Well the first big blockbuster of the summer is now upon us. And how did old shellhead do in his second movie? (And warning-spoilers ahead!)
When we last left Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) he had just come out as the invincible Iron Man. And in between films he has been using his new identity to save the world. But it has come with a price-he is being killed by the same technology keeping him alive. If that wasn't enough, the US Government wants him to hand over the Iron Man technology. But his biggest threat comes from both a rival arms manufacturer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian whose father had been Tony's former partner and who Vanko felt was robbed of his glory and who takes on the identity of Whiplash to destroy Tony and Iron Man. Can Iron Man save the day and himself? Is the hot new assistant Natalie (Scarlett Johanssen) a friend or foe? And can the film live up to the first one?
I guess confession time folks-I loved the first Iron Man. In fact I'll even say it was probably the best superhero movie ever, second only to the original Superman with Christopher Reeve. The reason was Downey-he inhabited Tony Stark and made him a real character. The film also benefited from the guiding hand of Jon Favreau, who proved he could handle big scale action and keep the movie from turning into an empty FX showcase. But when it comes to Iron Man 2 it has a lot going for it. Is it as good as the first one? No and I'll get to that in a moment. But compared to such recent misfires like Spider-Man 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, its a masterpiece. Again Favreau keeps the focus on Tony but also manages to give the other characters their moments-especially Gwyneth Paltrow, returning as Tony's harried secretary Pepper Potts, and Don Cheadle who manages to take over from Terence Howard the role of James Rhodes pretty well. Johanssen also handles her role well, even if it is smaller than what the previews lead you to believe, and there is some fun appearances from Garry Shandling and Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his cameo role as Nick Fury. Even Favreau gets some laughs as Happy Morgan, Tony's driver and bodyguard.
Where I felt the film does falter is in its villains. Not that Rourke or Rockwell was bad in either role-in fact they were both good-but they were underused and ultimately not as memorable as Jeff Bridges in the first film. Also the final battle was pretty much just an enlarged version of the last film's ending, just with more explosions (all of it done well by ILM and Double Negative). Again not bad but it has a feeling of been there, done that to it.
Even with those little nitpicks, Iron Man 2 is still a fun flick. It might not be as great as the first one but it still manages to entertain. (And yes stay through the credits. Your geek senses will tingle.) My rating: ***out of ****.