Iron Man 2 (2.5 of 4)

The biggest problem with this arc-reactor powered action movie stems from an overly star-powered cast. John Favreau probably had a meeting the first day of the shoot that went something like this: “Thanks for showing up, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson, but we have less than two hours of movie to work with, mind sharing?”

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark only this time he’s less of a public phenom and more of alcoholic, egotistical prick. And he likes it that way. The conflict arises between his irresponsibility and the great pressure put on him by the world leaders to keep peace around the planet (Iron Man negotiates treaties to stop nukes?).

Sam Rockwell plays Justin Hammer, owner of an arms manufacturing company, he bails out criminals and deals closely with US Military Generals. I know what you’re thinking: “How does he cover up a wicked evil scheme like that?” I don’t know. I only watched the movie. I do know it looks very easy.

Iron Man 2 introduces roughly 912837 characters it doesn’t need. Among them are the wonderful Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson. Sadly, as wonderful and talented as they may be, they are merely excess here. In a movie filled with some of my favorite actors I was surprised to find myself bored of them. There were moments sitting in the theater where I was twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next relevant thing to happen.

What I was given was some interesting background development of Stark. His dad, his ego and his shortcomings are all explained in a rather implausible but highly effective scene where he watches his dad’s company’s old promotional video. They bond through time and the magic of home videos, it’s touching, but we have 912837 characters to think about so let’s move on.

Stark’s father and Ivan Vanko’s (Mickey Rourke) father worked together, Ivan is sort of angsty about the way that Tony has used their fathers’ brilliance. So when his father dies, he does the only reasonable thing and become a super-villain. I’m not complaining, Rourke’s character is cool. Very cool. Vanko trying to kill Stark on a race track is hands down the best scene in the movie, and includes some of the coolest effects (the briefcase to Iron Man costume change, and Vanko’s energy-whip arm extensions).

After the assault however, Vanko is locked up in “maximum security.” Hammer creates an elaborate escape plan for Vanko and then hires him (he has lots of US military money to spend) to construct an army. The army will serve two purposes: 1) It will make trillions of dollars and 2) It will turn Hammer into a rock star which is very important. Vanko double crosses Hammer (surprise!) and recreates his own arc-reactor suit to fight Iron Man again. The movie ends in a 20 second final battle that redefines anti-climactic.

The acting is solid, the action and effects are (when they happen) fantastic, the players are cool. However, the 35 minutes that are devoted to Jackson and Johansson should’ve been given to Rourke. Vanko as a character was far more interesting and fun to watch. I liked the movie, just not as much as I could have. 

A true enemy was never fully grasped, Favreau had the opportunity, he put a great villain on the screen, made him look fierce and then forgot about him so everyone could see Johansson in a bra. In short the movie wasn’t long enough to do the characters justice and the characters were why we came back for round two in the first place.

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