10 May 2010: Iron Man 2 review

On Friday, 7 May 2010, Janice and I met Ken G. and his colleague Bill B. to screen Iron Man 2 at the IMAX theater at Jordan’s Furniture in Natick, Massachusetts. We liked the superhero sequel, which had much of the action and witty dialogue of its predecessor and continued building to an eventual Avengers movie.

Disney/Marvel's Iron Man 2
Man of Iron

Robert Downey Jr. brought the same charisma and internal conflict to Tony Stark/Iron Man that he had to the first movie and to Guy Ritchie’s recent Sherlock
. Gwyneth Paltrow returned as his “gal Friday” Pepper Potts, and Jon Favreau (who plays chauffeur Happy Hogan) juggled the development of multiple characters better than many sequel directors.

They were joined by newcomers including Scarlett Johansson as Natalia Romanov and Don Cheadle (replacing Terence Howard) as Lt.Col. James Rhodes/War Machine, plus Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury, director of SHIELD. As usual, Stan “the Man” Lee had a brief cameo. I had worried that an enlarged cast and multiple villains would bog down the plot, but Favreau managed to keep the story moving, and the script had a lot of humor to balance the pyrotechnics.

Mickey Rourke played Ivan Vanko, a composite of the comic book villains Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo, Viggo Mortensen’s tough guy in Eastern Promises, and his own comebacks in The Wrestler and Sin City. While Vanko is a mix of brains and brawn, Sam Rockwell’s military industrialist Justin Hammer (channeling Gary Oldman’s Zorg in The Fifth Element) tries to match Stark’s ego. I also just watched Rockwell in the more quiet science fiction film Moon, which harkened back to 2001: A Space
and Outland.

Without giving away any “spoilers,” the plot of Iron Man 2 follows closely after the origin story. Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark has revealed his identity as the armored vigilante, increasing his fame and ego but also endangering everything he has built by drawing out new rivals.

I liked how the movie portrayed next-generation human-computer interfaces, the role (or lack thereof) of security technology and its social implications, and the use of the World’s Fair grounds in Flushing, Queens, near where I once lived.

Iron Man 2‘s cinematography was pretty good, with the excellent costumes again inspired by Adi Granov’s designs. The chase and fight scenes could have been a bit clearer, though. I understand that setting them at night, in water, or at high speeds
makes the transitions between actors and computer-generated images smoother, but on the large IMAX screen, my eyes didn’t always know where to track. Several
critics have also complained about the movie’s pacing, militarism, and snarky

On the other hand, as a longtime fan of comic book superheroes, I was pleased to see several “Easter eggs,” or clues to the larger Marvel universe. Favreau stayed true to the history and spirit of the source material. Kenneth Branagh’s Thor will be next, in early 2011. Overall, I’d give Iron Man 2, which was rated PG-13 for language and violence, an 8 out of 10, a B+, or three stars.

The strong box office for Iron Man 2 marked the beginning of the summer movie season. Let’s hope that it’s a good one! I’ll probably see Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood or the video game adaptation Prince of Persia: Sands of Time next.

Coming soon: Travel, genre television, games, and comics!

>>2010 movies

-“Daybreakers” (vampires) ***/B

-“The Secret of Kells” (animated) ***/A-

-“How to Train Your Dragon” (fantasy comedy)

-“Clash of the Titans” (fantasy remake) ***/B

-“Iron Man 2” (superheroes) ***/B+