If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Director: Jon Favreau
Release Date: 30th April (UK), 7th May (US)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke
**Minor Spoiler Alert**
If your the sort that hates spoilers, there will be an exremely small spoiler but it's impossible to avoid it so just a warning. Continue...
I am a fanboy. This is unfortunate and unavoidable. I've come to terms with this and accepted long ago that whenever a film starring one of my favorite characters comes out i'm either going to hate it with a passion or go crazy over it and think it's brilliant. With Iron man 2, i'm somewhat surprised to see i actually land somewhere in the middle, something almost unheralded with me.
In terms of plot, there's very little fresh here. You get you're usual, superhero gets too big for his boots and inevitably has to be brought back to earth by some TLC from the supporting cast just in time to stop the villains (Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell). In Iron man 2, however there's an interesting spin on this as the event that causes Tony Stark to initially careen off the path of the righteous is his own impending death. The arc reactor he installed in himself to save his life in the first film contains Palladium, a substance which is now slowly poisoning his system and killing him. This little ironic conundrum is of course not lost on him and it sparks the film with some genuine intrigue as you wonder how exactly he'll fix the situation. Unfortunately, in the end the solution offered up is just too clean and simple and effectively makes you question whether Stark is as smart as we had been led to believe as he hasn't already hit upon this solution.
The plot, however is really just a means to an end in this film. Ultimately all it really serves to do is give a flimsy reason why any two characters are sharing the screen at any given time and really, this is where the true strength of the movie lies. Downey Jr. is outstanding once again as Tony Stark showing that he undoubtedly has the charisma to carry a film of this size all on his own. Fortunately he's ably supported by excellent performances from both Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts his long suffering assistant and, in an extended cameo that wil make fanboys go mental, Samuel L. Jackson is awesome as Nick Fury. Seriously, thank goodness Marvel tied Jackson down for 9 movies because as anchors for a franchise, it's exceptionally difficult to get a better anchor than Jackson as Fury. The rest of the cast are, by and large, competent, though Sam Rockwell is really good as Justin Hammer. Unfortunately a major glaring black mark has to go against the film with the performance of Mickey Rourke. From the very first scene Rourke is laughable in his reaction to his fathers death when he gives an anguished shout that literally comes out of nowhere and sounds like someone kidney punching a walrus. Certainly not the way you want to open your movie, but fortunately he levels out to average by the end and ultimately he does look the part seeming extremely intimidating when put next to Downey Jr. Finally Scarlett Johansson. How good Scarlett Johansson is will almost certainly depend on how much of a fan of Black Widow you are. If you only have a vague awareness of the character (as i do) then she's perfectly capable. She undoubtedly looks the part and has one excellently choreographed fight scene in the build up to the conclusion of the fight, however there has been a massive internet backlash towards the fact that an initially Russian character has had the accent dropped. At no point does the film address this though her full name of Romanova is given and at one point she hacks a computer which has been programmed only to respond to Russian. Ultimately the issue is never addressed and don't say you haven't been warned!
One other thing to note about the film is that, as has been noted elsewhere and spread over the internet like wildfire, there are a LOT of hints and references dropped about The Avengers. By and large this is unlikely to affect anyones enjoyment of the film. As a comic book fan i had fun trying to find all the little hints that were dropped and for anyone else, it should sail right over there head. The references are certainly unobtrusive enough to alow for this and ultimately no one should end up having issues with the clues.
Ultimately there is going to be two types of people going to see Iron Man 2. The hatdcore geek who is going to see what windows this opens up for The Avengers films. A fan such as this will ultimately love the references and the chance to finally see Iron Man team up with War Machine. Anyone going to see this looking for an excellent summer blockbuster will be blown away by some great action scenes and some great character scenes and performances. It's clearly not the best film in the world. It has flaws and one or two plot holes, but there was absolutely no point during this film when i was bored and it's that kinetic energy in both the character interactions and the action scenes that ultimately make this an entertaining film for almost anyone.
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