Iron Man 2 doesn’t have quite the freshness that the first Iron Man film had, but it offers an interesting villain combination in Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke and the set pieces are mighty fine. The character of Tony Stark continues to be far more than meets the eye and the acting and deceptive light-heartedness of these films really sets them apart.
Plus, Don Cheadle.
Here’s a trailer:
Released May 7, 2010
Written by Justin Theroux. Based on the comics by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Samuel Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Clark Gregg
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After revealing that he is Iron Man, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is immediately targeted by the US government, who wants to confiscate his technology, aided by Justin Hammer (Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer who has no ethics and a chip on his shoulder. At the same time, a vengeful genius Russian inventor, Vanko (Rourke) targets Tony and hatches a plan to kill him.
When the plan fails, Hammer and Vanko team up, while at the same time, Tony’s friend Rhodey (Cheadle) grows increasingly concerned about Tony’s mental stability and becomes torn between his loyalty to his friend and his nation. While all of this is happening, we learn that Tony is being steadily poisoned by his arc reactor and that Tony needs to find a way to make the reactor safer– but this requires the use of an element that doesn’t exist.
Add to all of this the presence of Agent Coulson (Gregg) and Nick Fury (Jackson), who seem to want Stark to get involved in some kind of heroic initiative. Supporting Tony through all of this and running Tony’s company is Pepper Potts (Paltrow in one of her only palatable roles), who is also Tony’s love interest.
These tensions result in lots of explosions, snappy dialogue, and a heroic arc that takes Stark to a showdown with some seriously nasty weapons created by Vanko and Hammer.
Downey Jr. seems to have been made for this role– or maybe it’s the other way around. The edgy snark that is laid over the top of kindness, fear of hurting those he cares about, and honor, is once again deftly handled by probably the only actor who could pull this off. His performance is very well complemented by Cheadle playing a conflicted Rhodey and Rockwell doing his characteristically great job playing a layered slimeball.
The story is well-crafted also, with conflicts and tension arising from high stakes personal issues as well as global issues. Favreau keeps the pace moving along at an engaging clip, leaving time for characters to have moments that help them grow, but leaving no lag whatsoever.
As a sequel, Iron Man 2 is one of the few, such as Empire Strikes Back, that takes the original story and satisfyingly adds to it, despite not having quite the level of fresh wonder of the first. This film bursts with charm, humanity, humor, and action. It’s hard to enjoy Mickey Rourke, but he is quite convincing as a vengeful thug– although his ability as an inventor strains credulity.
If you liked the first Iron Man, you’ll like this one.
Content warnings: some salty language, plenty of explosive violence, a little blood, some suggestiveness.
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 4.5
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