Whether or not you enjoy Iron Man 2, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), will depend on what you want from a comic book adaptation. Complex character development, moving emotional arcs, and plausible plot lines? Not so much. But sassy one-liners, fun fight sequences, and slick production? This could be the film that suits you.
Robert Downey Jr. suits up again as the arrogant, narcissistic, occasionally pacifistic Tony Stark, the super-rich super-genius come super-hero. After saving the world in the previous film, Tony revealed his alter ego to a hero-hungry America. Also reprising her role is Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s flame-haired, ice-queen secretary Pepper Potts. Don Cheadle (Ocean’s Eleven franchise) as Lt. Col. Rhodey, the wisecracking sidekick type, has replaced Terrence Howard. Now out of the costumed closet, Stark must battle adversity on two fronts: first, against the American government, who want him to turn over the “Iron Man weapon”; second, against the Russian criminal Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler) who wants to wreak his revenge against Tony for his father’s death. Which wouldn’t usually be a problem – c’mon, Iron Man’s entire body is a specialised weapon – except that Vanko has harnessed the technology that created Tony’s heart, and made himself some rather more dangerous body parts: giant electric whips.
Mickey Rourke’s isn’t the only the only new famous face to be added to this already star studded cast. Also making an appearance is Sam Rockwell (Moon) as Justin Hammer, Stark’s sharp-suited and well-bespectacled business competitor, who gets in over his all-too-human head when he funds Vanko’s scheme to bring Stark down from the sky. Scarlett Johansson (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) shows up as Natalie Rushmore, a sex bomb, superhero secret agent and… well, her role is a little ill defined, but probably because her character’s point is to show off a rather more skin-tight costume than Stark’s metal suit.
If this review seems to concentrate unduly on the extended ensemble cast of the film, it is because that is one of the most enjoyable elements of Iron Man 2. Robert Downey Jr (if one believes his personality in interviews) is just as charismatic, chatty and over-confident as his character, and he is incredibly enjoyable to watch in the role. The love-hate relationship between Tony Stark and the long-suffering Pepper Potts is another highlight, and their biting banter is strangely touching.
Considering that the numerous fight sequences in both the first and the second film had the potential to look very similar – in all cases, it’s merely men in robotic suits trying to prove who has the biggest, steeliest body – the action scenes are still very watchable. Although it must be said that the pace slows somewhat towards the end of the film, and the final showdown between Ivan Vanko and Tony Stark is a little lacklustre.
Luckily, Iron Man 2 isn’t the mechanical affair that many have come to expect from sequels. It’s mostly fact-paced and fun, a technicolour technological adventure. Iron Man’s heart may be mechanical, but it’s still beating.
Iron Man 2 is in Australian cinemas now
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson