Iron Man 2 Review

Posted on May 31, 2010 by


Superhero films have, in recent years, shown a somewhat disturbing trend- A strong  first movie, a superb second, and then a downright atrocious third. Superman, Batman, X-Men, Spider-man- All have been subject to this. Especially Spider-man. Urgh.

Iron Man was the first film produced in-house by Marvel, meaning that, unlike all their comic-book movies before, like Daredevil, Fantastic four etc, they are completely in charge of the film. They also did this with the Incredible Hulk, which allowed Robert Downey Jr. to cameo at the end as Stark. This is all basically a massive set-up by Marvel to build up to an Avengers franchise. This is why they are also making movies of Captain America and Thor.

The first Iron Man film was one of the best superhero movies ever made- if it weren’t for The Dark Knight, I’d say the best. I mean, who better to portray drunken, narcissistic playboy Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr? The script was witty and tight and the supporting cast excellent (particularly the chemistry between Stark and his PA, Pepper Potts). The fight scenes were energetic and entertaining. Heck, I’m even willing to forgive Jeff Bridges (The Dude, international CEO) for yelling the now infamous line ‘Tony Stark was able to build this… IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!’ simply because of how brilliant that film was.

RDJ wakes up wasted in a strange place again...

I entered the second film with mixed feelings. I knew that, with (mostly) the same cast and crew, the sequel should have retained the excellence of the first, but I was also worried that it wouldn’t be able to live up to my expectations as a result of the first films superb quality. It turns out I needn’t have worried.

The film starts off by introducing us to Ivan Vanko, the primary villain (Primary because, like so many other superhero films, the sequel often feels the need to shoe-horn in more than one to raise the stakes), who is building a harness, and his own miniature arc reactor, which he plans to use against Tony Stark to avenge his fathers death. (His dad, Anton Vanko, worked with Howard Stark on the original Arc Reactor designs, but got deported when Howard found out that he planned to use the designs for personal gain instead the good of the many).

Six months later and Stark is being brought to book by Senator  Stern (who has no first name as far as I can tell), for flying around killing terrorists with his amazing Iron Man armour. Which is kind of understandable, what with Stark being a drunken eccentric loon and all…

What follows is an energetic, fast paced first act, leading to a battle between Stark and Vanko at the Monaco Grand Prix. From there, though… There’s an industrial espionage plot, and lots of plot-points tying into the Avengers franchise. The first half of the film really retains the feel of the first Iron Man, and feels like a proper movie, but the second half feels more like a really long advert for the Avengers movie, which isn’t even due out until 2012, so the apocalypse will probably have come before we even get to see it.

Vanko breaks out the light-up skipping rope.

The middle of the movie really drags on. It feels like there was a lot of stuff in the middle that could frankly have been cut out and wouldn’t have damaged the plot much, indeed, the entire subplot about Tony’s chest piece slowly poisoning him and needing to replaced by one that doesn’t need toxic elements in it to run could have been thrown out completely and the movie would have been better off for it. I’m not saying it was a bad sub-plot, but it could have been dealt with much more subtly- hints of the poisoning throughout the movie, and then making it a major plot-point in either the third Iron Man, or the Avengers movie, whichever came first.

The third act is a returns to the high-energy explodey quippage of the first act, and it comes as something of a relief after the slow, talky middle portion. Lots of action and stuff blowing up makes for a satisfying climax- up until the point that Vanko shows up for the last fight, which is pretty lacklustre and a bit anti-climactic.

The cast- Robert Downey Jr is once again superb. My high opinion of him has nothing to do with my man-crush on him. At all. Honest.

Moving on. Don Cheadle stepped up to take over from Terrence Howard, who had a ‘disagreement’ with Marvel after the first film and declined to return, as Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, who gets to don the armour himself about halfway in and becomes War Machine. Normally that would be a spoiler, but he is on every single poster in the armour. Except that big one that’s just RDJ’s face… *ahem*. Gwyneth Paltrow  as Pepper Potts is great, in the parts of the film where she isn’t screaming. Scarlett Johansson is shoe-horned in as the Black Widow (Natasha Romanov) and while she’s good, I didn’t feel like she contributed much of anything to the movie. Samuel L. Jackson’s five minutes of screen time were enjoyable, but since they’re mostly a part of the ‘Tony is sick’ sub-plot, I do still feel like they didn’t need to be there. Sam Rockwell (Previously Zaphod Beeblebrox) appears as Justin Hammer, a corrupt corporate executive trying to make his own Iron Man suits to sell to the pentagon and constantly failing, who hires Vanko to improve on his tech. As for Vanko himself- as a character he’s excellent- clever, quiet, mysterious and a genius on par with Stark, and Mickey Rourke plays him excellently, I do however feel that he and his character were let down by the weak finale.

Stark breaks out the emergency bollinger.

I like the themes of the movie- I feel that they were played out very strongly, and I have to admit that although I didn’t like the way the second half felt like an extended advert for the Avengers movie- I did love the little hints- The Hulks campus rampage on a news screen, Captain Americas Shield being used in Stark’s particle accelerator, and the after-credits sequence (which I’ll discuss in a moment) showing S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson finding Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in a crater in New Mexico. They really added to the movie, fleshing it out as a real world in which superheroes exist and everything is connected, hopefully leading to a grand over-reaching plot over the course of another Iron Man movie, two more Hulk movies and three Captain America, Thor and Avengers movies.

Now- After the credits sequences. I chuffing hate them. I think they are evil and pointless. And yet nearly every film these days seem to have them- presumably to keep people around until the credits have run, even though they inevitably end up on youtube a few days later. I know the credits are important, but besides the people who know or are related to the people who appeared in or worked on the film, who ever bothers to read them? Ever?

Iron Man 2. It’s good. But I’m not sure it’s as good as the first film. It doesn’t feel as tight. In my opinion there’s too much going on, which causes the movie to drag- and the final confrontation between Stark and Vanko could have been so much more exciting than it was. As it is, though, it’s still a damn sight better than pretty much every other superhero movie out there. It’d be like seeing The Dark Knight first, and then watching Batman Begins. It’s a great film, but it doesn’t compare to the one you saw first. I recommend it, and I look forward to the massive crossover event that Marvel is building up for. I pray to god it doesn’t turn into Civil War…

Posted in: Movies