Notable Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson
"Iron Man" was one of those fun surprises that came out of nowhere to annihilate its viewers with a weird combination of humor, action, and pure charm. Of course, a sequel was going to HAVE to happen (for franchise whores like me its worth it already), but to match the odd combination must have been a once in a lifetime event, right? Guess not, because "Iron Man 2" not only matches all of the elements of the original but actually improves on it in many places.
Tony Stark (Downey Jr) is not doing so well. Soon after he announces to the world that he is, in fact, Iron Man, the government is hounding him to hand over his weapon, other nations and weapon manufacturers are trying to recreate what Stark has done, and the power source in his chest that is keeping him alive is also poisoning him. His world isn't as shiny as his suit. So as he struggles with his own mortality, pressures from SHIELD to join their policing force, and juggling his love life with Pepper while he is also trying to run a company. Of course, all of this comes to a head when a name from his family's past in the form of a crazy fucking Russian physicist (Rourke) recreates his arc reactor and uses it to create a new weapon (Whiplash) that could finally take down the invincible Iron Man. It's going to be a tough week.
"Iron Man" may have been a surprise to many at how well it worked and when it came out, but that surprise element has worn off. So what the makers of "Iron Man 2" replaced it with was a slightly darker story with an increased villain presence. Both of which work mighty well with the already well combined action and humor parts found in the original. The darker elements (hints at alcoholism, increased presences of violence, mortality issues, and even political campaigning with the use of corporations) make this film hit a little harder for adult audiences and give the franchise and established characters even more depth. Of course, the film still is quick witted with its dialogue and incorporates the fun elements that still make it family friendly watch too. I enjoyed the new found darker elements to the franchise and hope they move further down that road as they move on with the characters.
The charm of the film is also returning for this one, although in a slightly different sense, a slightly more disconcerting tone. Where Tony Stark was more fun and eclectic in the original where he learns his fun loving ways are not all that good, his charm comes with an even heavier price in this one. Its still fun and the banter is good but it atones with that darker sense and gives this film a bit more of a loner sense that feels heavier. Which ironically works just as well as it did before and another reason that "Iron Man 2" might be better than the first.
And of course, the greatest new element added to "Iron Man 2", at least for this moviegoer, was the addition of Mickey Rourke as the villain Whiplash. Although the villain for the first film was good, getting a crazy actor to play a crazy Russian just paints a whole new portrait for what Iron Man movies can be. And of course, his addition to the cast makes the darker moments of the film seem even darker. His chemistry with the other film villain Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is fun to watch too.
Overall, "Iron Man 2" is a romp of a fun ride with lots of character, story, and adrenaline to spare. The first one was a surprise treat, but building on top of that for the sequel may have been even a bigger surprise.
BONUS RANT: If you have seen the trailer for the film then I'm sure you have seen the scene where Pepper kisses the Iron Man mask and throws it out of the back of a plane where Stark has to leap off and grab it. WHERE THE HELL WAS IT IN THE MOVIE?! Did I miss this scene? Cause I'm pretty sure it wasn't there. Those kind of things irk me! Here's to hoping its in the 'extended cut' of the film (if there is one) when it hits DVD later this year.
Written By Matt Reifschneider