The summer movie season officially kicks off today with what could be the biggest movie of the year: Iron Man 2, which reunites director Jon Favreau with now-superstar Robert Downey, Jr. The plot kicks off moments after the first movie ended and so does the entertainment, as the movie more or less lives up to the hype in satisfying fashion.
In Iron Man 2, the title character, also known as Tony Stark, is now a household name across the globe. Millions of people love him and would do anything to get his autograph, but a few select parties see him in another light, namely the U.S. military, who wants his technology; his rival Justin Hammer, who wants his fame; and a badass Russian dude named Ivan Vanko, who wants him lying dead in a ditch.
As with 99% of sequels, Iron Man 2 is bigger, bolder, but not necessarily better, though in this case it's only marginally inferior to the original product. The sequel maintains the same visual style and comical wit while amping up the action and cast credentials. Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke plays Vanko, Oscar nominee Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Rhodes, superb actor Sam Rockwell plays Hammer, and, best of all, sexy temptress Scarlett Johansson is there to steam things up.
The movie boasts bigger action sequences, namely a long and exciting series of events near the end of the film that far exceeds the climax from the original. Nevertheless, like the first film, Iron Man 2 doesn't overflow with action, and instead relies more on the bigger-than-life personality of Tony Stark and his various interactions with those around him. The result is a highly entertaining and often funny superhero flick, with some effective action sequences interlaced throughout.
Still, one can't help but ask for more action. Iron Man 2 only boasts two significant action scenes, one set on a race track, the other in the climax. The fight between Iron Man and his pal War Machine (Cheadle) is lackluster and doesn't count, whereas once again the final battle between the protagonist and villain - in this case Whiplash (Rourke) - is woefully short and uninspiring, even if the action leading up to that battle makes up for it. When Johansson kicks into high gear and takes down a dozen security guards within a span of thirty seconds, there's an element of satisfaction, and yet the sense that we saw something similar and better in Kick-Ass just a few weeks earlier.
As mentioned before, Iron Man 2 is funnier than the first movie, but at the expense of character development. This doesn't take a huge toll on the overall experience, but Downey Jr. seems to have been handed twice as much [well-written] dialogue while tension-filled scenes between he and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) have been reduced to comical bits more than anything else. The decision by Rhodes to don the "Iron Man" suit, fight his best friend and then give the suit to the military (which some would call stealing) is downright head scratching; the picture needed to spend more time developing his rationale and torn loyalties. It's around this same time that the movie begins to drag just a little, as the picture transitions from its excellent first half to the more action-oriented finale.
Iron Man 2 is not without its flaws, but it's still a high adrenaline, exciting and funny movie. Iron Man 2 exceeds expectations at nearly every turn, and is great sign for the rest of the summer.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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