Film Review: Iron Man 2
The second Iron Man has been out for some time now, but I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it until this past weekend. The first movie, which came out in 2008, was both a critical and commercial success, despite being overshadowed by Dark Knight mania. In the first movie, we learned the origins of Iron Man. Tony Stark, the billionaire leader of military contracting company Stark Industries, is captured by terrorists in Afghanistan. They force him to build a weapon of mass destruction, but he in turn builds a primitive Iron Man suit, escapes, and saves the day.
Iron Man 2 mainly deals with the backlash against Tony Stark, as their is a growing hostility towards Iron Man’s role as a peace-keeper (as Tony Stark says, he has essentially privatized world peace) . Stark is again played by Robert Downey Jr, in a role that seems almost tailor made for his particular brand of savvy charisma. Downey Jr., as he is in just about every movie, is outstanding. It’s hard to imagine any other actor being able to act like an asshole yet still have you feel sympathy for them.
Plot-wise, the main villain is Russian scientist/physicist Ivan Vanko played by an increasingly marketable Mickey Rourke. Vanko’s father Anton worked for Stark Industries in the 70’s, but was deported for allegedly being a communist. The other semi-villain is Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell. Hammer is a rivals weapons manufacturer with (surprise!) a grudge against Tony Stark. He ends up recruiting Vanko in his quest to bring down Iron Man.
This is definitely an entertaining film. The action scenes are solid, particularly the melee between a drunken Iron Man and War Machine and Iron Man’s first encounter with Ivan Vanko. For the most part, the cast is excellent. Downey Jr., Rourke, and Sam Rockwell all give great performances. Even Gwyneth Paltrow brings her A game to this movie. Don Cheadle is good in the scenes he appears in, but they don’t give him much to do (probably a product of having too many characters). Scarlett Johansson, as usual, seems to merely be on screen for the audience to ogle her. Other than the “here’s a hot woman kicking ass” dynamic, she’s pretty useless.
I guess this movie is a bit too generic, for my tastes anyway, to be considered with the great superhero movies. One of the problems is that we simply don’t get to see Mickey Rourke enough. The more working-class, barbaric, broken-English speaking Vanko contrasts sharply with the smooth-talking pretty-boy Tony Stark, yet the two barely get to interact at all. Instead, much of the plot gets tied up in unneccessary background stuff, Stark somehow forging a completely new element, and plugs for the upcoming Avengers movie. The other problem with this movie is the lack of any sense of danger. At no point did I believe that Iron Man, or any of his friends, would be killed or even seriously injured.
This is an entertaining movie, yet it’s limited by a lack of ambition and a generic plot.