To my memory, the original Iron Man movie is the only film I have given a 10 out of 10 for quality in a review. So I was very excited to see the next installment of this exciting film franchise. I am a huge comic book geek, though mostly for the DC universe, with a few Marvel Comics from the past and much of the "Ultimate" line. So although I'm very familiar with and love the Iron Man character, I am not a hardcore Iron Man fan.
Let's get right to the meat of things. Iron Man 2 is a great movie and you should definitely check it out. The dialogue is just as smart, the acting is just as clever, the action is just as explosive and the effects are just as cool. And as with any sequel to a successful film, more money has been thrown at this one to amp things up a notch. Fans of superhero action should not be disappointed by the action in this flick. It's a great ride!
Robert Downey Jr. continues to offer a unique but strangely fitting portrayal of Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow is wonderfully charming, especially when playing next to her co-star. Don Cheadle takes over the role of Rhodey and after a scene or two of adjustment, fits into the cast like he'd been there all along. Scarlett Johansson also joins the cast and fills her role nicely, though without bringing any unique or memorable characteristics to her role.
Sam Rockwell is very "Sam Rockwell", but not in any way that hurts the film. Rather his quirky, insecure antics fit right in with the tone established by the leads in the first film. Samuel L. Jackson get considerably more screentime as Nick Fury. And though his portrayal of fury is slightly more urban than his "Ultimates" comic book counterpart (which was based on his physical likeness and got him the role in these movies!) he holds back enough that I can still buy the character as an official military operative of some kind. Lastly, Mickey Rourke is the centerstage villain of this flick and brings both heart and grit to a role that required both.
The story picks up 6 months after the first movie and Tony Stark is fighting the U.S. Government to keep control of his armor. Meanwhile, Rourke's character is out for revenge because of the way Tony Stark's weapons have affected Russia over the years, or because his dad helped Tony's dad invent the arc reactor and didn't get credit or... I'll be honest. I'm not really sure why Ivan (Rourke) wanted revenge. Those were educated guesses, but the motivation of the antagonist in this case was pretty murky. Maybe that Russian accent Rourke was using was a little too thick, but I felt like I only ever had the most basic idea of why he had a beef with Stark.
Good Guys? Bad Guys? Which Are Which?
This is connected to the weak point of the film. There is not a clear enough line drawn between the antagonists and the protagonists. Stark is especially flawed in this film and we are given very little reminder of why he is driven to be Iron Man to begin with. This is a weakness common to superhero movie franchises. They establish motivation for the hero in the first film, but forget to repeat it in the following films. (Batman, old or new franchise, is an example of this, while the Spider-man movies are an exception.) Justin Hammer is far more pathetic than he is evil and "Whiplash" (Rourke) is mainly disgruntled and even sympathetically so. Add to this a surprisingly short final confrontation and the movie ends on an anti-climactic note with very little sense of victory.
As with the first film, there is not much to talk about of any relevance after seeing this movie. Stark is as narcissistic as ever and they do touch a little on the "demon in the bottle" theme that is present in the comic book, but none of these elements are executed in a way that will likely lead to worthwhile discussion.
This movie is a case where "more of the same" is a really great thing, although the story and characterization were not given quite the attention they should have been on all counts. A great movie and fans of the genre should certainly not miss it!
Iron Man 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.