You’ve gotta appreciate a comic book movie where the filmmakers don’t suck all of the fun out of the hero being able to fly, shoot lasers and have super strength. As one comic book movie villain famously said recently “Why so serious?”
“Iron Man 2” happily embraces the playfulness of comic books and brings it to the big screen in a tremendously entertaining sequel that’s clearly set itself up as the summer blockbuster to beat.
At the end of the first film, Stark ditched his secret identity, which helps make the story fresher since he doesn’t have to go through any cliché extraordinary lengths to keep his alter-ego a secret. Plus, Downey happily conveys that Stark wouldn’t be content letting someone else take the credit for his hard work. Besides, Downey makes Stark just as much fun out of the armor as he is in it.
Director Jon Favreau gets what makes the Iron Man mythos work — a man so technologically ahead of his peers that he makes the impossible possible — and he applies it to the simplest tasks such as Stark having schematics appear in interactive 3-D touch displays or turning a table into a photo album.
The film, scripted by Downey’s “Tropic Thunder” writer Justin Theroux, stars off with Stark basking in adoration from well-wishers out to celebrate the Stark Expo — a Disneyland for inventors looking to showcase their wares.
Beyond the smiles, Stark is harboring the secret that his life-sustaining power core is slowly killing him and thinking he doesn’t have much time to find a solution, starts indulging in some very self-destructive behavior. Dying won’t be a problem though as Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”), a Russian genius, wants to settle an old score and killing Stark would just about square the debt.
From a continuity perspective, it’s annoying that Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle (“Brooklyn’s Finest”) in the role of Stark’s best friend James Rhodes, but Cheadle is stellar as always and you’ll get over it quick especially since Rhodes gets his own suit of armor — War Machine — which he packs full of weapons for heavy combat.
Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury gets an expanded role here as he tries to determine if Stark is ready to join the superhero team he is assembling. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) also gets more screen time and Gregg’s chemistry with Downey offers some of the film’s more unexpectedly fun moments.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is still written like a cliché damsel in distress, but Stark’s new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), is thankfully handled far more competently and isn’t just added to the film to become the new eye candy.
Most commendable about the sequel is that Favreau and Theroux resist the urge to make this a darker outing following the phenomenal success of the far darker (and higher-grossing) “The Dark Knight.”
At times it may be a bit too silly i.e. the Iron Man/War Machine throw down set to “Another One Bites the Dust” and Stark comes across a few scenes as too abrasive, but it works in the context of the film.
Favreau doesn’t disappoint in the action scenes either as he shoots them clear enough to tell what’s going on and he’s able to give them a dogfight feel without making the action look completely reliant on CGI.
Continuing the now established, Marvel Studios drops several teasers for “The Avengers,” with nods to Iron Man’s superhero partners. Once again make sure to sit through the credits for a glimpse of the next Marvel production, which will definitely be a must-see if it maintains the quality of its three predecessors.
“Iron Man 2” has thrown down the armored gauntlet to all the other summer blockbusters — bring your “A” game or be content being the season’s second best movie.
Rating: 8 out of 10