Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Favreau
Back in 2008, Iron Man impressed us all with its bright tone and breezy action before blowing its load on an uninspired final punch-up. Now, Shellhead is back, our charismatic lead keeping it irreverent, only to blow it all again with another lazy climax. And a lot of Marvel advertising. It's as if Jon Favreau just took the original and remade it as a two hour trailer for The Avengers. Fortunately for Favreau, though, his main man has still got the magic.
And he's not afraid to show it: barely a minute of the film passes when Tony Stark (Downey Jr) isn't babbling away about something. He's still entertaining - even if his romance with assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Potts (Paltrow) remains pointless - and keeps the mood up when it could easily nosedive. You see, there's a lot of new bad guys in town. Weird bad guys.
Ivan Vanko (Rourke) had his dad ditched by Tony's father (John Slattery, an inspired choice for a boring role) and so he wants revenge. Revenge in the form of big-ass electrical whips. Meanwhile, Justin Hammer (Rockwell), rival inventor to Stark, is trying to outdo Iron Man's massive weaponry. How's he going to do that? Why, by trying to win over Stark's friend Rhodes (Cheadle) of course, as well as doing a deal with Rourke's loopy Russian scientist. But as soon as Ivan instigates chaos at the Monaco Grand Prix - a great set piece with real menace - he disappears altogether, relegated to playing solitaire on a laptop. In his place, we get Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson).
"Who's Nick Fury?" you ask. Well, he's the upcoming star of Marvel's Avengers movie. And they're taking every chance to remind you - cue a Thor reference here, a Captain America nod there. That wouldn't be a problem, if they didn't put the rest of the movie on hold for 30 minutes just to chat shit about SHIELD all day. And they do. Literally. For 30 minutes. Quite how that qualifies as 'action' in an action blockbuster is anyone's guess.
When the story does get going again (all shiny suits and no brains), it builds up to another clunky metal-on-metal showdown, which is hardly a fair pay-off. But while the structure slips, the script's spark comes from its central performances; thanks to Rockwell, Rourke and Downey Jr, we do have some fun. There's even some sex appeal from Scarlett Johansson's slinky secretary, who exists solely to kick ass in a catsuit.
A muddled sequel, then, which is bigger but never better than the first outing. It could have developed character or boosted its mindless explosion count, but doesn't quite do either. Iron Man 2 spends too much time advertising The Avengers, but it's a satisfying trip to the cinema. Making up new chemical elements and creating ridiculous touch-screen technology is fine if you carry it off with enough flair. And Downey Jr does have that flair. Jon Favreau doesn't. Giving him a bigger speaking part isn't the answer.
Fun but muddled, Iron Man 2 is an oddly mechanical blockbuster. Light-hearted, if leaden, entertainment.
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- iron man