There’s always something worth watching in a character, whom in his means of turning to good only succeeds in making things far worse than ever imagined. Like The Dark Knight and Spider-man 2 the plight of Iron Man 2 is escalation. In the six months following the aftermath of Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) revelation that he is Iron Man, there is an unprecedented peace across the planet. With a nuclear deterrent ready to go at a minute's notice the Stark legacy may finally be remembered for peace and, with the resurrection of Stark Expo, a better planet.
Legacy is an important part of any man's life in Tony's case - as a former arms dealer - it is especially important. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) provides an unique take on a villain that is essentially a mirror of Tony. Both men had fathers who were pioneers of science, unfortunately, only Tony used his gift for good. Sons have always been burdened with the task of becoming more than their fathers, when you're father is extraordinary, or a criminal, this task becomes more arduous.
Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer represent everything Tony could have resorted to, thankfully, even in the time of personal distress, he dons the suit in pursuit of making this world a better place than he found it. But when confronted by Whiplash during the Monaco race sequence Tony is momentarily caught off guard and, "if you can make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him," the world is coming for Tony and he cannot be the Shane of global peace.
As for the toys in the new film two words: suitcase armor. It has been featured extensively in the trailers, but it plays out best in the theatre. Like the first film the suit's aesthetic stays practical instead of going for Spider-man 3 level CGI mess. I wish the rest of the Monaco race scene could have done the same.
Robert Downey Jr. is finally receiving the All-Star status his talent so richly deserved. Downey could have simply coasted playing off his natural charisma, yet envelopes the character in a moral complexity not found often in comic book films.
What ultimately brings down Iron Man 2 is that the story hits its peak at the Monaco racetrack. A goodie vs. baddie fight at the end doesn't make up the lack of drama in between.
Mickey Rourke is actually very good in his role of Ivan Vanko. After the trailer I was expecting campy Russian eccentricity, but his performance was instead a level, functional mirror for Tony. Unlike Iron Man a solid opponent is available for the climactic battle at the end. However, Sam Rockwell's portrayal of Justin Hammer came from Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor school of villainy. Don Cheadle is kind of an interloper during Iron Man 2. He and Gwyneth Paltrow are involved in the story but both just seem to react to Tony than make the story move along.
The first real summer blockbuster of the season is here. Remember, stay after the credits.
**1/2 out of ****