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Doesn’t Measure Up

June 23, 2010

The original Iron Man movie was a smash hit, so of course, Marvel Comics wanted to capitalize on its success.  Jon Favreau had expected to make a movie trilogy anyway, and what with the Avengers and other Marvel superheroes coming out in movies too, it was only natural to make a second movie.  So here we’ve got Iron Man 2.  Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man has been public for a while, but not everyone’s happy about it.  Ivan Vanko, a Russian criminal, whose father helped Howard Stark invent the arc reactor, starts building his own reactor to take revenge on Stark for stealing his father’s work.  Meanwhile, Tony is having his own problems.  The metal in his arc reactor core is slowly poisoning him, and it won’t be long until it ends up killing him.  This leads Tony to act increasingly recklessly, leaving his position as CEO of Stark Industries and giving the position to Pepper Potts, then replacing her as his assistant with Natalie Rushman, a skilled young woman who is really the Black Widow, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, as well as personally participating in a Grand Prix in Monaco.  However, Vanko, now known as Whiplash, takes advantage of this opportunity in Monaco to attack Stark.  All the while, the government is breathing down Stark’s neck, wanting his Iron Man tech for the military, and rival defense contractor Justin Hammer is trying to take Tony’s former position as the lead supplier of weaponry to the government.

Okay, so let’s be honest.  This story is all over the place.  We have a character who is a combination of the original Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash/Blacklash.  We have Black Widow, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D.  We have Tony drinking, which includes elements from the famous Demon in a Bottle storyline.  We have Tony getting poisoned.  And we have the other of Tony’s major business rivals, Justin Hammer.  These are all very disparate elements, and unfortunately, Favreau and the movie writers did not do as good a job here as with the previous movie.  For one, unlike Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, this version of Whiplash is not scary or interesting enough of a villain to carry the whole movie.  Mickey Rourke’s acting is fairly mediocre, and the villain himself is nothing more than Russian evil Iron Man, rather than some kind of unique character.  They could have gone the angle of making Black Widow a villain and Vanko’s accomplice, but they don’t even remind us that she’s Russian.  Scarlett Johansson is pretty good looking in that spandex, though.  The only character who’s a true Iron Man villain capable of being the main villain is Justin Hammer, but he’s made to look like a fool throughout the whole movie.  Then, they basically expected Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma as Tony Stark to write the rest of the movie.  Doesn’t quite work that way.  Oh yes, and poor Terrence Howard got replaced by Don Cheadle as War Machine.  To be honest, both of them weren’t that exciting, but it would have been nice to have some continuity.  The acting was generally fine/at least sort of interesting (minus Rourke), the soundtrack was decent, if not terribly memorable, and the cinematography was good, even if some portions of the fight sequences were, as with many similar sequences today, a bit spastic and dizzying.  Unfortunately, the story was just so much weaker than the original movie’s that it doesn’t quite make it to the status of “instant classic.”  It was an entertaining second installment, a good popcorn movie, but the first Iron Man was more than that.  Let’s hope that number 3 (and the Mandarin, fingers crossed!) live up to their potential more fully.

Story: 6.3      Cinematography: 8.2      Soundtrack: 7.0      Acting: 9.0      Overall: 7.4

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