in Review

Heart of Iron

Iron Man 2

There is a definite pattern to super hero movies. First comes the origin film, the exciting and interesting tale of how an unlikely individual becomes someone greater than they ever thought they could be. Then comes the sequel, which ups the action and forces our hero to face a greater foe than they ever imagined. After that, usually the series spins out of control into less good franchise cash-ins. That’s how Superman did it, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman did it, and that seems to be the path the Iron Man franchise has committed itself to.

But Iron Man 2 is at a disadvantage. I’m no expert on the comics, but I’ve always gotten the impression that Tony Stark’s greatest foe was himself. He’s a narcissistic alcoholic first, super hero second. At the same time, the Stark we got in the first Iron Man was so likable, audiences don’t want to see him self-destruct.

So how do you make an Iron Man 2? You go with what worked in the first movie: lots of dialogue-heavy comedy, sleek special effects, and some neat action. And that’s exactly what director Jon Favreau did.

Just like the previous film, Robert Downey, Jr. is the main attraction here, as his Tony Stark is just as great as the last time. Stark is struggling with a lot this time around, it turns out having a super battery embedded in your chest is not healthy. The government wants him to hand over the Iron Man suit and at the same time his chief business rival, Justin Hammer (played by the terrific Sam Rockwell) is trying to steal Stark’s idea. And the evil Russian version of Tony wants revenge for his father. Also, Stark is alienating his friends Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard). And Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson are bothering him too.

Yeah, there’s a lot going on in Iron Man 2. The movie really wants you to know that Captain America and Thor movies are coming out next summer, and The Avengers will be out in 2012. Loading so much into one movie probably did end up making it a little longer than it should have been, but I did not really have any problem with the length or trouble keeping track of what was going on.

Ultimately the story is not as satisfying or interesting as the original movie. I think that’s less the fault of this film and more the problem with super hero sequels not be as engaging as origin stories. Stark’s arc is justifiably frustrating, with a somewhat rushed conclusion. They really just tried their best to put everything together for a big action sequence at the end. I liked that action fine, certainly a lot more than the first movie, but I think in a post-Avatar world you have to do more than just CG action.

Speaking of Avatar, I’m so glad this movie is not in 3D. Just saying.

There probably will be a third Iron Man. Despite Stark possibly appearing in future Marvel movies as well as Avengers, I think they will want to get Favreau behind the camera again (Joss Whedon is said to be directing Avengers – awesome). So who goes head-to-head with the Iron Knight next time? It can’t be more robots / dudes in suits, I think that well is tapped. It’s got to be monsters or something. I’m not sure that can work in this movie’s universe. I guess we’ll find out in 2013.


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