Robert Downey Jr. shines Iron Man 2
There’s no question that Iron Man 2 will be a huge hit, in fact, many have predicted that it will have the biggest opening weekend of all time. If the first film is any indication, it will probably be a blockbuster smash that generates hundreds of millions of dollars. Like the first film, Iron Man 2 has a tone of fun and witty comedy, but, like many sequels, it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.
Iron Man 2 finds Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in a bit of hot water as the government demands he surrender his Iron Man suit so it can be turned into a military weapon. His biggest competitor, Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell, is leading the charge and trying to invent a superior version of Iron Man. Hammer secretly teams up with vendetta-fueled Russian Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) to take down Stark. At the same time, Stark is facing growing health problems caused by the Arc Reactor that fuels both his body and his Iron Man persona. Of course, Stark handles all this with the kind of swagger you’d expect from a genius playboy billionaire. With the help of his friends, including assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow), new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau who also directed the film), and Army buddy Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle replacing Terrance Howard), Stark sets out to defeat Hammer and Vanko and discover a cure for his palladium poisoning.
Downey returns, perfectly capturing the arrogant but likeable vibe needed to play Stark. Only Downey can pull off playing such a haughty character in such a likeable way. The only downside to the sharp comebacks and remarks is that there are a bit too many of them. Sometimes it can feel like every scene involves Stark making a glib comment about someone or some event around him, which can take away the importance of the action.
The villains are a delight. Rockwell is a chameleon, able change himself for every role. Here, he’s perfect as a nerdy rival fueled by jealousy. Rourke is the perfect counterpart because he brings an authentic bad-ass-ness to the role, making him a great deranged nemesis. His rough look and menacing air let you know right off the bat that Vanko will be a formidable opponent for Stark. Occasionally, having a Russian with a heavy accent talking about destroying the hero can make you think of Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, but Rourke brings a higher caliber of acting than that featured in many comic book films.
While the film is firmly about Iron Man, supporting characters open the doors for more comedic situations. Samuel L. Jackson appears as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D, a super-spy agency in the Marvel universe. Jackson rocks an eye patch and too-cool-for-school attitude that whets the palate for the upcoming Avengers film. Unfortunately, Paltrow’s Pepper Pots seems to have become some type of nagging housewife, which can be a bit annoying. Most of her scenes involve her complaining to Stark or trying to tell him not do so something. Of course, making her a bit annoying makes Johanssen’s assistant/secret agent character more appealing, which is definitely intentional. Still, both women have relatively small roles in the film.
A cameo appearance from the late DJ AM is awkward, silencing audiences. The first scene with Cheadle instead of Howard in the role of Rhodes is a bit awkward as well. It’s always a little weird when a franchise switches actors between films and, for the first few minutes Cheadle is on screen, it’s easy to keep thinking about Howard. Things are made worse when you think back to the publicized bad blood between Howard and the filmmakers regarding his dismissal from the sequel.
Still, these awkward moments are few and far between, making Iron Man 2 a fun and funny action film. While it’s no Kick-Ass, it has a tone of humor mixed in with large-scale action sequences and Robert Downey Jr., a sure formula for a hit.