Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sequences of intense sci-fi action, violence, and some language.
Summary: Billionaire Tony Stark must contend with deadly issues involving the government, his own friends, as well as new enemies due to his superhero alter ego Iron Man.
Run Time: 124 minutes
[Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.]
Load up on the popcorn, Iron Man 2 is the perfect way to kick off the season of summer blockbusters! Jon Favreau’s sequel to Iron Man delivered exactly what you would expect and more. There are of course, the characters we know and love from the first film, heart-pounding action sequences, and spectacular special effects, but this sequel also possesses an engaging and moving storyline and a level of character depth not seen in the first installment of the franchise.
I enjoyed Iron Man 2 more than the first film primarily because in this sequel, you are allowed the opportunity to see significant character development in Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). The palladium in the arc reactor that keeps Tony Stark alive is slowly killing him. He is once again, faced with his own mortality. How can he smart talk/buy/invent his way out of cheating death this time? As brilliant as he is, he can’t. This predicament is the catalyst for getting to know the real Tony Stark. Being able to see him deal with his impending death was the depth of character missing from the first film. Even though some might prefer his character to be pretty simple – a narcissistic playboy who is brilliant to the hilt and is the poster-child for those who don’t-care-what-other-people-think, I preferred getting to know Stark’s “inside face”. Icing on the character-development cake are Stark’s interactions with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) which are tender and telling about their relationship. I felt privileged to get a better feel for Tony Stark with this film, which I think is natural considering the first film served as an introduction to this piece of the Marvel universe.
There were fantastic performances from the whole cast with the exception of the rich weasel character of Justin Hammer who was either written or performed with a way too heavy hand in the annoyance department. Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark hits another home run out of the park. He is, of course, the jewel of the film. Gwyneth Paltrow has more leeway with Pepper Potts this time around and we get to see more of her here. Mickey Rourke’s villain, Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash, not only has an imposing physical presence, but exuded a threatening and calculating demeanor much like a caged lion, poised to strike at any moment. Vanko is out for revenge for past wrongs and makes for a villain that frequently steals his scenes. Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natalia Romanoff aka Black Widow is as effective as she is beautiful. Jon Faveau as Happy Hogan was the perfect comedic foil between Tony and Pepper and further proves the great creative chemistry he has between himself and Robert Downey Jr. I don’t think anyone can find anything negative to say about Don Cheadle’s portrayal of Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes.
All of the characters are well balanced and represented with the marked exception of Justin Hammer, Stark’s rival in the defense contract biz, played by Sam Rockwell. Like I mentioned earlier, Justin Hammer is the most annoying part of this film, like nails screeching their way down a chalkboard. I felt like his character just ate up too much screen time. His scenes should have been shortened significantly for the sanity of the viewing audience. For all of you fanboys, Olivia Munn did indeed make a cameo in the film in a type of role that we are all familiar with.
The most striking element of the film for me is the delicious display of technology. It is a feast for the eyes and tantalizing to the mind of where modern tech can take us. These technological imaginations not only include advances in warfare, but takes conceptual tech like gesture tech (which is still in its infancy) to new levels of human interaction with the tool, incorporating three dimensional imaging into visual problem-solving. Even Stark’s PDA demonstrates impressive proactive dominance (did you like the way I didn’t say hacking?) and its integration of multi-media applications is an effin’ wet dream for us everyday folks. Then again, of course, Stark has the best toys around! The technology in this film is inspiring to say the very least. Aside from the Iron Man suits, freakin’ briefcase suit, and arc reactor tech, all that we see could be in our near future. This is a perfect example of the beauty of sci-fi and comics – to inspire the imagination! (Imagine that I said that last part with the cadence and conviction of Dr. Walter Bishop from “Fringe” for added emphasis.)
The special effects teams have outdone themselves. They made every single piece of tech, the Iron Man suits, and Whiplash’s rig seem perfectly realistic and believable. Giant donut-sized kudos go to all who worked on the effects for this film. The action sequences are seamlessly done and are top notch! Iron Man 2 does not even need 3D to pimp its effects out. The special effects in this film simply do not need that kind of gimmick to work, they are viciously realistic in the standard 2D format.
The only thing missing from the film, is the “you complete me” portion of the trailer in the actual film. It was a cute scene that I’d hoped to see the context of, but alas, it must have hit the cutting room floor for the theatrical version. Along those lines, the character depth of this film gives it weight with the female audience while entertaining the men with technology and things that go boom. Iron Man 2 is the perfect date film in that respect.
Fans of the Marvel universe will appreciate all the Easter eggs in the film, primarily in the scene where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has Tony Stark in the Avengers HQ. Pssssstt!! Pay attention to the surroundings in that scene. I also urge you to stay after the credits! Like the first Iron Man, there is a scene that comes up after the credits roll that people with at least some knowledge of the Marvel comics would appreciate.
All in all, Favreau has raised the bar for himself with this installment of Iron Man.
I give Iron Man 2 Three Out of Five Stars