Tony Stark is back in Iron Man 2, bringing with him some variations on his high tech business suit, new enemies, new allies, and that same, overly confident, “winning” personality (the sarcasm is only halfhearted because it’s hard not to love him).
Between the first film and now, Tony Stark boasts that he has fulfilled every beauty pageant contestants dream of bringing about world peace (at least for now), or as he likes to put it, “privatizing” it. And with revealing his secret identity at the end of the first film, the exploits of Iron Man have lead to even more fame for the man not hiding behind the mask, and it has gone straight to his head. But with great power comes great responsibility. Wait… Wrong Marvel superhero. Let me modify: With greatly boasted power comes great enemies with the unifying goal of knocking said powerful individual down a peg (yeah, I can see why that isn’t the catchphrase). Simply put: Tony’s ego is in need of some deflating, and this film introduces at least two men willing to accept the challenge.
First up to bat is Ivan Vanko, a Russian man with a history connecting to the Stark family that leads him on a path of revenge. In order to get back at Tony, he creates energy conducting whips by reengineering the technology Tony used to make his own suit. He looks pretty cool while whipping these things around at first glance because he is able to cut through cars (but not Iron Man’s suit. We are making cars out of the wrong metal…), but eventually the novelty wears off and he ends up looking a little like a tatted-up ribbon dancer. Which is probably why his face time with Iron Man is a little anti-climactic when all is said and done. After all, there is a reason Indiana Jones carries guns around with him too. Next up is Justin Hammer, the head of Hammer Industries and leading weapon’s manufacturer, as he likes to tell it. However, he seems to be a much stronger competitor to Tony’s ego than his company in this film, making him a pretty irritating character. What keeps both Vanko and Hammer from becoming detrimental to the movie is found in their interactions. Upon first meeting, Vanko is quite the fish out of water in Hammer’s life of luxury, but the actors are at their peak performances when Mickey Rourke plays up how unimpressed he is by Hammer’s self-importance. And though I could have done without Sam Rockwell’s character choice of going up on the balls of his feet every other second, he was great as the starved for attention counterpart to Tony’s fame.
The thing is, when you have two characters that are almost equally narcissistic, only one is going to come out on top, and that man is Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. As the self-proclaimed savior of the world, Tony is riding high on the Iron Man cloud. Unfortunately for him, an ego trip is not the only effect the suit is having on him. As one might expect, shoving a metallic energy source into one’s chest might have an adverse effect on the body. Now mix the Godlike ego with the realization of one’s mortality and you are going to find yourself with some mixed results. Luckily, like Hammer, Tony has certain people around him that do their best to keep him grounded, creating some of the better moments in the film in the interactions of the characters. For every character he can hide behind his arrogance with while delivering some pretty funny zings, such as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, there is a character like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts who won’t put up with his nonsense, leading to some of the best interactions in the entire film.
Iron Man 2 is more of a character piece than action film in many ways because it is very much about the man and not the superhero. However, when the action finally does come full force in the latter part of the film, it isn’t skimped on. Not varying too greatly from the villain of the first film, the battles refrain from moving away from the clash of the robots, so other than one major suit upgrade that is jaw dropping for the second that it comes into play, Iron Man is actually upstaged in his own film by a brief booty kicking scene from Black Widow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long and it is the same clip that Scarlett Johansson has been bringing with her to all of the talk shows. With that said, it does show a lot of promise and makes a great argument for yet another comic book character deserving of his or her own film.
If you were hoping that Iron Man 2 would kick off the summer season of movies with a bang then you wont be disappointed. The movie may not be overflowing with action sequences, but this is hardly anything to be upset about because the story is really strong, as is the acting filling out the roles. And the robot from the first film is back. The one that uses the fire extinguisher on Tony. You know the one. If you won’t see it for Iron Man, see it for him.
Final Grade: B+