Almost having his tech handed to him in front of a worldwide audience, is something new for Tony and it is just the first of other humbling events to come.
The biggest threat to Tony Stark turns out to be himself. Not just the alcoholic, self-gratifying care-free lifestyle he usually exudes that sends his confidant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) into a tizzy. No, now the threat comes from within. Stark learns the palladium battery in his Arc Reactor heart is poisoning his body. The more time as Iron Man the higher his toxicity levels rise in his blood. Of course, Tony is telling no one about his ailment but it becomes pretty clear to certain people.
Realizing how dire his condition is, Tony takes some sober steps in the right direction but as usually that also leads to drunken stumbles in the opposite direction. He appropriately appoints Pepper as CEO and replaces her position as personal assistant with the alluring Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), primarily for eye candy, it would seem. Natalie proves to be quite an asset, certainly more capable than anyone would be led to believe as we eventually see her acrobat skills displayed in a skin tight Black Widow (although she’s never called that but neither is Vanko ever called Whiplash) costume. Out of all the new cast members, I was most apprehensive of Johansson yet she proved to hold her own despite not having the Russian accent the character deserved. Maybe that would’ve been too many accents for the audience to handle.
IRON MAN 2 Mickey Rourke
Facing his mortality, also makes Stark more intolerable and it takes his others to get him back on track. Enter  Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle replacing Terence Howard) who steps in, trying to knock (literally) some sense into him. Both friends give it their all , with Rhodes suiting up in the Mark II armor in an attempt to prevent Iron Man from disgracing himself any further. This results in both of them clashing, obliterating Stark’s Malibu estate during Stark’s birthday party. As Rhodes, Cheadle gets his own flimsy subplot involving the government using him to acquire Stark’s tech. Eventually, this leads to Rhodes getting outfitted with his own War Machine suit, as Marvel fans know so well. Like Howard, Cheadle is given a role that was underwritten to begin with, even though Rhodes is given more screen time here. Nothing against Howard but it does seem like Cheadle is a better fit here.
The story does flow well and at times seems to swell with all these characters, yet Favreau navigates it all quite well. If this movie were a comic book it would probably be a six-issue story arc but the filmmakers are well aware of the time restraints of a summer blockbuster. It’s not as smothered as other superhero sequels tend to be though, where the main character often gets lost in the mix. Fortunately, Favreau and Downey never lose sight that this is an Iron Man movie. Tony Stark is planted firmly in this story, with all other characters revolving around him. This provides ample opportunities for Downey to once again display why he is made for this role.
Writer/actor Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”) knows that exposing a hero’s weaknesses makes a character more relatable and he plays off that well. He also knows that daddy issues also make for reliable added drama as we see how Tony views himself as Howard Stark’s (played in old reel clips by John Slattery) neglected son. It takes S.H.E.I.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help Tony find out who his Walt Disney/Mad Men father really was. The scenes with Jackson and Downey are welcome and needed it’s great to see Stark’s charm falls flat with Fury.
IRON MAN 2 War Machine
Jackson is involved in some of the many geek moments that Favreau injects throughout the film. Fury is hinting at his The Avengers Initiative which paves the way for all the other films Marvel has planned. Pay extra close attention toward the last half  and you’ll see that this film actually takes place just before “The Incredible Hulk”. There’s even a hint at the next big Marvel film, when we see reprising character, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) excuse himself from Stark’s presence to investigate an occurence in New Mexico, the State of Enchantment. Hmmmm. These elements show that Marvel Studios not only have fans in mind but also the future.
Note: Just as there was an end credit scene with Nick Fury at the end of the last film, you’ll wanna stay till after the end credits roll for another special scene.
While there is a sense of predictability present since the formula is similar to the first film, there is still very little that doesn’t work. The requisite fireworks present in the finale shows that “Iron Man 2” is superior compared to the clash of that last film. But as cool as it is to see the new weaponry in action, we know that “stuff being blown up real good” is also a prerequisite. Therefore, the success of this film can be attributed to the capable cast. These actors are far from green and it is once again a joy to see actors primarily in their late 30’s in a high-octane, superhero movie. What draws the audience in isn’t all the whiz-bang effects but rather the clever banter between these actors throughout.
Favreau knows that audiences can tell when actors are having fun in their roles and even gives himself more to do in order to get in on that fun. Having most his scenes as Stark assistant, Happy Hogan with Paltrow or Johansson was probably a treat though. Tough life.  Clearly, Favreau runs a smooth operation but it wouldn’t run so well without the actors he has to work with. “Iron Man 2” is the hard-rockin’ sequel you want it to be and some, wanted different or more, may be disappointed in that. I wasn’t but then again what attracted me to the first film wasn’t necessarily the suit of armor but the man who was in it and his interaction with those around him. That understandably remains a constant here and something I hope to see in other Marvel movies as well.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Whiz permalink
    May 6, 2010 10:58 am

    Looking forward to seeing this tomorrow. Heidi will be watching the first one for the first time tonight so she can enjoy part 2 tomorrow.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      May 6, 2010 11:30 am

      For the first time? That’s okay, I haven’t been doing my job either. My wife still hasn’t seen “The Dark Knight”! You guys will have a good time. I’ll be interested to read your take and hers (especially with the Howard/Cheadle transition).

  2. May 6, 2010 1:17 pm

    well I can’t wait to see this, I really hope it turns out well.

  3. Tairy Greene permalink
    May 6, 2010 10:38 pm

    This was indeed an awesome movie–Im planning to see it a few more times.
    Great review–Excellent points on Downey and the previous movie.

  4. windi permalink
    May 7, 2010 8:24 pm

    I SO wish I could go see this this weekend, but Matt is out of town, so I’ll have to wait until he gets back in town to go. We’ll probably go see it during the day while the kids are at school, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. Can’t wait!!!

  5. Ieshia permalink
    May 10, 2010 1:34 pm

    Yep, Saw Iron Man 2 over the weekend and it was all right.
    I enjoyed RDJ, that man is so incredibly charming, it’s hard to not buy what’s he selling. Aside from that it was just all right. I enjoyed the opening and the banter back and forth with Gwenyth, BUT my issue with the film is the middle portion. It seemed to drag on forever. The movie opened on such a high note, and the middle just seemed to sag, but it did pick up in the end. Also, I liked that with the intro with new characters RDJ was not lost in his role at all, which can sometimes be difficult to do in big actions films.

  6. windi permalink
    May 10, 2010 2:52 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed the movie. RDJ is so perfect for that role! But you know who I totally loved? Sam Rockwell! He did that role so perfectly! I kept leaning over and telling Matt how much I was enjoying his role. Afterward, when we were discussing the movie over a yummy Indian lunch, he was saying how hard it is to believe that that was the same guy who did Moon.

    Gwyneth Paltrow was great, I loved how she would switch from being totally in control to screaming and crying and shrilly! LOL

    Scarlet Johansson was just ok for me. I just can’t get into her as an actress, but it may be because the role just didn’t allow for much this time around (although when she got to the Hammer complex and kicked all those guys’ butts, that was fun to watch). Of course, as Matt said, with a body and face like that, what did she need to do other than just be there and wear that suit! LOL

    Micky Rourke was good, too, although his accent was too thick for me to understand a lot of what he said. Not that it mattered too much, really…. 🙂

    So, Matt and I stayed and watched the credits to see the end, and obviously we are not near enough big comic book geeks to understand what we were seeing! My brain was tickled but, I just didn’t place it…… help me out on that one! :)~

    Over all, I’d say a three star rating was a good choice, but only because it didn’t really steer into any new territory. Fun, fun, fun…..and sometimes that is more than enough!

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      May 10, 2010 3:14 pm

      The post-end credit scene (this is not a spoiler since it’s all over the place bynow) is a prelude to the next big Marvel film “Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh. The mighty enchanted (hence the license plate “State of Enchantment) hammer of Thor, Mjolnir is found by S.H.I.E.L.D authorities at the heart of a crater in New Mexico, where Agent Coulson confirms “we found it”.

      Thor, the God of Thunder is a Marvel staple based on the Norse legend, here’s the offical press release from Marvel Studios….”The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth”…..and more on the film at wiki:

      the characters of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wasp and Ant-Man were all founding members of the super-powered group The Avengers (what Nick Fury was discussing with Stark in the film) and would eventually include Captain America (did ya notice how Stark used Cap’s shiled in this movie?)

      • windi permalink
        May 11, 2010 7:54 am

        Matt thought it was a big hammer! I didn’t realize that Thor was even used in the super hero comics! Shows you what little I do know! And yeah, I caught that bit about Capt. America’s shield….I noticed that the agent was REALLY curious about how Stark ended up with it, and was a bit put off by how he treated it as a level! LOL

        thanks for the explanation! 🙂

  7. Wendi F permalink
    May 13, 2010 4:21 pm

    After second viewing, can I ask a potentially stupid question? How is Rhodey able to just hop on in to the Iron Man suit? isn’t it designed to only work with Tony’s internal arc reactor? Isn’t that what Stark means when he keeps insisting that he is Iron Man and the suit is him?


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