Words: Saam Das
DVD: 'Iron Man 2' (UK Release: 25 October 2010)
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell
Jon Favreau's first 'Iron Man' film proved to be a wildly successful and well received action blockbuster. His follow-up 'Iron Man 2' may have been just as commercially successful but unfortunately, fails to improve on the first installment.
What was particularly impressive, when looking back on 'Iron Man', was its quality in spite of shooting without a finished script. However, that lack of due care towards the writing side of filmmaking eventually caught up with Favreau on 'Iron Man 2'. Supposed studio interference led to the resulting sequel becoming more of a prequel to the forthcoming Avengers film rather than a legitimate second film in the 'Iron Man' franchise.
'Iron Man 2' picks up from where the first film ended, with Robert Downey Jr's character Tony Stark having revealed Iron Man's true identity to the world. Stark has become an enforcer for world peace but the United States Senate demands that he hand over the technology. Stark defiantly refuses and claims that others attempting to replicate the Iron Man technology (including Sam Rockwell's smarmy weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer) are decades away from producing something of a similar standard.
That's all well and good until Stark's appearance at the Monaco Grand Prix. Mickey Rourke appears as Whiplash, having successfully made his own arc reactor, complete with energy powered appendages. Decades away, eh? Whiplash is actually Ivan Vanko, the son of Anton Vanko, who was Tony Stark's father's former partner. I hope you got all that. Unfortunately, for Anton, he dies in poverty at the start of the film, leaving Ivan embittered and seeking revenge against the remaining Stark, Tony. The action packed introduction of Whiplash as he slices Stark's racing car into pieces is impressive. And the use of a briefcase armour suit by Stark is simply very, very cool.
Sadly, the film fails to capitalise on this high point. The main plot carries along fairly well but a subplot, involving Stark being slowly chemically poisoned by his arc reactor, leads to a disappointing melée between Iron Man and War Machine (otherwise known as James Rhodes, played in this film by Don Cheadle). This fight and the reasoning behind it feels like a whole lot of hot air and not the marquee battle which it deserves to be. Eventually, S.H.I.E.L.D get more and more involved.....and I became less and less enthused.
The dynamic between Terence Howard's bland replacement Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr is less than satisfactory, softening the tension when the two personalities explicitly clash. However, the chemistry between Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now CEO of Stark Industries, is once again a joy to watch. Similarly, the villainous pairing of Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell are supremely engaging.
It's a shame then that the film is overshadowed by Joss Whedon's forthcoming Avengers film, with the likes of Samuel L Jackson (reprising his role as Nick Fury) and Scarlett Johansson shoehorned into the story. These characters could easily have been excised. I can't help feeling that a little more effort on the script and a little less Avengers on the mind would have produced a better result. As it is, 'Iron Man 2' is an above average action film but one that falls short of its predecessor.
Oh and as for the now ubiquitous comic book movie post-credits scene? This one hints at Kenneth Branagh's forthcoming 'Thor' film.
While the DVD is sadly bereft of special features, the Blu-ray may be worth picking up for its deleted scenes and "making of" features. 'Iron Man 2' is also on release in the US.