Review: Iron Man 2

Summer is here, as is our first sequel of the summer in Iron Man 2 and the results are an entertaining and solid follow up to the widely lauded original, but I can’t quite put my finger on how it stacks up to its predecessor.

The conundrum I have with the film is the tone and focus this film takes.  Now there isn’t a lot of plot like before, there are a few new characters to digest, and briefly glimpsed ones get even more screen time.  But the film actually handles it’s “more” well in that we get a good grasp of who everyone is and what their motivations are rather efficiently; but it doesn’t flow the greatest as it jumps in and out everyone’s stories.  The film is still the Tony Stark show first and foremost but it jumps away on a couple occasions for just a tad too long from our favorite iron suited alter ego.  In fact, this film is barely an Iron Man movie and more of a Tony Stark tale; which I actually think is a good thing.  The Iron Man action scenes are great and its best moments are better than the original’s set pieces, but there are really only two or three scenes of Iron Man doing his thing.  The film is more focused on Stark and his issues of being a hero and a crisis he is having as part of his role as a superhero.  Now again, I think this is great, but I wasn’t really prepared for it going in and was caught a bit off guard and think I need to see it again to really settle on a final opinion, especially when comparing it to the first film.

Jon Favreau does a great job with his actors and teams in just about every capacity and the film looks like 100 million bucks.  The action is well shot and the effects beautifully rendered and you will have a tough time catching the switches between practical and digital effects at times.  The Jarvis effects in Stark’s work shop are eye poppingly cool and awesome and this stuff will look incredible in the inevitable Iron Man 3-D.  The fighting is also well choreographed and the Monaco fight scene throws the kitchen sink at you while the mix of flight, gunplay, and beat’em up in the finale has some incredible moments.

But be prepared for a lot of down time from Iron Man if that is what you are in this for.  This is a journey of Stark as he is forced to transition and deal with what Iron Man has made him become.  I mentioned in my review for Iron Man that I would gladly see a Tony Stark movie and this film is as close to that as I think we might get.  Also, there just doesn’t seem to be as much good character banter as there was in the first film, what is here is great again, but Stark is alone quite a bit more and while it isn’t necessarily a bad thing I can’t say I didn’t miss the fantastic back and forth that Favreau and his actors created. Remember there isn’t a lot of plot to get lost in but the characters are all rather interesting especially the film’s main focuses, Justin Hammer and Tony Stark.

Now, Robert Downey Jr. is just as great as he was in the original and he owns Tony Stark as before.  If you loved/hated him in the first, then you will love/hate him here; but for those that love Downey as Stark, and how can you not, this is another fun showcase for the actor.  The biggest stand out outside Downey is Sam Rockwell as Hammer, Stark’s competitor/replacement in the weapons community.  He has everything that Stark does, just less than.  From his personality to his weapons he is always a step behind and Rockwell plays it perfectly.  Don Cheadle does a nice job as Rhodey, replacing Terrance Howard from Iron Man and I liked how they introduce him and wink at the actor switch, and I think I even enjoy Cheadle more in the role.  Sadly Gwyneth Paltrow and Downey don’t get as much screen time together, with a couple scenes in the trailer absent in the final film, but she does a nice job with this evolving role for Pepper Potts.  Scarlett Johansson doesn’t have much to do in the film and while she handles the action well and can only imagine she is here to not have to introduce her in The Avengers.  Speaking of the Avengers, Sam Jackson is fantastic in his brief scenes as Nick Fury and I can’t wait to see him get his own movie as The Avengers is rumored to be centered around his one eyed ball buster.  Lastly, Mickey Rourke looks great as Whiplash and nails the grizzly Russian look and speech, but I do wish he also had a tad more to do.

In the end, Iron Man 2 is more than a worthy successor of the original and might have a chance to catch up or pass the original on repeat viewings.  Fans of the first will be right at home for the first act but be prepared for the tonal switch of the final two.  This change still has a number of fun moments, but we get to look into what makes Tony Stark tick and things get a bit dark and introspective for a bit there.  It’s almost a stretch to even call this an action movie, but it is a nice little comic book movie that has a lot of room to potentially grow in peoples eyes as they surely will be seeing this time and time again in theaters this summer.  What Favreau and Downey do here though, gives me great hope that they will knock the Demon in a Bottle story out of the park whenever they get around to making a third film.

Iron Man 2 is a B+

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