Iron Man 2

Starring: Robert Downey Jr.,  Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Directed by: Jon Farveau
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
Movie Released: 2010

In the summer of 2008 we kicked off our summer as comic book billionaire Tony Stark announced to cinematic audiences that he was Iron Man.  Stark, and his alter ego Iron Man (a superhero that saves the world with his high tech suit of armor) seemed to be the perfect role for actor Robert Downey Jr., a man who in his past never met a illegal drug he didn’t like.  Reformed and rehabbed for what seemed like the 100th time, Downey proved that he could take a summer blockbuster like Iron Man and propel it to the next level.  Audiences loved it, Downey re-surged as a household name, and Marvel continued to plod forward with their ultimate goal of a successful Iron Man franchise and eventually a superhero compilation film called The Avengers.

In 2010, we get to see Tony Stark back in action again, in the film, Iron Man 2.  Downey gears up again to play the reformed, egotistical billionaire, now faced with the United States government trying to force him to turn his suit of armor to the department of defense. And if that wasn’t enough,  a rival arms dealer (Sam Rockwell)  teams up with an evil mastermind physicist named Whiplash (Mickey Rourke)  to create their own Iron Man suit, forcing Stark to show the world why there can be only one true Iron Man.

One of the scariest things about a sequel is that as a viewer you never know what you are going to get.  Coming off the 2008 high of Iron Man, people are excited to see Downey suit up again.  However, much like last summer’s blockbuster, Transformers 2, Iron Man 2 could be a financial success but a truly lackluster show.  Luckily however, Iron Man 2 doesn’t take the same road as Michael Bay’s battle robots did and focuses on continuing forward with an original story instead of rehashing its proceeding film.  A bit slower starting than the original, Iron Man 2 focuses a bit more on Tony Stark, the billionaire arms dealer and inventor rather than focusing on his alter-ego, metal clad Iron Man.  Despite this, there is still enough action packed events in this film to make this popcorn flick flow like clockwork.

Of course everyone who has seen Iron Man knows that one of the things that makes this franchise so much fun is the presence of Robert Downey Jr.  The actor finally found the role he was born to play, as Tony Stark and Downey really are next to interchangeable in reality. Because of this Downey plays Stark with such ease that it only enhances the ego charged dialogue of the film.  Of course, the secret is trying to find someone who can play ball at the same level as Downey.  Marvel looked no further than Sam Rockwell (Moon, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind).  Rockwell does an all out fantastic job as Justin Hammer, a rival weapons director competing with Tony Stark’s Stark Industries.  In fact, Rockwell’s performance almost out shines Downey’s, mostly because it is a fresh new face that runs with the same pack that Stark does.

Mickey Rourke signs on to Iron Man 2 playing Whiplash, a physicist who has devoted his life to bringing down Stark Industries.  While Rourke makes a very cool looking super villain, you have a very hard time accepting his character for who he is.  The muscle bound, tattooed Whiplash looks like he spent more time in a prison yard and a weight room than he does behind a computer screen perfecting his genius.  Therefore, when they try to play up Whiplash as a computer whiz, you have a hard time buying it.  In fact, people would have an easier time convincing themselves that DJ Qualls was a world champion UFC fighter.  When Rourke is on the screen trying to destroy Stark in his own suit of power, he steals the screen.  However, those scenes are few and far between.

Along with appearances by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Sacrlett Johansen joins the cast as the Black Widow ( a super spy who romantically intrigues Tony Stark.  Both of these characters play a minor role in the film, mostly there to continue pushing the planned Avengers film.  In fact, Scarlett Johansen is there pretty much to build to one scene of girl power in spandex that really doesn’t advance the plot in any way.  While the film certainly could have gone forward with out Johansen, they didn’t dwell enough on her character anyway.  And who really wants to complain about Scarlett Johansen kicking butt in a skin tight outfit?

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Iron Man 2 was the decision to have Don Cheadle take over the reigns of Stark’s military friend, James Rhodes.  For those of you who forgot, it was Terrence Howard who played “Rhoddie” in the first flick and did a very nice job in the role.  Cheadle steps in for Iron Man 2, and while he doesn’t do a terrible job, it’s just not the same.  I had a very hard time convincing myself that Cheadle was a military man and not just someone playing dress up.  It was something so simple that Howard did that Cheadle wasn’t able to pull off.   Somehow, I felt that Howard looked the part, Cheadle wanted to play the part.  Personally, I think no matter what the reasoning was, Paramount should have stuck with Howard.

When it is all said and done, Iron Man 2 aims to be a popcorn block buster film that gives you action, explosions and larger than life characters.  While Iron Man 2 loses a bit of the charm that the first film has, I think it is mostly because people now know what to expect as they check out the show.  Iron Man 2 is certainly a worthy sequel, but just isn’t quite at the same level as its predecessor.  Despite that, you’re still going to enjoy this summer flick so grab your popcorn and get your seat- Iron Man 2 is ready to kick off the your summer.

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