Iron Man 2

There’s a lot happening plot-wise in Iron Man 2, so let’s get right to the set up. Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., who revealed to the world that he was Iron Man at the end of the first movie, is a busy man. He’s testifying in front of Congress, trying to keep the military from appropriating and weaponizing the Iron Man technology, including the most important part, the ARC reactor power source. Stark industries is also sponsoring a year-long technology expo to showcase Tony’s new-found belief that Technology can solve all the world’s problems. Also, as Iron Man, he is enforcing world peace, while keeping up Tony Stark’s playboy lifestyle. What nobody knows is that the palladium in the ARC reactor is gradually poisoning his blood. In spite of all these other things his top priority is finding a substitute element for the reactor. To cope, he promotes his longtime personal assistant Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow to CEO of Stark Industries and hires a new replacement who introduces herself as Natalie Rushman, played by Scarlett Johansson but who is actually Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow, who is secretly working for Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

The main villain, Ivan Vanko, played by Mickey Roarke, is the son of a Soviet physicist who worked with Tony’s father, Howard, played by John Slattery in16mm film clips. Together the elder Vanko and Stark laid the groundwork for the ARC reactor technology. But they had a falling out and Vanko was accused of espionage and deported back to the USSR, where he spent the last years of his life nursing a grudge and passing it on, along with the knowledge of how to build an Iron Man suit, to his son. After Ivan’s first failed attempt to kill Tony, he is put in jail, but is quickly sprung by Justin Hammer, evil industrialist and Tony Stark wannabe, played by Sam Rockwell. Hammer offers Vanko the funding and the means to replicate the Iron Man tech, which up til now nobody but Stark has been able to do.

That’s a lot, even for a two-hour movie. But plotwise director John Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux pull it off. Iron Man 2 is a nice tight story with little or no fat.

The problem is that it lacks a certain organic quality. With a cast like this one–I didn’t even mention Don Cheadle playing Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes–the acting is first-rate across the board and you would think that if there were any opportunities in the script to humanize their characters, they would have pounced on them. This is the kind of film where motivations are explained but not really felt. Vanko wants revenge for his father. Hammer is jealous of Tony Stark’s popularity with the public. Tony Stark has daddy issues and wants to atone for all the weapons his company built in the past. It’s all there, but somehow it all feels empty, like an exercise.

Still, Iron Man 2 is a pretty film, well worth seeing on the big screen, and it’s very exciting in some places. But it could have been better.

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