Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer(s): Justin Theroux, Jon Favreau
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
Original Score: John Debney
Running Time: 124 Mins.
The original Iron Man came out of nowhere and did a number of quite prolific things, firstly it established Robert Downey Jr. as a bona-fide movie star *natch* and one in which he delivered a definitive performance, secondly it proved that amidst all the doom and gloom of the Batman, Superman and X-Men of the movie world that it was okay for a film based on a comic book to be what it should be first and foremost…fun, and finally it set the stall out for Marvel Studios (now operating under Disney) big plans that will see a number of superheroes (Thor, Captain America) get their own independent outings that will see them ultimately combine for The Avengers film due in 2012. Quite some set of achievements and one’s which raise the bar for an Iron Man sequel somewhat, all of which begs the question…has Jon Favreau succeeded in making Iron Man 2 a worthy successor in the mould of both X-Men and Spider-Man’s second entries?
The simple answer to this question is yes, Iron Man 2 in hugely entertaining and contains within it several scenes and threads worthy of placement with the best of the superhero films, unfortunately as a whole it is somewhat lacking with a solid narrative drive clearly m.i.a. and some pacing that goes awry at times largely through the seemingly overwhelming desire to set up the other facets of the Marvel universe at the cost of the story at hand. I have no quandary with nods to other films based in the same universe, and have, thus far, loved how The Avengers initiative is building up. On the plus side if these “Avengers asides” as I like to call them (i.e. the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury) are eliminating the need to have so much build up in The Avengers film it is surely a good thing, the issue is that in inserting them as lengthy as they are here it makes an unfocused narrative seem even more so and sends your mind wandering to pastures new rather than enjoying what you are meant to be involved in.
Usually a lack of narrative drive would prove a huge problem, for example Iron man himself seems to do very little, the arch-villain makes a grand entrance and disappears for the bulk of the film while the usual problem of too many characters seeps in, however in the hands of Jon Favreau and scripter Justin Theroux the film ascends issues of drive and simply sucks you into the world of Tony Stark once again. Building on the foundations of the first film the same principle applies as it does with all big budget sequels, bigger, louder and more of everything that worked, which means we get more Downey Jr. quipping as Stark, more action handled much more bombastically this time around though it still inevitably descends into robots basj=hing each other about, and more in the way of the big name cast.
Considering how crammed the film is with big names and new characters, whilst bumping up old favourites screen time, you will be surprised to learn that everyone gets their time to shine, though some characters inevitably disappear for long stretches they are given standout scenes that make up for it. Sam Rockwell gets special mention and a scene between he and Stark in a bar is priceless, Hammer’s (Rockwell) admiration of Stark amidst his idol’s quippy put-downs are worth the ticket price alone, it;’s just a shame there isn’t more of them. Rourke similarly is a knock-out, a great villain that remains my major gripe, he is built up fantastically and has a great fight with Iron Man at Monaco to then be tethered by Hammer and restricted to sitting in a lab building robots, a sad waste of talent and character though the final and all too brief fight offers a touch of respite it’s a shame Whiplash will unlikely make another appearance.
It is admirable that Favreau has matured into a director of such ability, advancing vastly in directing an action set-piece from the first film to the second I would expect nothing less than something spectacular from an Iron Man 3. Juggling this many plot elements and loose ends would evade most yet through sheer sprightliness you can overlook any drawbacks. Of course it helps that Downey jr. is on hand again giving another ten out of ten performance, his interaction with everyone seems so natural and damn fun, whether it be “admiring” Johanssen or quipping with Pepper Potts he epitomizes charming. Though the highest point comes when he drunkenly dances in the Iron Man suit and proceeds to pee in the suit, well you wouldn’t catch Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman doing that would you!
Iron Man 2 is superbly scripted, allowing for some of the years best dialogue, Favreau handles the action well and the swollen cast even better, while Downey Jr. excels again. With a little more focus and a little less deviation from the matter at hand, Iron Man 3 could be nigh on perfect.