They don’t build ‘em like they used to, and they don’t make Iron Man movies like they used to, either. Iron Man 2 is basically more of the same — but slightly less entertaining. And that’s the movie’s only real flaw: It’s just not as fresh and original as the first film. If you loved the first one, you will be very happy with this one.
Robert Downey Jr. is still the center of the film, and he still plays playboy inventor Tony Stark as light a mixture between a petulant child, a nerd, Hugh Hefner — and Capt. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. The self-indulgent Stark is (sort of) reined in by his coolly-efficient assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — until he realizes that she really is better at doing his job than he is.
Stark’s job in this movie is to fend off rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who could be Stark’s less-competent twin. Hammer teams up with Russian madman Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who feels that his father was cheated by Stark’s father, Howard, and creates a supersuit of his own that employs energy whips to incapacitate his foes. Rourke certainly looks and sounds like a survivor of a corrupt Russian prison system, but Vanko’s motives are only barely hinted at — a weakness of the script, not Rourke, who gives it his all. He makes Vanko mad in the sense of being both angry and crazy.
The biggest change from the original is the addition of Don Cheadle as Stark’s buddy, Rhodey. Cheadle seems like more of a thoughtful, gentle warrior. But as War Machine, Rhodey brings it, proving to be almost Tony’s equal in the armor. And the biggest addition to this production is Scarlett Johansson’s character. There is absolutely no arguing with how great Johansson looks — and not just because she could probably kill you if you laugh. Whether she’s decked out for business as legal assistant Natalie Rushman, or for battle as the character comics fans know as Black Widow, Johansson is dressed to kill. Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury also gets to do quite a bit more in this movie than merely hint at the Avengers Initiative. Director Jon Favreau is also back, as Tony’s chauffer Happy Hogan.
For the most part, the film looks terrific, but there are several instances when some of the technology looks more than a little…well, I don’t want to say fake, but…. Sometimes things seem just a little too lightweight and obviously computer-generated. There are some good laughs – and a smattering of in-jokes for those who can recognize what they are seeing – and a few quotable lines. The middle part of the movie plods along with all the alacrity of the primitive Mark I armor from the first movie. There is a lot of talk – but then again, the first Iron Man had its chatty parts as well, so this is by no means a fatal flaw. I mention it merely as a caution.
The action sequences are intense, but short. While they are happening, the effects are impressive, but the spectacle never lasts very long. The climactic final battle feels particularly truncated — which has the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the Big Threat was, in truth, not really worthy of Iron Man. But Iron Man 2 is definitely worth seeing.
One last point: The final scene after the credits is totally worth the wait — and lays the groundwork for…something different.