The biggest comic-book film of the year so far was released this week and looked up to the task of being a decent superhero sequel. Jon Favreau returns as director with Iron Man 2 (2010) and Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes, 2009) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Shallow Hal, 2001) also return.
We left Iron Man (2008) with technological CEO Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) revealing himself as the real life super hero Iron Man. Stark is on trial now as the US government orders him to hand over the technology that allows him to be Iron Man, namely his powerful suit. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is the expert in the trial and happens to also be Stark’s rival, but gets shot down, with the prosecuting side, as Stark announces himself as the ultimate nuclear deterrent and author of world peace.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourk), the son of Stark’s father’s partner, has a family vendetta to revenge and proceeds by reconstructing the technology Stark has and attacking him. As he is defeated by Iron Man, Hammer secretly recruits Vanko to invent and manufacture for him. Despondent at a seemingly unstoppable illness, Stark appoints his love interest, Pepper Potts (Paltrow) as CEO and begins a thrill-seeking existenc which is soon halted by old comrade, Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) who confiscates one of Stark’s suits for army use.
At his lowest, Stark is approached, in a very Pulp Fiction esque canteen, by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), head of anti-terrorist group SHIELD, who reveals Vanko’s identity and leads Stark into a new inspiration to carry on his father’s work in energy. This work helps him to overcome his illness, build a stronger suit and combat Hammer’s demo of his new weapons, created with Vanko’s help. The climax of the film arrives as Vanko controls his inventions, against Hammer’s will, along with the suit Rhodes took, and Iron Man once again is called to the rescue.
Iron Man is an interesting comic-book superhero with his lack of particularly super power. His extra power comes from his own technology which he controls and adds his human prowess to make the super-hero, and this fact makes the Iron Man films different to others in this genre. It gives a nice naturalism that it’s not just a freaky, radioactive accident that creates the hero; rather, more believable technology does the trick. Downey Jr. also helps make the character of Iron Man with his righteous arrogance: is it right to be so arrogant if it’s well founded? Even though through the ups and downs you hate the character of Tony Stark, he, and Iron Man, are still loveable characters.
Favreau’s comedy background helps to make this film quite comedic and light hearted but the tongue-in-cheek nature of Iron Man 2 maybe takes from the realistic feel. However, what doesn’t take from the film is the visual and special effects. The suits are excellent, as before, and the electric whip weapon from Vanko was impressive. The race and fight scene in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix was spectacular, if a little over the top, and the ending battle sequence was excellent.
Iron Man 2 is a classic comic-book film: based on the original character with added comedy, excellent effects and a classic battle between good and evil. Ultimately it doesn’t live up to its predecessor and it takes a while to really get going but it’s definitely worth a watch for comic-book and action fans.
Stay til the end of the credits to catch another big mention of the frequently hinted and hugely anticipated Avengers movie, scheduled for release in 2012.
Iron Man 2 = 7/10