Iron Man 2 feels like the verse before a song’s chorus, the hors d’oeuvre before the main course, the opening act before the … you get what I mean. Perhaps it was meant to build up to the much-awaited Avengers movie, but Iron Man 2 fails miserably as a standalone story, save for a few bright moments.
The movie picks up six months after the events of Iron Man. Billionaire inventor Tony Stark is reveling in the fame and controversy that comes with the public revelation that he is Iron Man. He is under pressure from the U.S. government, press and public demanding that he hand over the Iron Man suit, but Stark refuses, fearing the technology will be abused.
To complicate things further, Stark has to deal with his own fading mortality while fending off corporate rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and disgraced Russian physicist Anton Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Natalie Rushmore (Scarlett Johansson) heats things up as Stark’s new sexy secretary and undercover agent Black Widow while Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Colonel James Rhodes, who becomes Iron Man’s sidekick War Machine.
From the start, you realize that some things never change. Tony Stark’s ego is as big as the movie’s US$200 million budget, and his narcissism borders on a personality disorder. Still, just when you think director Jon Favreau has overdone it, it is Robert Downing Jr.’s layered performance that suggests the public Tony Stark is being outrageous to mask the real Tony Stark who is secretly and desperately seeking a cure for palladium poisoning from the core in his chest. The heart of the movie, quite literally, comes from a touching scene in which Stark watches a reel of film in which his cold and distant late father Howard Stark reveals to him (in an uncharacteristically warm manner) the real arc reactor that only present-day technology could make possible. Conveniently enough, it is his father’s formula for the even-more powerful element that replaces Tony’s palladium chest-piece and cures him.
Not to be overshadowed by Downing is Mickey Rourke, who plays the villainous psycho-physicist who wants to flay Tony Stark with deadly electrical charged whips. Rourke, is in fact, the brightest spark in the entire movie (pun intended). He is the perfect foil for Iron Man—being all brutal, bestial and clothed in tattoos. Stark is sophisticated, witty and dressed in bespoke suits. Hearing Rourke growl in Russian, you will not believe that offscreen, he is the owner of a tiny Pomeranian puppy called Mush.
Scarlett Johansson wears a skin-tight body suit and demolishes baddies with her thighs. I guess Favreau could not go wrong with that. But that was about the only significant thing she does. Hopefully she’ll get a meatier part as Natalia Romanova in the Avengers movie.
So, the story is predictable, the characters one-dimensional and the CG neither groundbreaking nor spectacular. But it is still a must-watch because it is Iron Man 2. Just let your inner teenager inside take over and you’ll love this show lots.