- Damien Francis
Iron Man 2
Director: Jon Favreau
M: Action Violence
Iron Man 2 builds upon the previous Iron Man film and continues to expand the MCU with the introduction of new characters. The story follows Iron Man as he begins a downward spiral of reckless behaviour because the magnet which is keeping him alive is also slowly poisoning him. It also provides him with several threats in the form of Justin Hammer and Whiplash.
As far as sequels go, Iron Man 2 wavers in that fine line of fairly decent, but nothing truly noteworthy. It remains fun and vibrant and provides us with lots of laughs, solid action and interesting set ups for future films, but it does have its shortcomings and it struggles with the classic sequel problems lots of films face.
Robert Downey Jr blows it out of the park once more as Tony Stark, really embodying the character in behaviour and attitude. Almost from the beginning we realise that Tony is actually dying because of the suit, but he keeps this quiet and thus begins a selfish trajectory as he seeks to live out his last few days doing whatever he wants. Unfortunately, by the end everything that was going for the character is easily fixed or overcome and it all just feels a little flat.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Pepper Potts one more and she is again a fantastic addition. Not only is she Tony’s love interest, but the chemistry feels real between them. Not only that but for a lot of the film she is doing things independent of Tony, like running his business which helps add depth to her character.
Colonel James Rhodes ‘Rhodey’ is replaced by Don Cheadle and the dynamic and friendship between himself and Tony is pushed to their limits, even fighting each other in differing Iron Man suits. Rhodey does get to suit up as War Machine and his addition is a welcome one.
Mickey Rourke plays the main antagonist Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), who seeks revenge on Tony for his father’s deportation back to Russia. A physically imposing villain, constructing a similar suit to Tony’s, but with very cool lightning/plasma whips. He is given credible motive and a certain gritty intelligence by trying to undermine the image of Iron Man. Yet, the final climax feels like he is cheaply thrown away and his potential as a villain is left a bit wanting.
Sam Rockwell is ever a bright spot to watch on screen (he is in my list of favourite actors) as he plays weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer. His character motivations are similar to Whiplash, hence why they team up. Justin feels like a shadow next to Tony and struggles to come up with his own suit. His character and villainy are a little underwhelming, but Sam Rockwell’s charm helps to keep him from becoming too bland.
Characters of Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, from SHIELD are given more screen time once again and they do lend a little more to their secretive characters. They are welcome additions to the film and while they don’t get much screen time, the effort to keep the universe growing is clearly at the forefront.
The movie also introduces us to Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, who really shines as the duplicitous and deadly spy. She is charming, yet deadly in every scene, giving us another cool character from the comics to look for in future installments.
The story of Iron Man 2 is a bit rusty. It takes several approaches, focussing on Tony’s slow death by poisoning, the government attempting to take his suit away, his enemies seeking to destroy him with suits of their own and trying to expand the universe as quickly as possible. All of these story threads are juggled reasonably well, but none of them are given enough time to really let the characters shine and they are all resolved quite easily without any real sense of threat to the characters.
In their attempt to build up to something bigger, Marvel may have rushed Iron Man 2 which could have been a truly standout sequel.
The action is again top notch, with Iron Man fighting more enemies and even his friends at times. There is anything to complain about or fault as even close quarters scenes with Black Widow are shot and choreographed very well. There is a lack of threat during the fights and the only battle that really feels like it has consequences is the opening fight on the racetrack and Rhodey taking Tony’s suit.
The humour is also turned up higher with more quips and slick lines. Justin Hammer comes off as a goofy rip off of Tony and his attempts to seem intelligent or adequate are part of the humour, but they’re cringe humour (not cringey, don’t get the two confused. Think ‘The Office’) and if that isn’t your style, then it can feel a little forced.
Jon Favreau feels like he has settled into a rhythm here for Iron Man 2 and you can feel it. There could have been more of a push to try something newer and different for the Iron Man sequel, but they play it relatively safe and while it works, it doesn’t shine like it could have.
The end credits scene plays directly into the next film, chronologically, hinting at another hero to come. It also has the worst Stan Lee cameo in my opinion.
Plus, look out for a fun cameo by Elon Musk, the next time you watch it.
I did enjoy Iron Man 2, still do in fact, as its not a bad movie. But, its also not as good as the original and it is always hard to follow up a great original film. While suffering from universe building and rushed story lines, Iron Man 2 does deliver an entertaining movie.
7 out of 10 stars.