Theatrical Review: IRON MAN 2
Writers: Justin Theroux (screenplay), Stan Lee & Don Heck & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby (comic book)
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
Studio: Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment
Tony Stark is back for the further adventures of his tin man superhero persona - as is Robert Downey Jr. who returns to his role as the billionaire boy who likes fast women and fast toys as much as he fancies a sharp wit and a sharp face razor. When we last left Stark, he had announced to the world that he was in fact the man behind Iron Man. But throwing chum in the water like this brings out the sharks, as Stark is soon faced with multiple formidable foes.
As the U.S. government attempts to confiscate the Iron Man suits, claiming that they pose a potential threat to the very national security the hero has ensured, other villains surface from Stark’s past and present. Arms maker and industrial rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) wants a piece of the Iron Man suit for himself, so that he may build his own army of shiny super soldiers, and in turn get a piece of the pie from the military. Thus, he enlists the help of former physicist turned bird enthusiast turned supervillain Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a man that wants to give Stark his 40 lashes for his family’s past transgressions. With his personal and public approval rating rusting away and friends turning into foes while foes turn more foul, Tony Stark and Iron Man bear the heavy weight of the world on their metal shoulders in IRON MAN 2.
Luckily, the film itself does well not to bear the burdens of the sophomore slump. For my money, 2008’s IRON MAN was about as close as a filmmaker has gotten to capturing the essence of a comic book from the silver page to the silver screen. With that said, the sequel does not quite live up to its predecessor, as proverbial lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place with these types of films. But, never fear, it’s still a sequel as solid as iron that delivers on all levels of expectations.
Facing the challenges of where to take Stark’s story post-origin, director Jon Favreau attempts to apply the same bold sensibilities he did the first time around. Yet this time around, the actor turned director turns the volume up from 10 to 11 in his choices that honor and pay respect to both the source material and devotee comic book fans of such. In short, this is a film for fans made by a fan himself. And you feel it in just about every second of screen time. Gone is the subtlety we are used to with most comic book films, as IRON MAN 2 directly and unabashedly interweaves itself within the greater Marvel universe. You clearly see Favreau & co. are undoubtedly leading us to a more grand universe that is to come our way, making the film just a small piece of a superpowered puzzle.
The film also does well to walk the fine line of balancing the dramatic, the humorous, and the action-packed. Yet, in this here sequel, the heart gets both a little lighter and a bit heavier, exploring the inner demons of being a world saver. But, being Tony Stark/Iron Man does have its perks, as we get a good mix of outlandish humor and fun in the film, which flies just below over-the-top status enough to be comic bookish yet not cartoonish.
Praise be to Mr. Downey Jr. for this juggling act of emotions, as IRON MAN 2 is still largely his property. Despite, no less, the addition of a few well-known new cast members including the comeback king Mickey Rourke, the eye candy to go with your popcorn Scarlett Johansson or Don Cheadle, who successfully wears both the Colonel’s suit and the War Machine suit in a way that Terrence Howard never quite did or had the chance to. And who could forget Sam Rockwell, who just about steals the show from Downey Jr., no small feat in itself. But be it may a personality contest of epic proportions between the two charismatic actors, the man who makes Stark distinct still prevails. Whether you hate to love him or love to love him, IRON MAN 2 largely succeeds as a film because of the actor that wears his heart on his sleeve and his arc reactor in his chest.
If it’s a good time your expecting from IRON MAN 2, then it’s a good time you’ll get. I would advise you not to demand exactly what you got from IRON MAN, as this, simply put is not IRON MAN. It’s IRON MAN 2. This time around, the stakes are Stark and his ante is upped, as he faces as many internal villains as he does external and spends as much time on the ground talking as he does in the air fighting. As a result, we are given a film that is ironclad on all levels.
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