Sunday, 6 June 2010

Film Review #4

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Director: Jon Favreau Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L Jackson

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: It's not the armour that makes the hero, but the man inside

I don't think too many people would argue that the first Iron Man film was a surprise hit. It had all the right ingredients to be one but was still a bit of a gamble - rookie director, risky cast choices, unproven draw-power of character - but happily it paid off; Iron Man proved to be one of the most enjoyable comic-book adaptations to date thanks in no small part to Jon Favreau's sublime direction, the irresistible charisma of Robert Downey Jr. in a role he was just perfect for, and what turned out to be a hugely popular character. Thankfully, they both return in this well-timed sequel. But herein lies a problem. The first film ended up such a hit, Iron Man 2, unlike its predecessor, had a lot to live up to. The weight of expectation has killed many a film, but did it kill this one?

Picking up around six months after the first film, Tony is fresh from his revelatory press conference and is soon being hounded by the pesky Government who are keen for him to hand his amazing Iron Man suit technology over to them for mass production. However, between outsmarting them in a resultant court hearing, humiliating his newly prevalent competitors (who include Sam Rockwell on top form as Justin Hammer), and of course, continuing the good fight against bad guys, Tony is also starting to suffer physically - continuous use of the arc-reactor which keeps him alive is also slowly poisoning him. As a result he is becoming despondent, acting more and more recklessly, and making some rash decisions.

These include making Pepper Potts the CEO of Stark Industries (filling her former position with Natalie, played by Johansson), while he entertains revellers at his newly resurrected Expo, larking about at the Monaco Grand Prix, and getting drunk in the Iron Man suit at what he believes to be his last birthday party. While all this is going on, a former close colleague of Howard Stark, Tony's father, called Anton Vanko, is spending his final few days in poverty in Russia, leaving his resentful son, Ivan (Rourke), to seek revenge against wrongs apparently committed by Stark Snr. Turning up in the middle of a race at the aforementioned circuit (where Tony is for some reason racing, obviously), it's soon apparent that Ivan has a few tricks of his own, resulting in possibly the movie's grandest set-piece.

Despite barely scraping through his first encounter with this scary oaf (and not his last), Tony's reckless behaviour continues, to the ever-increasing concern of loyal friends Pepper (Paltrow) and Rhodey (Cheadle), culminating in a house-destroying suit-clad rumble with the latter (wearing the silver Mark II suit). Before long, however, Nick Fury arrives, expanding on his brief appearance in the first film, to give Tony a good hard kick in the posterior! Newly invigorated and with a fresh sense of purpose, Tony sets out to stop the similarly determined, not to mention now-Justin Hammer-assisted, Vanko once and for all. The only trouble is, he's had time to work and he wields more than just crackly electrical whip things now.

Considering this is a brutal tale of cold revenge, Iron Man 2 had the potential to be much darker than its predecessor, much like Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars, but it's surprisingly bereft of negative emotions, instead presenting most scenes in a light-hearted and often comedic way. Fair enough, the first film did this too, but the effect is more noticeable here, due mainly to Rourke's imposing performance as scruffy, tattooed Vanko (an amalgamation of two villains from the comics), a.k.a. the aptly-named Whiplash. Downey Jr is once again on top form as Stark, especially when he's out of the armour, verbally sparring with all and sundry, and Cheadle takes over from Terrence Howard as Rhodey. Whilst both are great actors, I personally always find it annoying when different actors play the same character (except for older and younger versions or something).

Nonetheless, Rhodey remains as likeable as ever, although also somewhat more conflicted than in the last film too. Iron Man 2 is pretty much more of the same. It gives our hero more to do, introduces a few new characters like the slimy Justin Hammer and the mysterious Natalie, expands some existing characters (such as Favreau's own Happy Hogan, for example, gets a lot more screen time, as does Sam Jackson's Nick Fury), and even adds a dollop of romance. Overall, it could've been a very different kind of movie than it is, in different hands, but would that have made it better or worse? It's hard to say, but as it stands, despite a slightly disappointing final battle, it's a good film and a good sequel, and I'm not sure you can really ask for much more.

RKS Score: 8/10



  1. Looks like a good movie.

    And it's got Scarlett Johansson in it, so that makes it a MUST WATCH anyway... :P

  2. Haha, specially when she's in a catsuit for half of it! :P