1 May 2010

Screen Time: IRON MAN 2

By Matt C

IRON MAN 2
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Jon Favreau

Runtime: 124mins
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 30 April 2010

Let’s get this out of the way first: no, it’s not as good as the original. There’s been a trend for superhero sequels to better their predecessors (see X2, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight) but Iron Man 2 doesn’t quite follow suit. It retains a lot of the magic that made the first film such an enjoyable (and unexpected) smash hit, but it lacks the freshness (which is understandable) as well as a cohesive structure and a narrative that really grips tightly. However, while it’s freewheeling nature often gets the better of it (an approach that might derail many a motion picture), the talent involved in this production ensure things remain on the right track.

Tony’s on top of the world since outing himself as Iron Man: the public love both him and his alter-ego, and there’s been a period of relative peace across the globe. But, while he projects an image of unbridled self-confidence, things aren’t quite as rosy as they appear on the outside. The arc reactor in his chest that’s been keeping him alive is slowly beginning to poison him; the US government are hounding him, trying to get their hands on the Iron Man armour; business rival Justin Hammer is starting to become more than an just a simple annoyance; and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, is pestering him to join the Avenger Initiative. The tipping point comes when eccentric Russian Ivan Vanko launches his vengeful plan to bring Stark down to his knees.

As before, Downey Jr is the key to this flick’s success. There are plenty of other essential elements but it’s Downey Jr’s unstoppable charisma that gives Iron Man 2 that added dimension. Sure, you can thrill at the unveiling of War Machine, the Monaco racing set piece, Black Widow in action, or the numerous Easter eggs for Marvel’s fanboys, but it’s Downey Jr’s performance that keeps things from floundering, especially when the plot seems to lose its direction. Most of the scenes taken alone, are excellent, but they don’t always gel together, as though all the ideas thrown in are vying for superiority with the end result being that none of them are outright winners. There’s a distinct lack of a high level of threat too, and bar a few tense scenes, there’s never any doubt that everything’s going to be okay in the end. Usually in sequels it’s on opportunity to ramp things up, increase the danger, but Iron Man 2 instead opts for keeping things as they were, sometimes less so.

These niggles prevent Jon Favreau's movie from becoming a certifiable superhero classic instead of a very good comic book blockbuster. It’s impossible to dislike it even if you find yourself wishing you’d gotten more substance from it, and the way it continues to lay the foundations for the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ (producer Kevin Feige’s words, not mine) is a thrilling sight to behold for anybody who grew up with these characters in their printed form (word of advice: stick around until after the end credits!). A smart, funny and very satisfying cinematic experience which will leave you wanting to leap straight back into this world as soon as possible, so roll on Thor and Captain America in 2011. 8/10

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