Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Justin Theroux (screenplay)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow
Jon Favreau is back at the helm along with most of the important cast for the sequel to the blockbusting Iron Man. Rarely is a sequel a match for it’s predecessor but Iron man 2 does come very, very close. I think had all the scenes that were cut (mostly Vanko’s) been left in, it could have even surpassed the first film. Alas though it just falls short but thankfully is a huge improvement over Universal’s quite shocking Hulk film (review of that ‘abomination’ to come shortly).
Unusually we start with a pre-credits scene this time around. In Moscow, the great (and sadly late) Evgeniy Lazarev (The Sum of All Fears) is watching a re-run of Tony Stark’s press conference from the end of Iron Man. His son Ivan Vanko (a subdued Rourke) is with him in his final hour. He tells Ivan that it should have been him and that all he could grant him is his knowledge. For those not so astute readers, Anton Vanko was once Howard Stark’s partner and has held a grudge ever since his deportation.
Ivan immediately gets to work on creating his own technology in order to bring Stark down a peg or two. It would seem that Vanko Jr is quite the genius himself. After the opening credits roll we then switch to our lovable and reckless hero as he flies through the skies before making his big grand entrance at the Stark Expo. The rock soundtrack which was so prevalent in the first film returns again here and it fits perfectly with the unfolding scene. Great work again by those involved in that department.
Right from the first moment we see Iron Man you can see and immediately tell that this is going to be very similar to the first film and that the two could almost seamlessly blend together. This time round Stark is an even bigger and better celebrity and even more loved than he was before since his coming out. Unfortunately not everyone loves him as Senator Stern (wonderfully played by Gary Shandling) is trying to bring him down and requisition his technology and suit for the military (or himself, though he looks a little too large to get in it I would say).
Stark is once again smart, arrogant, condescending and as reckless as ever. As in the first film, the improvisation makes the interaction between Downey Jr and Paltrow a joy to watch and is truly comedic gold at times. Sam Rockwell is also excellent here (if not a tad annoying) as Stark’s big competitor, power mad, megalomaniac Justin Hammer. Clark Gregg also returns as Agent Coulson and this time after some pressure, Samuel L. Jackson gets a bigger role as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (who also hints at things to come).
We also get our first glimpse of Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) and in this reviewers opinion, any film with Scarlet in a tight bodysuit is instantly better (despite her also being a great actress). Unfortunately Terrence Howard does not appear in this feature due to a rumoured contractual disagreement with Marvel and is instead replaced with the ever dependable Don Cheadle as Rhodey. I like Don but personally would have preferred they just met Howard’s demands. He was first to be cast and wanted in the first film, stop screwing about guys and just pay people what they are worth.
I do feel one downside to this production though is Ivan Vanko. Maybe that is due to his missing scenes or not I don’t know. I love Rourke’s later stuff but it’s almost as if they intentionally kept him low-key here instead of letting him off his lead. His big entrance is way over the top but still spectacular and huge fun. All the set-pieces are excellent examples of cinematic action scenes done right. The effects are once again top quality and the script is as good as the first film, full of warmth when needed, humour and witty one-liners.
With this film (the third to be released) Kevin Feige was already starting to put together the start of what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and pulling strings to weave plots and characters together. If only DC had someone like him in charge then perhaps they would not be light years behind Marvel already (sorry DC fans). A great and worthy sequel to a fantastic first film and still a highlight of the MCU even now. Just remember good readers, watch out for those Hammeroids.
The Sage’s Rating: