By Sean Harris ’11
As of May 7, the summer movie season has officially begun, and Tony Stark is the first one out the gate.
Early in ‘Iron Man 2’ there is a scene where Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) drops into his own Stark Expo and declares “It’s good to be back!”
This scene eerily imitates reality; anticipation has been building for this movie ever since the original came out in 2008.
In reality, Starks’ screaming, adoring fans could represent the average moviegoer. Stark represents the film itself, filled to the brim with energy and characterized by a boisterous eccentricity that is hard not to enjoy.
Although Stark is not immune to the sequel curse, “Iron Man 2” is still a superhero film that soars above average.
Picking up six months after the last film ended, Stark is now dealing with the fact that people know his secret identity.
This action causes a backlash, as the military pursues him for his weapons, and a rival competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is attempting to replicate the success in order to earn power and prestige.
Tony is also dealing with the fact that the device he created in the last film to keep him alive is slowly killing him, and if he wants to survive he needs to find an alternative-and fast.
He copes by consuming large amounts of alcohol, which pushes his friends Pepper Potts (Gwynth Paltrow) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) away from him.
Rhodes slowly starts to believe that someone else might be better suited for the job, leading to his transformation into War Machine.
While only noted once in the original, the possibility of an “Avengers” movie has now become a fact, and the blueprints can be clearly seen in this film.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is still a glorified cameo, but all signs point towards seeing more of him in the future. Scarlett Johansson also makes an appearance as a new, naïve secretary for Tony who is more then she appears to be.
Without giving too much away, there is also a very cool scene after the end credits that might be equivalent to the end credits scene from the original “Iron Man”.
Much like the original, “Iron Man 2” is an absolute blast to see when it works, a action film where the acting surpasses the action in some parts.
The obvious standout would be Downey, who continues to play Stark with all the glee and enthusiasm of a billionaire who has an alter-ego. He’s Batman without all the regret to hold him back.
The one drawback to Downey’s performance is how he is written at times; arrogant to a fault, Tony seems too bitter and too reckless during the beginning and middle of the movie. In particular, one scene at Tony’s birthday party is almost unwatchable.
It’s fine to place characters on a downward spiral, but make sure that they are still interesting to watch.
Potts and Rhodey also suffer from this, growing more annoying as the second act drags on, despite Paltrow and Cheadle giving their performances everything they’ve got. Paltrow even gets upstaged by Johansson after a while.
Rourke and Rockwell make an intimidating pair of villains when given the screen time, but they are somewhat underused so Marvel could place in another reference to the “Avengers” movie.
This could be a fact that might annoy some viewers who could not care less about the Avengers. More time spent with Rourke and Rockwell could have added much needed depth.
Personally, all the little nods to the Avengers did not detract from the overall experience for me; I would even say it added something.
Seeing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is a sight to be seen; just another example of perfect casting on the “Iron Man” set.
The action is also beefed up this time around; there are plenty of set piece moments in the movie such as the battle at Monaco as seen in the trailer and the climatic showdown involving Iron Man and War Machine against an army of robots at the Stark Expo.
That doesn’t mean that “Iron Man 2” has completely fixed all of their action problems. While the beginning and end of the film are action packed, the middle is left empty.
And while the first “Iron Man” got away with this simply because it was so much fun to see the characters interact with each other, as stated earlier, the characters only get more annoying as time goes on.
A major complaint with the first movie was that the final villain fight was too short, and without giving too much away it’s a little jarring to see that the film has not corrected this mistake.
As Tony Stark said: “It’s good to be back!”
3 out of 5 horseshoes