On paper, it shouldn’t have worked: a movie starring a formerly uninsurable actor as a B-level comic superhero, directed by the guy who made Elf. But Iron Man was a worldwide critical and financial smash, so a sequel was simply a question of when, not if, it would be made.
And like many other superhero sequels, Iron Man 2 stacks its deck with more characters, both heroes and villains, as if to laugh in the face of those sequels that sucked when they did the same thing. (Batman Forever, anyone?)
Ever since playboy millionaire magnate Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) revealed he’s Iron Man at the end of the first film, he’s amassed a rockstar-like following by the public, while congressmen and the US military demand he hand over the Iron Man suit in the name of national security.
With his newfound fame and success as Iron Man, Stark is even cockier and more reckless than before – throwing his weight around and frustrating both the government (including buddy Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle)) and his co-workers (especially newly appointed Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)).
Watching all of Stark’s shenanigans from Russia is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who has a score he intends to settle with the Stark family. Further complicating things is smarmy government weapons contractor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who’s jealous of Stark’s success. And to top it all off, the mini reactor that gives both Iron Man and Stark life (Stark’s heart was severely injured in the first film) is slowly killing him by turning his blood toxic.
Much like Tony Stark, Iron Man 2 lacks a true heart. Despite a handful of explosive action scenes and hero/villain posturing, there’s something missing that makes it more of a passive, detached experience than it should be. Not that director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Thoreaux don’t try to make things engaging and deep, including Stark and Vanko wrestling with daddy issues during their sins-of-the-fathers plotline.
And a warning to anyone who (like me) geeked out at the early footage of Rourke as Whiplash, as he tore things up at the Monaco Grand Prix: Savor what you saw, because that’s all you get of Whiplash until the finale. In between, Rourke is simply Ivan Vanko, a thug with a physics degree who helps Justin Hammer create military drones to outperform Iron Man and make him obsolete.
On the plus side, most attempts at humor succeed. And things get blowed up real good during the action sequences (the finale involving Iron Man, War Machine, an army of killer robot drones, and Whiplash 2.0 is off the hook). But in the end, Iron Man 2 seems to be missing an intangible modicum of fun that made the original such a blast.
Is it suitable for your kids?Iron Man 2 is rated PG-13 for “intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.” Some examples:
* Vanko breaks a prison guard’s neck
* Lots of explosions, comic-book fighting/violence, and a mayhem-laden finale in which a main character dies in a fiery bomb blast
* A drunk Stark celebrating at his birthday party
* Innuendos and profanities
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?If she’s a fan of Iron Man or Downey, then probably. Even so, wait for the rental.
* Director: Jon Favreau
* Screenwriter: Justin Theroux
* Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Garry Shandling
* MPAA Rating: PG-13