Saturday, May 8, 2010

Iron Man 2 - Movie Review


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Kata Mara, Leslie Bibb, Jon Favreau, Bill O'Reilly and Garry Shandling.
Directed by Jon Favreau.

Is it as good as the first one? Of course not. I can count on one hand how many Part 2's were better than Part 1. But my expectations were nicely lowered by early mixed reviews and I came away enjoying it. Morning after reaction, I'd still rather watch the first one again than the second one.

At the end of the last one, Tony Stark ditched the secret identity and confirmed he was indeed Iron Man. So now we get to see the repercussions. Stark is the most famous person on Earth, and he's the perfect deterrent to keep peace in the world. Stark had a bit of an ego before, but now it's really gone to his head.

Meanwhile in Russia, a man named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is plotting his revenge against Tony. Turns out Tony's dad shafted Ivan's dad out of the business forty years ago.

This movie is busy. It has a lot going on and it has a lot of ideas, and not everything gets its due, or it leaves me wishing they'd not bothered. For instance, if they weren't going to bring back Terrence Howard as Rhodey, why bother bringing back the character in Iron Man 2? "Because he has to become War Machine." Why? And then there's Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman, Stark's new assistant after he promoted Pepper Potts to CEO of Stark Enterprises. Natalie is actually Black Widow, but once the movie was over, I wondered why she was really there, if not to just plant the seeds for The Avengers. At least when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pops up, we know he's solely there to remind us that The Avengers is coming Summer 2012.

The weakest parts of the movie for me were the action sequences. The first time the movie made my eyes glaze a little is when Rhodey first puts on the War Machine suit and fights Iron Man. Seeing two CGI-creations fight each other just isn't as cool as Jet Li vs. Jason Statham. But it's Iron Man. We have to see guys in suits fight. This also meant the final showdown with Iron Man and Whiplash isn't as good as it would have been if we could have actually seen both actors.

The strongest aspects come from the characters. I liked Stark's arch, and I like everything Downey does with Stark. It's the rare superhero franchise where the hero still remains the most important character rather than just serving as host for this installment's villains. And Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper acquits herself better than anyone else. She gets flustered, angry, nervous, calm at all the right points; probably the strongest female love interest in a superhero movie since Margot Kidder's Lois Lane.

I liked Sam Rockwell's oily weapons CEO Justin Hammer; I liked Rourke as the man who becomes Whiplash. I liked Garry Shandling as the senator who doesn't like Iron Man. Scarlett Johansson looks great as Black Widow. Cheadle's fine, but Rhodey's the most thankless role in the movie.

Movie pet peeve: computer experts who can just clackity-clack through high-tech firewalls and reprogram anything in a few seconds.

P.S. Really enjoyed Stan Lee's cameo.

P.P.S. Yes there is something after the end credits.

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