Review - Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 (2010), PG-13, 124 minutes - Iron Man 2 kicks off the 2010 summer movie schedule with a bang. It's bigger, louder, wittier, and more action filled than the original. Version 1.0 however, is still the superior story.
Robert Downey Jr retains his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in a film that sees the character struggle with even greater levels of fame (after his admission of being Iron Man at the end of the first film) and deteriorating health (his body has an adverse effect to the element powering the arc reactor in his chest), while trying to stave off a new threat to his 'privatized world peace'. Downey Jr continues to be the perfect embodiment of Tony Stark.
Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko) and Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer) provide the villainous combo hellbent on tearing down Tony Stark and his legacy from the ground up by using variations on his own technology against him. If it sounds familiar, it's because it is. The decision to go with virtually the same type of threat for the second consecutive film is interesting, but it works out fairly well. In this version 2.0, Vanko is the son of one of Howard Stark's (Tony's father) earliest collaborators. When their visions for the use of the arc reactor technology differed, the elder Stark had his co-worker deported. Years later, Ivan uses his father's old blue-prints to create his own miniature arc reactor to attack Tony Stark with. Justin Hammer, a weapons manufacturer and competitor to Stark Industries (who has failed in the political arena to bring Iron Man down), is impressed by this show of power and enlists Vanko to build a mech army. Needless to say, things do not go as planned.
Gweneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau (also the film's director), Samuel L Jackson, Clark Gregg, and Paul Bettany also return to their respective roles. Scarlett Johansson and Don Cheadle join the cast as the Black Widow and Stark's best friend James Rhodes. Cheadle actually takes over for Terrence Howard as Rhodes, and in my opinion brings a stronger bond between Stark and Rhodes to the table. I was a little worried about Scarlett Johansson's casting as the Black Widow. I really thought that she was picked more for her name and her looks (I mean, she is smokin') than for how well she would fit as a Russian double agent. But I was pleasantly surprised. She's not only a dead ringer for the character as portrayed in the comics (especially as drawn by Joe Quesada in the second volume of Daredevil), but she has one of the coolest scenes in the movie as she infiltrates a Hammer compound. Gary Shandling also has a run appearance as Senator Stern who tries to get the Iron Man armor/technology handed over to the U.S. Military.
Being the comic book fan that I am, I really enjoyed the parallels that this story had to the current run on Invincible Iron Man written by Matt Fraction (such as the son of one of Howard Stark's collaborators trying to impose familial revenge on Tony Stark by using a variation of his own tech against him and Pepper Potts becoming CEO of Stark Industries). There are also a few 'easter eggs' that may not be obvious to those not familiar with Marvel's comic universe including the now standard Stan Lee cameo, a certain red, white and blue Avenger's shield, and of course, the always fun Iron Man suit in a suitcase! While I'm on the topic of 'easter eggs', be sure to stick around for the Marvel regular post credits teaser scene.
All in all, Iron Man 2 is a very fun and enjoyable movie. It does what the best written comics do - it stands on it's own (for those that had not seen the previous installment of the franchise), it continues the story (for those who have followed the franchise), and leaves a couple of different directions for the story to go down for future installments. I think that the first Iron Man is a stronger story from start to finish, but this is a very good follow up. My only real hope for future Iron Man flicks is that they get away from mechs/Stark tech being the primary threat. Getting back to the potential link to the Mandarin (classic Iron Man villain) from the first film would be awesome.