There’s something distinctly uncanny about Iron Man 2. Perhaps it’s the pacing of the movie, which begins excellently but then proceeds to sag drastically under its own weight. Perhaps it’s the unsatisfactory script, which provides us with two massively underwritten villains. Perhaps I popped one too many Clarityns that day before entering the cinema. Either way, to say Iron Man 2 is a bad film would be erroneous. To say it was a disappointment, however, would be wholly warranted.
The film follows swaggering playboy industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.); a wisecracking borderline alcoholic who has just revealed to the world that he is in fact the eponymous Iron Man. Unfortunately for him, lank-haired gulag-dweller Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) also has knowledge of the Iron Man technology and partners with Stark’s cocksure rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to destroy both him and Iron Man.
The film’s predecessor had as its charismatic centrepiece the wonderful Downey Jr., and it’s fair to say that he by and large carries the film, especially in his banter with token love interest Gwyneth Paltrow. Indeed, the cast is generally good; Rourke’s presence, though frankly bizarre, is certainly welcome as he brings some physical menace to the character of Vanko when the script does not. Rockwell, too, delivers a far better performance than his part deserves, perfectly nailing the part of Stark’s foil and stealing most of the scenes he’s in.
However, the film’s script is sorely lacking, particularly with regards to the antagonists, who never truly seem to be anything other than an irritation to Stark. Vanko spends most of the film hanging around in dimly-lit rooms hacking away on keyboards like a ‘90s savant, whilst Hammer is merely annoying. Neither ever pose any real threat, robbing the film of any suspense and undermining Stark’s vulnerability.
Certainly, despite a show stopping opening which perfectly matches the spirit of the first film, from then on there is simply too much happening, very little of it particularly interesting, particularly Scarlett Johansson’s appearance as a mysterious assistant to Stark, which can best be described as “feisty” and “T&A.” One hates to incite the mantra of Spider-Man 3, however the film is far too busy and works best at its quieter moments (the undeveloped plot thread of Stark’s relationship with his father, for example, resonates far more than the underwhelming effects-filled finale).
Suffice to say, Iron Man 2 is worth your time; it has some great set pieces, fun action and a likeable cast. However, when viewed in the light of its lofty predecessor it feels very much like one step forward and two steps back; a simpler, more streamlined storyline could have made this one of the best films of the year. Jon Favreau take note.