By Luc Gross
With an all star cast — including the returning Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson — this movie promises a lot of talent. Unfortunately, the script is lacking in character development and plot, leaving talented actors to steal the show in certain scenes, while just going through the motions of a typical action flick in others.
With a highly publicized and sordid past of his own, Downey, Jr. has earned the stripes necessary to pull off this character with a finesse that makes it hard to believe that he isn’t just showing up and playing himself.
This one begins with the final scene of the first film (Tony Stark proclaiming “I am Iron Man” at a press conference) playing on a grainy television screen in Siberia. “That should have been you,” an old, ailing Russian rasps, introducing to the audience to Backlash, the principle villain of Iron Man 2.
The stage is set for the summer’s first real blockbuster. In this film, which centers more on Tony Stark than Iron Man, Stark is faced with his own mortality when he realizes he must find an alternate power source for the arc reactor (the device that is keeping him alive) which is slowly poisoning him. When he can’t find an substitute, Stark enters a downward spiral that includes a lavish birthday party complete with booze and bimbos, and an explosive feud with his best friend, James Rhodes, played by Cheadle.
Stark is confronted in the midst of his superhero crisis by the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (who was featured in the teaser after the original Iron Man movie). Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, reveals that Stark’s father had only begun exploring the arc reactor technology, and that it was up to Stark to complete the legacy.
After facing his “daddy issues” in six minutes or less, Stark found the motivation to continue looking for a new power source for the arc reactor. Like I said, in a movie of this action caliber there wasn’t a lot of time spent on character development. While Tony Stark is just the perfect blend of megalomaniac and narcissist, his sexist shenanigans become irritating. Perhaps in the third Marvel release to feature Iron Man, Stark could focus on his “mommy issues” and possibly stop treating every female that walks into frame like a piece of meat.
Rockwell stole the show in every scene he was in as the diabolical arms dealer Justin Hammer. Rockwell grasps the art of smarminess, right down to the orange, self tanner-stained palms.
Cheadle gave a limited performance to a half-baked character and Johansson is — let’s face it — eye candy. Her talents as Black Widow are only showcased in one scene where she is able to knock out ten thugs, while Stark’s ex-boxer assistant, Harold “Happy” Hogan is only able to defeat one.
I have to say, that it is nice to see a woman kick ass on screen in a testosterone-laden action film, but again, her character is portrayed in a two-dimensional way. Perhaps she will be showcased more in an upcoming Marvel feature.
Iron Man 2 seems to follow the comic book plot of the Michelinie/Layton plotline from the ’80s, focusing on Stark’s alcoholism, the introduction of Stark’s many armored suits (like the briefcase suit used in one scene with Rourke’s character, Backlash.) and his continuous need to fend off robotic suits built to challenge Iron Man.
Marvel comic book fans will enjoy the teaser at the end of the movie, but the uninitiated probably won’t get the reference.
So all in all, if you’re into high action, big explosions, sexy stars and comic book movies, then Iron Man 2 delivers. If you expect any level of character development, or a plot, save your money and add this to your Netflix queue.