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Iron Man 2 A Slap In the Face to the Original

Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Justin Theroux based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
Paramount, 2010

The original Iron Man kicked off the summer of 2008 in outstanding fashion, a classic origin story with a really cool superhero powered by a character we rooted for.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), for all his flaws, experiences a metamorphosis in a cave in Afghanistan, pulls off a daring, chill-bump-inducing escape in a crude, but effective,  weaponized suit, and very nearly dies despite all of it.  Soon, Tony modifies the suit.  The suit becomes a character.  The suit is freaking awesome.

In the tradition of every awful sequel that has ever followed its superior original, Iron Man 2 works very hard to deconstruct Tony Stark/Iron Man into a bit of a joke.  Stark is finding out that his glowing heart power supply is actually working to kill him.  And, because the world’s terrorists fear Iron Man’s capabilities, he really has no reason to use his powers anymore, and is reduced to making public appearances and getting crazy drunk.  But nobody cares what a buffoon Tony is making of himself, because hey, the suit is still cool and Tony is still an entertaining eccentric.  Tony, fearing death, leaves his company to his gal Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to run.

Working to put Iron Man back on notice is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a man with all the capability of Stark and with a need for vengeance.  Something about his dad and Tony’s dad, family honor, so forth.  He creates an electric whipping apparatus using the glowy heart thingy and it’s pretty badass, as you’ve seen in the trailer.  And then, after the first battle, Ivan finds himself in jail but is quickly broken out by another global weapons moneyman, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a sort of anti-Tony who has lots of money but no real scientific knowledge.  Hammer wants Vanko to create an identical suit to Iron Man, but he spends his time creating drones.

There are more issues for Tony.  The U.S. government wants his suit, for fear that others have already created them and could use them against the country.  A Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) leads the charge there, and Tony’s buddy Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, taking over for Terrence Howard) is the sort of Trojan Horse that the government needs.  Also, the mysterious SHIELD organization, briefly mentioned at the end of the credits of the original Iron Man and in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, makes an appearance here with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson, here to look hot, of which she does a very good job), a double agent of sorts, trying to get Tony back to work fighting the good fight.

So, like many sequels, especially comic book sequels, that have failed before, there are a million characters in which to keep track.  There are four or so protagonists and around three bad guys.  In the bad guy department, Sam Rockwell ends up stealing the movie, but his character is so ineffective he’s not even a great pseudo-villain.  Rourke as Ivan seems to be the biggest adversary, but he doesn’t even do the damage Jeff Bridges did in the original.  Then there’s Shandling as the Senator…Shandling seems out of place as an uptight government man.

The suit, so integral a part of the first Iron Man, and like I said, became a character all its own, is an afterthought here.  There are long stretches with no action at all, and when the action occurs, it’s pointless.  Like, for instance, the electric whipping scene at Monaco, it quickly goes away and never really makes a fantastic return.  The drones Ivan makes are all fodder, which is a disappointment because the movie spends a whole bunch of time propping up Ivan as this super genius, only to have him create easily-defeated robots that are more worthless than the ones made in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Iron Man 2 makes a huge mistake in being boring, in trying too hard to rip Tony Stark down and not giving him anything to do.  As such, the movie makes a lot of half-assed attempts at being interesting, and in the end feels like the rush job it probably is.

Follows: Iron Man

Next: Iron Man 3

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