Robert Downey Jr.
reviewed by Tom-Tom
Iron Man is the superhero who began it all. A hotheaded ex-alcoholic whose angry outbursts in the comics more often than not led to genocidal behavior not befitting a so-called superhero, Tony Stark, as played by the charming, motor-mouth Robert Downey Jr. changed not only our perception of the genius inventor and engineer but also forever altered our perceptions of superheroes in general The first film was highly successful and started the Marvel Cinematic Universe on its way with only a short hiccup in the form of the forgettable The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man has the auspicious fortunate to have spawned a sequel before any of the non-Hulk characters even showed their heroic heads, save for one.
Iron Man 2 begins right at the closing moments of the first film, with a mysterious Russian father and son watching from their crappy apartment. Upon seeing Tony’s public announcement that he is indeed Iron Man, the father declares in Russian, “That should be you.” to his son Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke!) who screams in anguish at his father’s subsequent passing in ignominy . Ivan sets to work reducing the Arc Reactor technology (which, as we see on the original blueprints was the child of both Vanko’s father and the late Howard Stark). Just before the title page appears, we see Vanko finish the very familiar circular glowing chest piece and grin all in silver.
Iron Man appears in the flesh, or metal, rather at the unveiling of the renewed Stark Expo. As the younger Howard Stark himself will do in the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger, Tony has a troupe of football cheerleader-like dancing girls but here sporting glowing chest and hand fake repulsor spheres. “It’s good to be back.” Tony declares which certainly doesn’t sound like the beginning of a film sequel or deserve to be placed in the corresponding film trailer. No, of course not.
We soon learn that Tony is dying and that the palladium in his chest unit (which is powering the electro-magnet keeping shrapnel from entering his heart) is actually poisoning his blood. He is temporarily combating the symptoms by drinking chlorophyll from a Dick’s Sporting Goods water bottle. Awkward.
Enter Ivan Vanko in a race in Monaco in which Tony suddenly decides to race. This sequence is every bit as necessary as the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace in The Phantom Menace, which to say, not at all. I have to admit, though, Vanko’s handmade hardware, which consists of repulsor whips that can seemingly cut through anything, is pretty badass. The skirmish finds Stark using a cool suitcase mobile suit to change into Iron Man. Even with his red golden armor, Vanko (who is called Whiplash in the comics) seems to be more than a match for our hero, whipping away repulsor blasts with ease.
After the skirmish is over Vanko is broken out of prison with the might of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell as his typically hilarious self), the CEO of Hammer Industries, the weapons developer which picked up the slack when Stark Industries went the way of peace. Having strided towards developing its own armored suits for a while, now Hammer intends to have Vanko convert his prototypes with the Arc Reactor tech courtesy of Stark/Vanko tech. Rourke as Vanko is an enigma to watch. He spouts very sparse, very accented English which Hammer attempts to translate with Rockwell’s talkative West Coast American accent. It’s quite hilarious to see the CEO talk himself into a corner and come away more confused than when he began. Vanko, although just as intelligent, it seems techwise, as Stark, is a strong silent type, whose Russian Prison tattoos, fondness for his cockatoo, and metal teeth speak worlds about the life he has lived.
Iron Man 2 isn’t a perfect film but it does keep the audience engaged for most of the time with the great casting and introduction of Scarlett Johansson as the kickass Natasha Romanoff and Don Cheadle as Terrence Howard’s successor as James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Tony and Rhodey have an extended battle while suited up in Tony’s Malibu Mansion which goes on a bit too long. Tony learns a lot more about Papa Stark, who is played by John Napier of Mad Men fame. It’s the first and only time I’ve seen the actor without his while fleece of hair.
The film leads to the typical high stakes showdown but not on a world or galaxy-scale quite yet. That is yet to come. A generally favorable sequel although not without its flaws. It’s nice to see Nick Fury get some non-end credits screen time as well.