Film Review + Trailer: Iron Man 2 (12a)By Kim Francis
May 05, 2010
Stars Robert Downey Jr, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson
The anticipation for the follow-up to the runaway success that was Iron Man has been building ever since the credits rolled on the 2008 flick. Its ending had set up a mouthwatering sequel and left audiences squealing for more.
Now, with the film’s UK release date upon us, it’s time to see if Iron Man 2 lives up to the hype.
Set six months after the original, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is finding it tricky to reconcile his high profile role as Iron Man with his persona as an ostentatious playboy businessman.
He’s famous, he’s powerful, he’s saving the world and therefore he’s a prime target for criticism and hatred from jealous types, megalomaniacs and those who are mistrustful of the technology he has created and his ownership of it.
When Stark refuses to the US government’s demands that he relinquish control of the Iron Man suit, it responds by continuing operations with his rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), to create an alternative ultimate weapon.
But it soon emerges that there is only one man with the brain, the brawn and the know-how to match Stark’s creation – Ruskie Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who wants to prove on the world stage that Tony Stark is fallible and who has a burning desire to wreak revenge. Enter Whiplash…
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Can S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Stark’s new assistant (Scarlett Johansson) help him confront the peril that faces him? And can Stark save himself?
When the first Iron Man came out, people were staying away from the movies and, far from being a Fantastic Four-style crud-fest as many expected, it turned out to be a fresh and funny take on the superhero movie. It was credited with boosting movie-going audiences tenfold.
With much riding on the sequel, it simply had to deliver and, while Iron Man 2 unavoidably lacks the freshness that helped to make the first such a success, it does.
Iron Man 2 moves Tony Stark’s personal story forward significantly. We see a more emotional Stark and a more vulnerable one – with his personal demons exposed and confronted, making him a more sympathetic character.
Also sympathetic, more problematically, is Mickey Rourke’s super-villain. Imbuing him with psychological depth and sly humour, it is difficult not to warm to Whiplash. Indeed, it’s likely that you’ll emit an internal cheer when he’s on screen. This means that part of you is rooting for the mean-looking badass.
However, a jaw-dropping sequence set at the Monaco Grand Prix, though a little far-fetched, it’s essentially awesome with some mind-blowing action and special effects.
Injected with the same early-era James Bond-style knowing humour and touches of post-modern irony that helped make the first such fun, it is mostly enjoyable, even though the humour works to create a sense of detachment which deadens the thrills the action is at pains to create.
Newcomers Don Cheadle (who takes over the role of Rhodey from Terrence Howard) and Scarlett Johansson add an extra dimension with their presence, while Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr show they are settled into their roles with some affectionate verbal sparring.
Arguably, Sam Rockwell steals the film with his swaggering and vain power-obsessed industrialist with fake tan-stained palms, who wants nothing more than to steal Stark’s glory.
Iron Man 2 may not quite have the pizazz and sparkle of its predecessor but it sure ain’t no dud.