Iron Man 2 (2010) dir. Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johanson
By Alan Bacchus
Remember when Iron Man came out, and shortly after its success, press swirled about Jon Favreau’s reluctance to quickly put its sequel into production without proper development and prep? And for a while there Favreau's participation really was up in the air. Of course, he smartly stayed on board (his producer Peter Billingsley did not), took the paycheque, delivered a competent movie which has coasted to a huge box office riding on the coattails of the previous film. But the dullness and soullessness of “Iron Man 2” only proves that Favreau was right. IM2 feels like a hastily put together slapdashery without any of the genuine love for character which made the first film so unique for it's genre.
The failure of “Iron Man 2” just shows why the first movie was so good in the first place. It took half the movie before we even saw the Iron Man suit, an hour long build up of suspense to reveal Tony Stark’s alter ego. Now, at the top of IM2, the suit is built, Iron Man is already a superhero, and there’s very little to reveal in this film. Stark's character reverts to his egomaniac capitalist persona again, having started up his own Stark Expo in New York and very publicly fighting off the US Military who want access to his suit.
The baddie this time round is Mickey Rourke as a Russian scientist Ivan Danko who seeks revenge against Stark for his wrongdoings against his father, in some manufactured backstory. Rourke’s scene chewing is to be expected and his overly tattooed and generally dirty appearance is off-putting, and even stranger is that he spends most of his screen time typing away at a computer. His introduction builds up wonderfully to the film’s best sequence, a fight with Stark and Iron Man at the Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately his character is left aimless without seemingly much purpose or ‘stuff to do’ until he shows up at the end for another big fight scene, with, of course another big-ass metal suit.
We all knew Rhodey would get more involved, don one Stark’s suits and join him in the fight. Unfortunately Don Cheadle doesn’t fit the suit as well as Terrence Howard might have, in fact he actually looks awkward encased in metal, a suit whose CG rendering looks glaringly obvious this time round.
The sexual tension between Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Pots character which generated the best character development for Stark, is rendered virtually inert in this one. Same with the future Avengers plotting. Of course we know Marvel is laying ground work for an eventual link up of their superhero characters for an ultimate supermovie with Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America. Unfortunately we only get a minor scraping of this story. In fact, most of the Nick Fury/Agent Coulson scenes serve more as comic relief than a broadening of the mythology of the story. Like IM1 and The Incredible Hulk we’re treated to a post-end credits scene teasing us for the Avengers film. “Thor” makes his first appearance, which indeed picks up the excitement factor...
Scarlett Johanson makes the best addition. At once a neat sexual tease and competition for Pepper Pots as well as a good excuse for an action scene which doesn’t involve the Iron Man suit. Her break in to Hammer’s layer and the hand-to-hand choreography is magnificent.
Despite Scarjo, “Iron Man 2” is otherwise a flatline affair. No one really seems to know what to do with Iron Man, the suit, Pepper Pots, SHIELD, Rhodey or Ivan Danko. Everyone seems lost and lacking in guidance. Paramount should have listened to Favreau two years ago.