With the usual summer hype surrounding a sequel of this magnitude, Iron Man 2 had a lot to live up to. The weight of the proverbial iron didn’t crush this film, but it certainly didn’t resist said weight and reach the height of the first Iron Man. In IM2, Robert Downey Jr. is back as the titular iron one, but he is joined by a bevy of well-known stars for the sequel. Most notably, gone is Terence Howard, Rhodey from the first film, his replacement is the venerable Don Cheadle. Also joining the fray are Scarlett Johansson, a more prominent role for Samuel L. Jackson, the always strong Sam Rockwell (Moon), the resurrected career of Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and usual suspects Jon Favreau (also the director) and Gwyneth Paltrow. Just getting a title card long enough to fit all these names is a task in and of itself. With such a cast, it was hard for the hype meter not to reach dizzying levels.
Iron Man 2 finds RDJ’s Tony Stark in a vulnerable spot where the government wants his “weapon” and Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, a Hammer Industries CEO and competitor to Downey’s Stark Industries, is trying to assemble said weapon to sell to the government and acquire unknown riches. Meanwhile, Stark is in meltdown mode, stressed from running the company and being Iron Man, so his confidante Paltrow’s Pepper Potts can come in and be the antidote for what ails him. Additionally, Rourke’s Ivan Vanko (aka Whiplash) is of questionable origin, out to gain revenge on Stark for what Tony’s father did to his father. ScarJo is a kick-ass assistant (and potentially more) to Paltrow, who has ulterior motives and Jackson’s Nick Fury plays a role along those lines as well. Rhodey mainly in-fights with his buddy Stark who loses control at a party, which leads to further plot machinations. Each character has their own mini-plot which doesn’t always serve the movie as a whole well. Convolution galore, as far as the plot goes. It’s not that it’s ridiculously hard to follow, but it also doesn’t flow like a rushing river either.
The film is long and dialogue heavy, but the action sequences do live up to what those in a summer blockbuster should. Iron Man and War Machine whiz around the sky, Black Widow has some nice fight sequences, and all in all, from that standpoint, things are lively. Unfortunately, the action is a little too sparse between the long dialogue sequences. For instance, Paltrow’s Potts appears to be consistently whiny, her character virtually destroying the fun in most scenes she is in. To her credit, this isn’t really all on her, it is the way the character is written, Meryl Streep (hang it up – by the way) couldn’t make Potts any more tolerable. Alternately, Rourke is strong in his vignettes as a real threat to Stark. Of course, Downey Jr. brings the goods, a natural acting talent, breezing through dialogue with whipper snapper flow. Alas, there is no Ghostface sighting like in the original (deleted scene here) which would have helped for simple comedy. Ultimately, there isn’t enough to raise the bar enough to make it a strong recommend.
This is average summer fare. It provides what is expected, nothing more, nothing less. It’s easy to be underwhelmed by the results, given the hype, but I find that to be a bit unfair in this case. This isn’t The Dark Knight, something I think many film fans were either clamoring for or hoping for. Iron Man 2 is serviceable entertainment and a decent way to get the summer season moving at the turnstiles. Just don’t expect anything transcendent and with the proper mind set, you’ll be entertained.