Twice the iron men, twice the Tony Stark narcissism, twice the villainous rage and even twice the smoking hot red-heads; this film couldn’t be more aptly named. Jetting into 3000+ movie theatres to kick start the summer movie season, is Iron Man 2. No doubt this film will open huge — audience polls nationwide rank it as one of the top 3 most anticipated films of Summer 2010 (anybody else miffed that “Tron: Legacy” was pushed to December?) It has the effects, the action, and the running time (just over 2 hours), to give you exactly what is displayed on that cineplex ticket in your hand – Iron Man 2.
I was a comic book fan in the 80’s and 90’s, and although the Iron Man series wasn’t on my weekly allowance busting trip to the comic store, I still knew of the character and that stoked my interest in seeing the first Iron Man movie. The film was smart, witty, had an edge, and made me regret having never committed to reading the series in my youth. Iron Man 2 doesn’t deliver the same payoff. The film starts strong and ends with a blast but loses itself in between. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.: Chaplin, Weird Science) is just as witty as you’d expect him to be and Downey delivers yet again in the role, but his character gets twisted in the script. Tony gets a heart (no, not a real one), and even experiences human frailty which you might say is the natural evolution of his character, but it plays on screen as an attempt to fill time and not a natural progression of the psyche of Tony Stark as we know him.
IM2 picks up where IM1 left off, Tony has just revealed he’s Iron Man and his press conference is being beamed about 6000 miles to Moscow where a physicist Ivan Vanko sits in his dark and tattered apartment watching and fuming. Turns out he has a deep seeded hatred for the Stark family, having knowledge that Tony’s father, Howard, sold out his own father that helped develop that super cool ARC energy source that keeps Tony alive. Ivan (Mickey Rourke: Angel Heart, The Wrestler), using the original ARC schematic, builds what can only be described as light saber whips wrapped in a an energy ribbon. He sets his sights on the United States, and finding Tony to enact the revenge his recently penniless dead father deserves. Ivan’s character is somewhat of a visual misnomer. He appears within a dreary shanty-town in Moscow, yet his abode contains some pretty high-tech equipment and his wardrobe is straight out of this month’s Vanity Fair. From his D&G signature glasses, to his retro new century hair (where do you go in the slum streets of Moscow to find a colorist that good?), Vanko seems more like a spin on the real life art and style of Mickey Rourke, and less like a character from the comic series. With the help of an unscrupulous defense contractor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell: Galaxy Quest, The Green Mile), Ivan builds an army of Iron Men to help him dispatch of the Stark legacy once and for all. Secretly placed within Stark Industries is the new red-head on the block Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson: The Horse Whisperer, Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Unfortunately her character, as both Stark employee and S.H.I.E.L.D. undercover agent, isn’t given enough film time. Scarlett is an amazing talent and shines in every moment on screen; even her fight sequences leave you wanting to see more of her. Her playful interactions with Tony evoke that same spark you saw in the original film when Tony and Pepper were close, only this time it looks steamier — more intense.
The supporting cast returns and in the case of Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow: Shakespeare In Love, Shallow Hal), are given more room to grow around Tony’s ever increasing ego. Screenwriter Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) crosses that flirtatious line that you loved so much in the first film. The chemistry between Tony & Pepper has always been undeniable, but it was kept at bay for the sake of Stark Industries business and to keep the audience wondering when, and if, they would eventually fall into the relationship you so desperately want to see them in. This time around, you find out. It’s important to note that even the filmmakers must have questioned this aspect of the story line. If you’ve seen the early teasers and trailers for IM2, you might remember a bit where Iron Man is diving in to a celebration below. Just before he leaps, he asks for a kiss, which Pepper is more than happy to lay on the facemask as she tosses it off the plane for Tony to catch. That scene was pulled from the film just prior to release. It’s replaced by Tony merely jumping and that was a good decision. The love side of Tony and Pepper’s relationship is a line that should not be crossed, but inevitably happens in the third act of the film which is the payoff we all wanted, but still feels contrived when it’s delivered. Tony’s personal driver Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau: Daredevil) is back too. Not content to be a mere butler, this time Hogan becomes a fist swinging heavyweight. Favreau should stick with being behind the camera, and away from being an actor. His role seemed larger because he was the films’ Director, not because his character needed this level of growth. .
The film drags at various points especially as you watch Tony deal with his own mortality. It wastes solid screen time as Tony prances about as a drunken buffoon in an Iron Man suit at his own birthday party and made worse when watching Justin Hammer whine about how inventive Tony is and how mediocre his company has become as a result. If the CEO’s of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are anything like this character, the state of national defense in the United States is in really big trouble. I can’t get over how this film has twice the iron and twice the action of the original but you leave feeling half as fulfilled as with IM1. The flight sequences are amazingly imaginative and the digital effects are top notch, but it’s not enough to save the film.
If 2+ hours of high flying action aren’t enough for you, stick around until the credits end — you’ll get a nice sneak peek at the next Marvel comic book/movie franchise.
“Iron Man 2 (2010)” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action, sci fi action, violence and some language.