A not so secret superhero…
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell & Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Screenplay by: Justin Theroux
After revealing his true identity to the world, Tony Stark must deal with the government attempting to steal his technology for the military as well as new foes who take a interest in bringing down Stark for good.
You have to give credit to Jon Favreau for sticking to his guns with his sequel to 2008’s smash-hit, Iron Man. The sense of fun in that movie really stuck with you, as did Favreau’s obvious affection for his characters. The exact same can be said about Iron Man 2. Only trouble is, whilst it may be admirable on one hand, on the other, it has also prevented Favreau from creating a superior sequel.
The obvious potential for some darker material to up the ante a little bit this time out is very much hinted at early on with Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark deperately trying to hide the fact his Iron suit is slowly poisoning him. And then there is the introduction of Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko who is hell-bent on taking down Stark for good and wastes no time by launching a vicious attack on Stark at the Monaco Grand Prix, in the standout action sequence of the film. But after these early scenes, Favreau opts to keep things breezy rather than gloomy, including upping his cameo apperance last time out to full-on comedic supporting role this time.
So what we end up with is a lot of character scenes and as already mentioned, Favreau’s affection for said characters shines through so we don’t mind spending time with them. But this means Iron Man 2 doesn’t build on the groundwork laid down in the first outing. The first Iron Man worked better because amongst the great character work it had a proper purpose with its plot, being an origins story. Iron Man 2 doesn’t progress the story, it more feels like an extended version of what came before. The film suffers with a bit of repetition too with the explosive finale starting out strongly, only to end up feeling a little too similar to the first film’s conclusion.
Still, Favreau wins us over in the end with his sheer enthusiasm for the characters that i keep harping on about. Rourke plays Vanko with relish and even gives the villain a slight oddball spin. Sam Rockwell is a pompous delight as weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer who wishes he could be Tony Stark, but has no charisma whatsoever. Scarlett Johansson brings the male audience to attention with her figure-hugging cat-suit, which she dons to take down a corridor full of Hammer’s henchmen. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfectly charming once again and more importantly, Don Cheadle who somewhat controversially stepped in to replace Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James Rhodes, does a very solid professional job, making the character his own but never disrespecting the work already done by Howard.
Naturally, Downey Jr. nails everything required of him as Stark and his alter ego Iron Man. This is a character we can happily spend time with and despite this not being the great sequel it could have been, further Iron Man outings would still be most welcome, but hopefully next time, Favreau will be willing to take a few more risks with his character’s progression.