Taking place 6 months after Millionaire Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr, reveals to the world he is Iron Man, Iron Man 2 overall is a worthy sequel to the 2008 hit that signaled several things: first RDJ’s star power in a positive note and Marvel’s touch hadn’t been tarnished by X-Men 3 or Spider-Man 3.
Spider-Man and X-Men have some of the more colorful rogue’s galleries while to the casual reader, Iron Man doesn’t and that’s probably for the best since “adaptations” can run the gamut from spot on to in name only.
The good news is Mickey Rourke’s character of Ivan Vanko is three dimensional enough for both the comic book geeks and the mainstream movie watchers. Vanko’s father turns out helped Tony’s dad Howard, played by Mad Men’s John Slattery begin to build what was to be Stark Foundation’s cornerstone, the Arc Reactor featured so predominately in the first movie.
Unfortunately, there’s a falling out, Vanko gets deported and dies penniless with Ivan only to see Tony get all the fame and monies. Vanko being as brilliant as his father builds his own and in one of the movies bigger set pieces basically kicks Tony’s and then Iron Man’s butt across the race track at Le Mans.
This one act along with the poisoning from the Arc Reactor in Tony’s chest sends our ole metal head in a downward spiral that includes one of the funnier scenes in the movie. It’s nowhere near as cringe inducing as the Saturday Night Fever montage from Spider-Man 3.
The Iron Man Universe is widened a bit since the origin has already been taken care of, arms dealer Justin Hammer played by Sam Rockwell along with Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson and Samuel Jackson as Col. Nick Fury. All are given enough screen time to give their characters some meat. Returning from the last movie is Gwen Paltrow’s Pepper Potts whose duties have been widen to include being CEO of Stark Enterprises. Unfortunately, she’s given about the same amount of scenes to work with as with the last movie, bantering with Stark is really the highest point of both movies.
While Natasha could have been used as a love interest instead she is used as Pepper’s right hand and a few scenes with Pepper using Natasha as someone she can trust with her inner fears would have helped both characters from just being a: the superhero’s girl friend and b: the slinky spy.
Jim Rhodes now played by Don Cheadle steps into what was already hinted in the last movie and in comic book lore as War Machine, a militarized version of one of Tony’s prototype suits. Soooooooo not a sidekick to Iron Man.
But for all the set up and the characters moving through their paces, the third act suffers from several things: the amount of armored robots smashing through the Stark Expo with little civilian casualties. Sure, it’s a PG-13 comic book movie but I can suspend by disbelief enough to enjoy a man in a metal suit fly. It’s when the collateral damage fails to be shown is when I call bullshit.
Whiplash’s first battle with Stark at Le Mans felt more real than his final battle. We remember Iron Monger’s death in Iron Man 1 so why does Whiplash die even faster and needlessly? I’ve seen the deleted scene of Iron Man 2’s original death of Whiplash and thought neither of the endings were very good. It’s like the writer’s ran out of ideas of how to kill off intelligent criminal.
It’s this ending and the use of two villains; both of which don’t seem that much of threat to Tony that makes Iron Man 2 so bloated and empty at the same time. The Iron Man Universe grows and builds on the first but it’s the third act when the house that Marvel build begins to sink.
Introducing Black Widow, Nick Fury was a good idea for Avengers run up but I missed someone to go head to head with Tony without going out like a punk. The Jeff Bridges character while having a one track mind in the first movie brought enough to the scenes he was in to see he meant business.
Overall, it’s a good movie but it retreads a lot of the first movie’s third act when it shouldn’t.