Going into my screening of "Iron Man 2", I was more than a little concerned. Some reviews began to trickle onto the Web and most have been negative - calling the movie average at best. This is a perfect example that you always need to see a movie for yourself.
It seems that critics are hell bent on taking a swipe at this sequel and I don't understand why. The film is meant to be a fun, intense, bold, and it delivers at every turn. Granted, it doesn't have the surprise factor of the original, but did we really expect it to? We know the game. We know the player and we know that Iron Man is here to stay.
In his second outing in the suit, Robert Downey Jr. gives us a Tony Stark who's as flamboyant as ever, but as his actions become more reckless, we learn his blood toxicity levels are rising and the element that saved his life, and which powers the Iron Man suit, it now killing him. He needs to find a suitable replacement and he needs to find it fast.
On the flip side is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a brilliant Russian physicist whose father was deported at the insistence of Howard Stark (John Slattery) because he wanted to turn a profit on the energy source the duo were working on. Now he has the elder Stark's offspring in his sights and will stop at nothing to avenge his father, who died in Russia drunken and disgraced.
With the government licking their chops to get their hands on the Iron Man suit, Stark's declaration that the technology is at least a decade away puts some at ease -- until Vanko winds up at a race in Morocco, unleashing his devastating homemade electronic whips on Stark, constructed from virtually the same technology as the Iron man suit.
After a brief battle, Stark defeats Vanko, but the unruly Russian has shown the world their beloved Iron Man can bleed, which was precisely the desired effect. Following his arrest, Vanko is sprung by Stark's nemesis Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who wants the Russian to construct his own version of the Iron Man suit, which is firmly atop the military's Christmas wish list. But Vanko has other plans.
With Vanko bent on destroying Stark and Stark bent of finding a new power source for his ticker, the remainder of the movie is mainly spent setting up the inevitable -- the showdown between the two. However, Iron Man won't be showing up to battle the bully alone.
After a comical birthday shindig, Stark's pal James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is convinced Stark is too reckless to hold the sole power of the Iron Man suit, so he dons an alternate suit, has a knock down drag out with his buddy and turns over possession of the suit to the military, thus giving birth to the War Machine.
The final showdown between Iron Man, War Machine and Vanko, and his redesigned energy whips on steroids, is awesome. The action is slick and seamless and is an exciting conclusion to a very satisfying film.
What separates this movie for me from the original is the storyline. While some have complained about the plotline, I found the idea of a man who's seemingly invincible essentially dying in silence, very interesting. It's not often we're offered the side of a superhero and when a writer and director have the courage to do so, it make the movie that much more fulfilling.
Once again, Downey is ... well, he's Downey. No other actor could bring this character alive better than he can. This time around, it's not just wise cracks and quick banter for his Stark, it's a man faced with a fast approaching mortality and we get to see how he chooses to face it. As with everything Stark does, it seems he stares straight at it and seldom blinks.
Another noticeable upgrade for the film, besides some wicked cool suits, is Cheadle at Rhodes. The character was originally place by Terrence Howard, but Cheadle completely owned this character. His take on Rhodes is a far cry from Howard's and is much more believable than its predecessor.
We also get a one-eyed Samuel L. Jackson back as Nick Furry, a sultry Scarlett Johansson clad in skintight outfits and a new side of Pepper Potts from Gwyneth Paltrow. But, you can't talk about Iron Man 2 without singling out Rourke.
I love what he's been doing with his roles lately. If Cheadle owns Rhodes, there is no separation between Rourke and Vanko -- the two are one. Sometimes when an actor goes after a character, the tendency is to take is as far as possible, but most always come up short. Rourke is one of the few actors that can take us out on that tightrope, let us dangle perilously and we love and cherish him for it.
As with the original flick, stay glued to you seat until the credits have finished rolling, there's a nice goodie waiting for you on the other side. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Stan Lee's hilarious cameo in the flick. It left me rolling.
Final Cut: "Iron Man 2" has everything the original had and more. There's intense action, awesome special effects and a more significant storyline. Once again, it's Downey who steals the show though. I was a fan back in the day, was heartbroken when we drifted from us and now I'm elated his back. This isn't just a comic book movie -- this is a really good comic book movie.
4 out of 5 stars
Iron Man 2
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence and some language
Runtime: 2 hr. 5 min.