Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2: A Review of the Summer Season's Opener

Iron Man 2: Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind

A Better Clash of Titans

A re you ready for an action-adventure thrill ride? Good, well buckle up for "Iron Man 2" as Robert Downey, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Gwyneth Paltrow hit the big screens Friday. Once again Downey pulls an over the top performance as the man with the cool suit. This two-hour fast paced, rocket ride of a film, advances the Iron Man story, giving us an opportunity to re-enjoy the experience of the first film without rehashing too much of the first story. Fun for the whole family, actor, and director Jon Favreau maintains the directing the helm for "Iron Man 2" while continuing his part as Stark's sideman, Happy Hogan. Like the first film, "Iron Man," make sure you stay for the end credits for the sneak peek of "Iron Man 3."

Picking up where "Iron Man" left off, media images recount Stark's rise to fame as he announces his identity as Iron Man. The scene settles somewhere in a dingy apartment in a squalid Russia city, Anton Vanko and his son Ivan (Mickey Rourke) watch Stark making his announcement. As Anton lies dying, Ivan promises revenge. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) aka Iron Man has problems of his own. Apparently, the device Tony stuck in his chest in the last movie is causing his blood to toxify and he is slowly poisoning himself to death, unable to create a new source of power to keep him and the suit working, Tony figures his end is near. After 35 years, Tony throws another Stark Expo, a yearlong extravaganza of technology and advancement. A bread and circus for the 21st century man, showing a film clip of his father, Howard Stark, played by John Slattery ("Mad Men"), looking like Walt Disney, shows of his, World of Tomorrow where, Everything is achievable through technology. George Lucas once said, "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing," and writer/actor Justin Theroux, strives to give "Iron Man 2" a story, failing that he gives it plenty of action. The story meanders a bit, but with all the explosions going on most folks won't notice. Like the James Bond films, auto placement is key in marketing "Iron Man," leaving Stark Expo, and heading for his Audi R8 Spyder V10, Tony and Happy meet with a court subpoena delivered by a U.S. Marshal played by Kate Mara (The Shooter) in a brief appearance. Look for Stan Lee ("Iron Man" creator) in the expo crowd.

Iron Man 2: Mickey Rourke - Ivan Vanko | A Constantly Racing Mind
The United States government, led by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), along with Stark's principal competitor, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) of Hammer Industries, conspires in a plot to gain control of the Iron Man weapon. Stark, in a scene before a congressional hearing that is reminiscent of Howard Hughes in 1947, appeals to the audience with his charisma and his popularity. At the end of the scene, Tony declares that he, Tony Stark, is Iron Man and that he and the suit are one and the government can't have either. Sam Rockwell ("Moon"), playing corporate rival Justin Hammer, gives the film yet another main character to wander off into. In addition to Cheadle, enter Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman, legal aid to Tony and Pepper Potts. Oh, yes Pepper Potts played once again by Gwyneth Paltrow, taking a backseat in the movie, while taking charge of Stark Industries. The trailer for "Iron Man 2" shows a developing relationship that never seemed to make it to the theaters. My only thought there would be; is something going to happen in "Iron Man 3?" Replacing Terrance Howard as Stark's military buddy and confidant, 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Air Force Colonel, is Don Cheadle. In my mind, either Cheadle or Howard could have pulled off this part. Both are brilliant actors; however, this part is only a fourth order part as the real credit goes to Mickey Rourke. Rourke has a plain and ugly, tattoo ridden, smelly, bad greasy-hair look that genuinely makes his villain of a character work. Ivan (Rourke) puts a suit together that rivals Tony's and he presents it at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. Like a gladiator with electric whips, as part of Ivan's suit's weaponry, Ivan destroys formula one cars, until he crashes Tony's car, Tony barely escapes with the help of Happy, and Pepper and a nice big Roll Royce. With Ivan in prison, Stark must confront the fact that without a power supply that does not poison his blood, he is going to die. Convinced by Natalie/Natasha (Johansson) that he should do whatever he wants for his last birthday, Stark dons the Iron Man suit, gets drunk, and dances around foolishly embarrassing himself, and puts his guests in danger. Rhodes intervenes by donning one of Tony's spare suits, and the two battle it out in true clash of the Titans form. After the battle, Rhodes steals the suit and escapes to Edwards Air force Base, in the Mojave Desert, in the California desert. The military, in league with Justin Hammer, plan to militarize the stolen suit. Hammer has Ivan busted out of prison and recruits him to build working Iron Man suits for his company. Ivan, on the other hand, decides to make Iron Man drones for Hammer, instead of Iron Man suits. George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the industry standard in special effects since 1977, is an expert on creating drone armies, and on behalf of Ivan Vanko create a set for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

Iron Man 2: Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff   | A Constantly Racing Mind
As promised in the first movie, at the very end, after the credits Nick Fury, (Samuel L. Jackson), appears in "Iron Man 2" as behind the scenes guiding force for Tony Stark. As a friend of Tony's father, Howard, Jackson, and agent, Natasha/Natalie, the girl from legal that Pepper hired into Stark Industries, provide and direct Tony toward the key to solving the problem of a clean power supply for himself and insight to his father's intentions for Tony. Robert Downey is "Iron Man," and his charisma is what carries this character and the film. Downey spends more time out of the suit than in the suit, developing the narcissistic, unstable, flawed yet brilliant, Tony Stark. Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow, as Cheadle and even Jackson, are minor characters compared to Rourke and Rockwell. Both actors add to and compliment Downey's role. The special effects are fantastic, and help to tell the story and not overcome it. Favreau does an excellent job, putting an extremely action oriented story in a cohesive manner that gets the story across, develops the multitude of characters, keeps the pace moving and give himself just enough screen time to make his part more than a cameo. Favreau features AC/DC songs from their long career, ranging from "Highway to Hell," "Back in Black" and about twelve others, adding to the sheer thrill to the film.

As the summer movie season begins, "Iron Man 2" is a worthy successor to Iron Man. This film moves the story, and characters to another level. Iron Man2 lives up to the viewer's expectations of what an action-adventure film sequel should be. Heed my warning do not leave the theater until after the credits, to see for yourself what may be coming in "Iron Man 3."

Movie Data
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Year:  2010
Staring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke
Director: Jon Favreau
Producer(s): Kevin Feige
Writer: Justin Theroux, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: 5/10/2010

Originally published on Associated Content on 5/10/2010

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