Iron Man 2

Certificate: 12A
Running Time: 124 mins
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Comic book, Superhero, Action
Country: USA

With the world aware of his (not so) secret identity and the Marvel post-credits appetizer becoming a stable tradition Favreau and co return with an ambitious movie that looks to tie in the works of Stark senior (Howard) while forging ahead with Nick Fury’s pet project “The Avengers Initiative”.

Stark’s ego has been let off the leash and his presence as Iron Man is so well known he’s a sponsorship deal away from wearing the Pepsi logo on his helmet or filming an energy drink commercial in Japan.  In a lot of ways it is more in keeping with the human reality of superhero-dom.  How many of us would actually keep it a secret for more than fifteen minutes?  Be honest!  This will only work if you’re honest.  If all actors want to be rock-stars then surely all powerful men want to be superheroes.  Stark has taken this desire to a logical conclusion and as such has himself firmly in the sights of the U.S military machine[1] and his competitors[2] (Justin Hammer).

Justin Theroux’s script actually has several interesting “bigger picture” questions in it, at least in the early stages, and the U.S. Government’s self issued Patent on Piece[3] has arguably caused one of its richer citizens to take it upon himself to act as an independent contractor.  There are very nice parallels to be drawn here.  The writing is clever enough to draw, not just on Stark’s past, but on the U.S.’s past and their somewhat problematic relationship with Russia (or the U.S.S.R for us pre-90s kids).

RDJ turns in a by-the-book Tony Stark performance.  There are flashes of his skill but nothing on par with Wonder Boys (for example)… which would make for a really interesting concept.  Gwyneth has even less to do, and Don Cheadle (as James Rhodes) does a solid turn at putting Terrence Howard (Iron Man) in our rear view.  Of the new additions Mickey Rourke offers Tony Stark a different kind of villain.  To most other superheroes the mass of Mickey would present a physical foe but for Iron Man he’s a more cerebral nemesis than first appearance would infer.  Are there issues with his accent?  Oh yes.  Does some of the plot holes go un-referenced?  Yup.  But what Rourke does is drag the clean, polished, shiny Iron Man down into the dirt in order to rough-house only to mix it up with a battle of wits and technological prowess.

Johansson (as Natasha “Rushman”/ Romanoff/ Black Widow) is an inspired piece of casting.  There are stories that Emily Blunt was in line for the role before a scheduling conflict pushed her out of contention and for my money it’s a moment of fate.  Scar-Jo gives a sensual, physical, fierce performance.  Her Black Widow is one of the spot-on performances of the film.  Like her return to Daredevil (Issues #157-158) she is powerful, complex and with a powerfully complex backstory.  For the most part you’ll need to read this from her DD team-ups, her own comic and her adventures with The Avengers as there’s not much of her character on display.  She’s more of a catalyst character in this film to push us towards a logical Avengers movie but wow!  What a catalyst!  Johansson has a grace to her physicality that turns each fight into a dance.  A ballet of bruises and one that’s so pleasing to witness.  Unsurprisingly the stand-out performance of the piece is Sam Rockwell (as Justin Hammer).  Sam is one of those actors who can bring so much to so little.  It’s a bit-part role that he shows off with incredible style and effortless abundance.

A lot of the latter half of Iron Man 2 lapses into genre convention.  It’s almost as though the engine has been killed and the car has been allowed to race downhill at its own speed.  There’s an inevitability to that.  After all it is a comic book movie, there is an antagonist to be bested and there is a bigger picture to be furthered.  One of the interesting elements, and it’s one that ties into the next phrase of Marvel’s cinematic universes, is that Iron Man 2 prefaces the forthcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.  As Stark and Rhodes take on Vanko and his army of “Iron Man inspired” Hammer Industries fighters it should serve as a warning to Stark about the possibilities, pitfalls and problems of A.I. within a military context.  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t because of his arrogance.  He overestimates his ability to navigate where Vanko fell down and as such sets into motion an A.I. uprising of epic proportions.  The final set piece of Iron Man 2 makes for a wonderful taster and Theroux’s script sets some strong foundations for Captain America: Civil War.

[1] Who wish to legislate, control and where possible co-opt him.
[2] Who wants to “one-up” his tech in a War Games version of Apple vs. Android.
[3] Coined it!


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