|Tony Stark and Pepper Potts discuss the ins and outs of Mickey Rourke's face.|
Iron Man 2, really the only superhero treat we got this year, is new on DVD today. Here's my original review from The Huntsville Item.
Iron Man 2 is bigger and badder, but still second best.
I must confess that, prior to seeing “Iron Man” hit the big screen in 2008, I was never much a fan of the superhero. He didn’t have the mystery and darkness of Batman, or the mythological bite of Superman, or even the youthful energy of Spider-Man. The Tony Stark I knew from comic books was a dry, distant figure, often self-righteous, and sometimes just plain dull.
Then Robert Downey Jr. stepped into his shoes, and the billionaire playboy with the powersuit became one of my new best friends. He’s quirky, he’s flawed, he’s got an honest to God sense of humor, and he’s just plain cool. Cross that character with one of the finest actors of his generation, and you really can’t miss.
“Iron Man” is also one of the best two hour investments of time I’ve ever made. Movies don’t come much more fun that that, and if you haven’t seen it, you really are missing a milestone of awesomeness.
All of that is just a long way of saying that all the hype surrounding the release of “Iron Man 2” was and is absolutely justified. Trailers painted the flick as something with all the wit, action and breakneck velocity of the original, but with more stars, bigger effects, and more blockbuster polish. It’s rare that a sequel lives up to its predecessor, but “Iron Man 2” really did look like it had a shot.
Notice I used past tense there. It had a shot.
While it’s still a blast to watch, the biggest problem with “Iron Man 2” is that it’s trying too hard to be the ultimate superhero movie. It’s all ambition and no heart, all glory and no guts, and in the end it amounts to what you get when you buy generic ice cream. It’s good, but it ain’t Blue Bell, if you can dig that.
It’s been six months since Tony Stark (Downey) became Iron Man and changed the world. Countries are at peace for the first time in decades, Stark’s business is booming, and he’s staging a giant, yearlong Stark Expo for the first time since his father held one in 1974.
But under the surface, something menacing is lurking. The palladium that powers the ARC reactor (that big shiny thingy in his chest) that’s keeping him alive is slowly killing him at the same time, turning his blood toxic. And if that weren’t enough, in a dark tenement somewhere in Moscow, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is building his own powersuit, readying himself to bring a decades-old vendetta against the Stark family to fruition.
Oh, and the Senate Armed Services Committee is trying to take the Iron Man suit away, Stark’s got a sexy new assistant (Scarlett Johansson), his best friend Rhodey Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is torn between helping him and helping his own career, government ops guru Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) won’t get of his back, and a rival arms manufacturer (Sam Rockwell) is bent on building a suit of his own.
Don’t worry, stretch all that out over two hours and it’s a little easier to follow, but even then, we’ve got a classic case of overstory on our hands. Plot lines are run out so far that by the end of the film they’re cut short more than they’re tied up. Characters drift in and out, tension builds and then crumbles, and there’s no clear sense of something big looming on the horizon (not necessarily a problem, just something I like to see in action movies).
Still, in spite of all that, director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) and screenwriter Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”), ensure that there’s never a dull moment. The action in “Iron Man 2” is still hard and heavy, even if it doesn’t feel as organic and fresh as it did the first time. From a Monaco racetrack to a Japanese garden, the fight scenes still hold their allure, and even when the action isn’t at full throttle, there’s enough gadgets, effects and visual charm to make even the slow moments just plain, well…Boss.
Downey Jr. continues to prove his meddle on the blockbuster circuit in his reprise of the Tony Stark role. He’s every bit as charming as he was the first time, and even more comfortable in Iron Man’s skin. Gwyneth Paltrow returns to give a deeper, albeit smaller, performance as Pepper Potts. Don Cheadle is excellent, taking over the Rhodey Rhodes role from Terrance Howard. Rockwell oozes sleaze (in a good way) and plays the snob like he’s having a blast. And Rourke…well, he’s pretty much just Mickey Rourke with a Russian accent, and that’s just fine with me.
If it seems like I’m double talking with my dual criticisms and praises of this flick, I do apologize, but I really did have a blast while seeing some very noticeable flaws at the same time. “Iron Man 2” is one of the best blockbusters we’re likely to see in 2010. It’s funny, it’s cool, it’s action-packed, everything you want for popcorn cinema bliss. But it’s also muddled, stiff, and tries to force too many elements into too little time. If there’s an “Iron Man 3” (and come, you know there will be), Marvel Films needs to take a cue from Tony Stark and his magnificent suit. Streamline it.
Matt’s Call: It doesn’t beat the original, but it’s still worth seeing (several times, if you like). Take the whole family, buy a lot of popcorn, and take in all the cool. Oh, and stay for the credits. I was shocked at how many people were walking out. It’s a Marvel flick, folks. There’s a coda. Stick around.