Written by: Tom Hardej, Special to CC2K
It's OK, but a return to Tony Stark's world only works superficially.
I got to see Iron Man 2 early in order to write this review, and on the way out there was a woman asking people what they thought of it. Someone said: “Well, it was no masterpiece.” While that may be true, I think it may be a measure of expectations. Maybe after Spider-man 2 and The Dark Knight, the bar is set higher for superhero sequels, but come on!
If you take it face value, Iron Man 2 is a really fun movie. Justin Theroux’s screenplay is quick and quippy. It really is funny, and you can tell the sort of impressive cast is having a good time. Robert Downey Jr. is at his smarmiest, of course, as Tony Stark. I think part of his charm is that you can never really tell where Stark begins and Downey ends.
The problem is that that’s kind of all it is. Like in the first one, the film lacks the colorful antagonists of those other movies. He has no Joker or Dr. Octopus. Mickey Rourke plays Ivan Vanko, a Russian physicist with a vendetta against Stark’s father (who’s seen in 60s-era videos played by Mad Men’s John Slattery). He duplicates the Iron Man technology, but is defeated swiftly and without a lot of dramatic tension (if you don’t count Gwyneth Paltrow’s screaming in the background).
Vanko is busted out of jail by Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell), who is a tanned rival billionaire trying to steal the same technology. Vanko comes on board to help, but instead creates a series of robots he sends out to kill Iron Man. But, as we already know, Iron Man is unstoppable.
But like I said, that’s not to say the movie is bad. It lacks a real cohesive story and character development. Those would have been an added bonus, but Jon Favreau directs it with distractions to keep the movie moving at a fast pace, and it’s amusing enough so you won’t care, especially if you’re a fan of the comic. I’ve never really been a Marvel guy, so I’m pretty indifferent to the upcoming Avengers movie, but this is clearly laying the groundwork for what’s to come (especially if you stay past the credits for a quick teaser). Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson show up as Nick Fury and Black Widow just for that reason, and it’s just one of the many plot pieces that are left unfinished.
The point of every comic book, really, is to get you to want to read the next one, so maybe that’s also the point of comic book movies too. Iron Man 2 may leave us hanging in some ways, but at least we know Iron Man 3 won’t be too far behind, and maybe that will be the masterpiece that woman is looking for.