Film Review: 'Iron Man 2' - Not Quite as Good as the First
In this movie, Tony Stark deals with the fact that, to no one's surprise but his own, announcing publicly that he was "Iron Man" painted a target on his chest. He also has to deal with a more literal target on his chest - the internal core system he invented in the previous film to power his heart and the Iron Man suit is poisoning his blood. So this film deals with a frenzied Stark battling Russians, a rival in the weapons business, and the ticking clock of his own impending death.
Tony faces a Congressional hearing, because the government wants him to turn over his designs to them, but he refuses. Ivan Vanko, a Russian engineer, works on making his own version of Tony's miniature arc reactor. The palladium core in his suit is poisoning his blood, but he cannot find a substitute. Part of his concern about his own death is that he wants to continue his father Howard Stark's legacy with projects like the Stark Expo, and to carry out his father's plans for a futuristic "city of tomorrow".
He makes Pepper Potts the new CEO of Stark Industries, not just because he's dying (which he doesn't tell anyone, not even Pepper), but also because he seems to like inventing and working on his suits more than he likes running the company.
While surprising everyone by competing in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, Vanko attacks him using electric whips. Tony is able to beat him, but his suit is very damaged.
Vanko ends up teaming up with a man named Justin Hammer, who is Tony's main business rival. Hammer hopes that Vanko can make a suit rivaling the Iron Man suit, but the two don't really get along well.
Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are able to help Tony with his blood poisoning problem, witha temporary fix. But then he is able to synthesize a new element, when he finds out that there is a map of it hidden in the diorama of Howard Stark's vision for a utopian city. There is a showdown at Stark Expo. With help from James "Rhoadey" Rhodes piloting power armor Tony also designed called War Machine, and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) doing spy things, he is able to beat Vanko's battle drones.
And he takes back control of the company, because well, I guess the male target audience might be scared of a female CEO? Better put her back in a subordinate role, because the status quo is God.
Iron Man 2
Marvel Studios and Fairview Entertainment, Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Screenplay by Justin Theroux, Based on Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, & Jack Kirby
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, & Samuel L. Jackson
2 hours and 5 minutes
Hollywood Film Award for Visual Effects of the Year; People's Choice Awards for Favorite Action Movie
Parts of the movie are striking and impressive. The Monaco battle scene is visually stunning and a well-executed action scene. Tony's usual cocky, witty banter is there. Being close to death also shows what he'll do when edging closer to crisis, and it is impressive how courageous Tony is when he is faced with death.
But, as a sequel to the first Iron Man, it kind of feels lackluster. You don't really get anything that you haven't already seen, arguably better, in the first movie. The first movie also had political drama that felt relevant, like it had something important to say, and this one does not. Other than some drive-by commentary about mortality, when you know Tony wouldn't be Tony without innovating his way out of whatever box the plot puts him in, there is not much of a message to this movie. It's mostly spectacle. Which gives the film some re-watch value, but it lacks potential for discussion.
The main issue is the villains are weak. Justin Hammer is given cringe-worthy lines and has trouble working with Vanko or even understanding him because well, he's the bad guy. But Hammer is so obviously inferior to Tony both at invention and at managing people that you can't really fear him that much. He's not menacing. He's a jealous, simpering, whiny little Chihuahua biting Tony's ankle, and setting up an easy win for him. Having a villain like that makes a movie less interesting.
So we have a movie that's got action, thrills, good visuals, and some genuinely emotionally empathetic scenes. But it's not enough to save the fact that the overall feel of the movie is that it's just not that interesting.
Rating for Iron Man 2: 7/10
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© 2019 Rachael Lefler