“Iron Man 2” Movie Review

     The summer movie season kicks off in thunderous fashion with “Iron Man 2”, the sequel to the 2008 summer hit.  Again, John Favreau is in the director’s chair and the original cast remains intact.  There are also welcome additions to the cast with Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell playing the villains this time and Samuel Jackson has his role as “Nick Fury” expanded to more than a cameo appearance.  As is typical of the first weekend in May, a studio tent pole is positioned to get this very lucrative season off to a fast start, but the question is: Does Iron Man 2 deliver?

     Overall, the answer is Yes.  Iron Man 2 is an above average summer entertainment.  Whereas “The Dark Knight” and “Spiderman 2” brought their respective franchises to another level and “Transformers 2” brought its franchise down, Iron Man 2 falls somewhere in between.  It is neither great or bad, but comes in with just the right amount of thrills and surprises to keep the Iron Man fan base looking forward to another outing.  As for myself, I wasn’t overly excited about the first Iron Man.  It was a very good and well done film, but I’m more of a Batman / Superman guy and Iron Man has never really been on my radar.  I neither saw the cartoons or read the comic books, so with the sequel, I’m grading it solely from what I know based on the first film and what I thought of this film.

     Robert Downey Jr. is again Tony Stark (Iron Man) and he is presented immediately with a crushing dilemma.  The very technology that has saved his life (also the one which powers the Iron Man suit) is also the technology which is slowly killing him.  As smart as he is, Tony simply has been unable to find a solution to his rising blood toxicity levels and is in danger of dying.  Making matters worse, the government seems to be unconvinced Tony can continue to maintain world peace via his Iron Man alter ego and wants him to turn over the Iron Man suit technology.  The resolution of these matters is generally what the film’s 2 hour 5 minute running time is comprised of.  But, with all of the issues at hand, which require a lot of very talkative scenes, Favreau and his team still manage to deliver several eye popping sequences.

     I was particularly impressed with the Monaco racing sequence where Mickey Rourke’s “Ivan Vanko” first attacks Tony Stark, who is actually a driver in the race.  With all of the impressive action set pieces we will see this summer, I think you would be hard pressed to see this one out done.  The climactic sequences are also impressive and well directed.  I only wish the film would have had the pace these scenes had throughout the entire film.  To get through the issues I spoke of above, plus the reasons Vanko is out to get revenge on Stark takes an endless amount of scenes which were neither funny nor interesting to me.  This made for a clunky hour or so in the middle of the film, which could have been avoided.

     The supporting players such as Don Cheadle, Gweneth Paltro, and Sam Rockwell are all fine given what they have to work with.  Each has been better in other roles. Scarlett Johansson has several memorable scenes as Natalie Rushman, a Stark employee with a secret identity, and Mickey Rourke is always very watchable in any film he appears in.  We all know though, this is Robert Downey Jr.’s show and as he goes, so goes this franchise.  His performance clearly carries the film and though the script may lack in certain areas, Downey Jr. keeps things above water in every scene with his trademark style.  Yes, the summer movie season has started off on a positive note and Iron Man 2 has done its job by creating an appetite for the many great films to come between now and August. GRADE: B-