Iron Man was one of my favorite films of 2008, so it should go without saying that Iron Man 2 would be one of my most anticipated films of this year. Sometimes when you anticipate a movie so much it can do nothing but let you down. Iron Man 2 doesn’t necessarily live up to the standard that its predecessor set but it still managed to capture my imagination for two hours and in the process deliver what is the best comic book movie I’ve seen in nearly two years.
Iron Man 2 kicks off just a few months after the events of the first one. Tony Stark, played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr., is living it up as the newly unmasked superhero Iron Man. Fast cars and faster women are all common place for Stark and he seemingly lives on the edge, just one step away from being out of control. Those without a deep sense of the character may perceive Stark as having forgotten the events that led him to become Iron Man in the first place, this is not the case though. Tony needs to operate in this fashion or he ceases to be Tony Stark and instead becomes just another billionaire with no drive or inspiration.
With Iron Man out in the open the US government wants a piece of the action and orders Stark to hand over the Iron Man prototypes. Stark refuses and this sets him at odds with his country and also puts a strain on the relationship with his best friend, Lt Col. James Rhodes or Rhodey (Don Cheadle). And while things are falling apart at home, halfway around the globe more bad things are unfolding for Tony, in the form of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Vanko is the son of a Russian scientist who had a close relationship with Tony’s father and ultimately helped come up with the idea for the Arc Reactor (the little thing powering Tony’s heart). Vanko feeling a need for vengeance on the Stark family sets out to destroy him by utilizing his father’s notes. Vanko plays right into the hands of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Stark’s main competitor in the arms industry and things go from bad to worse and Tony is tasked with finding a way to remedy the situation he ultimately put himself into.
The story itself is not the strongest ever seen in a comic book movie but it did just enough to keep me interested and allowed the performances to take over. As previously mentioned Robert Downey Jr plays Stark to perfection but almost everyone else in this film seems like they got the memo to bring their A game, well all but one but we’ll get to that… The previously mentioned Rourke, Cheadle and Rockwell all deliver strong charismatic performances. Rourke in particular gives his Vanko character an evil tinge that really stands out. Outside of them though, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson are great as Pepper Pots and Natasha Romanoff respectively and damn if Johansson does not look smoking hot in her Black Widow outfit.
Sadly the one character a lot of fans were probably looking forward may leave feeling utterly disappointed in his performance, that character of course being Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury. While Jackson was fine in his cameo role from the first film, his role in Iron Man 2 has been extended quite a bit and his dialogue and delivery is just plain awful. Half of my issue with Fury can be chalked up to poorly written dialogue but the other half is all Jackson himself as he seems to just not get the tone of the film and delivers a performance that just does not work. It is a shame because the Fury from the Ultimate Marvel line was modeled after Jackson and it ultimately landed him the cross franchise role but someone needs to explain to him how to deliver the lines.
Jackson is not the only issue with the film though. Ultimately the film runs a bit long (just over two hours), spends too much time introducing things for future Avenger related films, and ends (much like the first one) on such an anticlimactic note that you may end up wondering why Iron Man just can not seem to get a good solid battle in against anyone other than his best friend. That is not to say the action in Iron Man 2 is not fun. It is. In fact the action in Iron Man 2 surpasses just about everything from the first one but it is just lacking that certain something special that made me want to see the first one again immediately. Regardless of its issues though, Iron Man 2 is a fun film and it is summer movie magic that deserves to be watched.
4 out of 5