Iron Man 2 Review: Twisted Metal Fun

Before the original Iron Man film soared to box office heights, few outside comic circles knew who Tony Stark was – much less his crime fighting alter-ego. In that moment when Robert Downey Jr. as Stark took to a press conference and declared he was Iron Man, he became as recognizable to his world and ours as a regular walking into the Cheers bar.

With powerful words come more powerful repercussions, the central theme of Iron Man 2 in which Stark’s world is tossed like a flapjack. The aftermath of his “coming out” party as a superhero leads to the U.S. government wanting to secure Stark’s suit to protect its secrets, a rival engineer with a personal grudge who believes he should be the one in the spotlight, and a rival businessman tired of playing second fiddle. These issues fall on top of Stark’s growing inability to run his company or control his partying and drinking, the mysterious Nick Fury who keeps bugging him to join a top secret initiative, and the realization that the technology keeping Tony alive is simultaneously accelerating his death.

With so many concurrent plotlines, Iron Man 2 feels like more like a comic book run than its predecessor. Born from the minds of Jon Favreau and the film’s producers before being turned over to scribe Justin Theroux, it transitions after 15 minutes of methodical “getting to know the players” bits into a briskly-paced collage of metal-on-metal action, classic Tony Stark one-liners, and the most references to The Avengers a Marvel film has dished out to date. No storyline is given particularly enough attention, though all receive just enough so the blanks are easy to fill in; much like the panels of a comic book.

The presumed star going into Iron Man 2 is the new technology Stark and his foes, Whiplash (an underutilized Mickey Rourke) and Justin Hammer (an eccentric Sam Rockwell) bring to the screen. Even with electric-charged whips that cut through metal and cooler suits with new weapons, the action sequences as robots and manned metal suits clash feel slightly rehashed from Iron Man’s battle with Iron Monger. The effects are appropriately strong and audio superbly mixed, but something is lost in a chase sequence when robots fly by the screen so fast that you can barely make out what you’re looking at. The best fight sequence is nearly devoid of metal when Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) breaks into a heavily guarded building and incapacitates guards with her arms, legs and anything else protruding from her body.

The best Iron Man 2 has to offer comes from the cast. Robert Downey Jr. is spot on once again as playboy Tony Stark with comedic timing and facial expressions second to no one. Everyone else feeds off Robert’s energy and brings out the best in their characters even though none are nearly as fleshed out as Tony Stark. Without him, the energy would be sucked from the film faster than Whiplash’s unfortunately abbreviated two confrontations with Iron Man.

The encore isn’t perfect, but returning to this pre-Avengers world is a hell of a lot of fun.

– Dan Bradley

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