It’s been six months since Tony Stark has revealed to the world that he is Iron Man. In that time, Iron Man has become a deterrent to other nations aggressive to the United States. That isn’t enough for the United States though, as they want Stark to fully turn over the Iron Man armor to them. Stark won’t do it though, claiming that he and the armor are one and the same, though there may be more nobler intentions than that. The power source of the armor is infecting Stark and raising his blood toxicity levels, though he’s keeping that little fact to himself. Other nations, and even another American defense contractor, Justin Hammer, are trying to develop their own Iron Man-type of armor but with little success. But success does come to one, a Russian named Ivan Vanko who has his own grudge against Stark.
That’s the premise to Iron Man 2 from Marvel Entertainment and director Jon Favreau and it’s a far better movie than what I thought it was going to be based around it’s initial trailer. I was sort of turned off by it’s initial trailer and seeing the more flippant images of Robert Downey Jr. in his confrontation with the government. i was half expecting in those scenes for him to suddenly turn into Rodney Dangerfield from Caddyshack and at the end turn to the crowd and say to everyone “Now let’s all go back to my place and get laid!” But, those trailer scenes are fortunately shown out of context from the main movie, and so as they play in the main movie, there’s actually a little more subtext to them.
This doesn’t quite have the same impact that the original film had, but I don’t think that that’s a bad thing at all. What it does well though is present a continuing story of the character that’s really more on the mark with the original comic material. Further, it expands the mythology that Marvel is shooting for with the films that they’re actually producing around their characters. It stands alone well as another Iron Man film, but I think it’s even richer as part of the bigger picture that Marvel is painting.
I think some of it’s quieter scenes could’ve been tightened up a bit and I certainly wouldn’t have minded maybe another earlier action sequence with Iron Man, but still what’s here is a lot of fun. Director Favreau is obviously committed to what he’s doing with Marvel and I think the evidence is right up there on the screen. It’s as technically proficient as these movies come.
Robert Downey Jr. really has found a good character for himself in Tony Stark. Yeah, sure there’s a lot that’s over-the-top with the character, but I also think that there’s some considerable subtlety that he’s displaying as well. Most of that comes into play when Stark has his dealings with Nick Fury and SHIELD. Stark gets a little humbled by that, though he certainly still has his own brand of bravado. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau are back from the original cast, reprising their characters of Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, and they’re both solid. Also we have Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg back respectively as SHEILD’s leader Nick Fury and Agent Colson and though their scenes are fewer than the rest of the cast’s, they’re still a lot of fun when they come up.
New to this series though are actors Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson. Cheadle takes over the part of James Rhodes, established in the first film by actor Terence Howard. This won’t stand out as one of Cheadle’s great roles, but he’s rock solid in the part and looking like he’s having some genuine fun when he’s in his own armor. Mickey Rourke plays Ivan Vanko and he brings some nice weight to the film. He’s essentially been billed as playing a villain from the comics called Whiplash, though in the actual comics, Vanko was the inventor of the Crimson Dynamo armor and as the movie plays out, that’s more evident to longtime fans. Sam Rockwell plays industrialist Justin Hammer and he certainly brings a lot of smarm to the part and he does it in an entertaining fashion. My personal favorite of the new additions is Scarlett Johansson. She plays a character named Natalie Rushman, who’s really a SHIELD agent named Natasha Romanoff who in the comics is also known as the Black Widow. Now, on the acting front, she’s serviceable here, but then again it’s not her movie. She fills a role for the film and the mythology and that’s fine. But she does have presence and that’s considerable. She’s certainly beautiful and physically, she sort of reminds me of the days when John Byrne drew the character over in the pages of Marvel’s Champions comic. She, at least to me, drew my attention every time she was on screen and I also think she has the best single action scene of the whole film.
Iron Man 2 is a lot of big fun and I certainly think it’s a step in the right direct yet again for Marvel’s own movies. It may not carry the impact as the first movie did, but I think in Marvel’s big picture, it’ll fit just fine and add to the richness of the cinema mythology that they’re building. If you’re planning to see this, well stay through the entire credits as you’ll get a nice taste of what’s to come from them next year. Good stuff here… go see it.