By Duncan Voice
I’m a bit of a superhero nerd, and thankfully Hollywood has had a pretty decent run of super-movies as of late (ignoring The Spirit of course). Iron Man 2 is no exception and is a fairly enjoyable addition to the genre, albeit with more of the same product placement and director Jon Favreau trying, and failing, to be funny.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Robert Downey Jr. again. Not a mistype, there isn’t anyone more suited for the role. His Tony Stark is still the same formulaic billionaire-cum-technology genius with a womanising confident exterior and an inability to open up to those close to him.
So far, so generic. After the introduction of Micky ‘my face has been stung by a thousand wasps’ Rourke as Ivan Vanko, who at the time looks like a 79 year old who has just watched his Dad die, Downey Jr. explodes onto the stage setting Stark Expo to the raucous sounds of AC/DC. Which is one of only two times their music appears during the film, contrary to the recently released album.
After a brief period of drivel in front a crowd of thousands which roughly equates to, "I’m awesome! Yeah! Woo!" we are whisked off to Monaco and the film’s only great action sequence. Mickey Rourke cuts a genuinely terrifying figure as new recruit to the Marvel roster, Whiplash. Lightning cracks, cars go flying, Jon Favreau tries to be funny. Sam Rockwell is also introduced as Justin Hammer, a defence contractor and subsequently not Tony Stark’s biggest fan.
The problems of the first film arise again. The awkward bickering between Stark and Pepper Potts begins to grate after about the third time they talk over each other, and the main portion of the film descends into an awkward period of soul-searching. Now, I appreciate a decent story don’t get me wrong, but you don’t watch Spiderman to see Peter Parker yearn for MJ do you? The eagle eyed will notice the shield of a certain Mr USA, no doubt to raise the profile of his upcoming Avengers tie-in.
Ah yes, the Avengers. Nick Fury is back from his thirty second cameo at the end of the credits in the original to whip up excitement for the pending flick, and brings along Scarlett Johansson to introduce Black Widow into the mix. Which is basically an excuse to see her in a black cat suit. Hit-Girl from Kick Ass would totally kick her, er, arse though. "Are you googling her?", asks Pepper Potts not long after Johansson’s introduction. "I thought I was ogling her", remarks Stark, to a chorus of groans from the cinema audience.
Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Dusty Rhodes, and soon after a suited-up scrap with Iron Man takes up the mantle of War Machine. It’s during his ‘coming-of-age’ scene as it were, we are treated to the most cringe worthy soundtrack selection of recent memory. Two men, in robot suits, fighting to Daft Punk’s Robot Rock. Sigh. Alas, War Machine is a great addition and sets up an eye popping final fight.
It’s enjoyable, but lacks a villain who we want to see taken down. Justin Hammer is genuinely funny and manages to steal every scene he appears in, and Ivan Vanko is nothing but likeable as a gruff old physicist who just wants his parrot. Aww, bless. It lacks a foe of the same calibre as outright sod Obidiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who brought plenty to the first film.
Comic book fans may revel in the references, but unfortunately it suffers from the same problems as the first. Awkward attempts at comedy soon begin to grate, Downey Jr.’s facial hair is still impossibly irritating and there is simply just not enough action. The best moments come from when Iron Man is caught up in a scuffle, but the film forgets that people want to see him fling around repulsor beams and launch rockets at explosive objects. Fingers crossed then for future Marvel incarnations, but please, keep the director behind the camera from now on.
7 OUT OF 10