There's a lot going on in this film and I didn't even mention the subplot involving S.H.E.I.L.D., the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Avengers Initiative. Amazingly, despite all these storylines, the film never feels too weighed down. The focus is still kept mainly on Tony Stark, and Robert Downey Jr. is capable of carrying the bulk of this movie alone. The acting once again is a clear highlight here, and the banter between Tony and just about any character is entertaining to watch, particularly with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, a rival wannabe Tony Stark, is a bit of a scene stealer. He’s surprisingly funny as the new military weapons designer that's clearly trying very hard to be just like Tony Stark was at the start of the first film. Mickey Rourke is interesting as Ivan Vanko (or Whiplash, though he's never actually called that) and he downplays the character a great deal. He never seems too over the top, but after his initial appearance, he definitely takes a backseat to the rest of the cast until the finale. The action in this film is a big improvement over the last in terms of quantity and scale, but it's clear that the dialogue and acting is the main driving force of the film, much as it was in the first. Jon Favreau emphasizes character interaction over action and I think that this is a big part of what makes this franchise interesting and different from other super hero films. Don Cheadle is worth mentioning as he does a terrific job replacing Terrence Howard as James Rhodes. Rhodey has a lot more to do in this film as he struggles with his desire to help his best friend and his duty to his country. The way the War Machine suit manifests itself makes sense under the circumstances and character development. All of the characters have motivations and they make sense. Tonally, the film picks up right where the last one left off. It still has the same level of humor and never gets too dark either, even when dealing with some more serious issues like Tony Stark’s drinking problem.
|Iron Man & War Machine|
Still, as I said before, I am very familiar with the comics and seeing all these elements of the Marvel Universe come to life is kind of cool (in an admittedly nerdy way).
Iron Man 2 is a very good follow up to the first, building on everything that worked before. It may be a bit unmerciless towards the general audience with its comic book references, but with outstanding performances by the entire cast and some great action scenes, it's a film worth seeing. The story (S.H.E.I.L.D. subplot aside) is very thought out. There are some interesting parallels between Tony and Ivan, both of whom are technological geniuses trying to fulfill their father's legacy. The arms race quality of the film fits with the concept of the character. The Iron Man armor is technology, so everyone in the world is now trying to make something better. This contributes to the need for Tony to be ahead of his competition by upgrading the suit. I think the most interesting part of the story is that it addresses the idea of the secret identity. First, what happens when a super hero reveals who he is? Apparently everyone comes after him whether it's the government or some crazed super villain. They also target him directly. Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same; he doesn't change in anyway when wearing the costume (as opposed to Superman, Spider-Man or Batman). The Iron Man armor is just a tool. It’s the man inside that makes the character. This is why the film even shows Iron Man before Tony Stark. Instead of building up and waiting to see the first big suit up sequence, they reverse it and instead hold off on showing the guy inside. The big reveal sequence comes after seeing Iron Man fly through fireworks and land on a stage. Tony Stark steps out of the armor, wearing a tuxedo, and addresses a cheering crowd with, "It's good to be back!" And it's certainly good to have him back.