'Iron Man 2' a solid sequel
As a kid, I never pictured Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
Granted, my RDJ awareness at the time was limited to the Icee spilling scene in Weird Science, and I probably would've accepted Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped in aluminum foil as the iconic superhero.
But Downey works, and he works really well, and it's thanks to him that this latest comic book movie series is just plain likeable.
Iron Man 2 does everything the second part of an action trilogy should.
The gang's all here and having a literal blast, the excitement ante's been upped, and promises of a third installment are all present and accounted for.
And despite the clutter that comes with the territory - more villains, more supporting characters, and more subplots - Jon Favreau's (Made) direction keeps an engaging focus on the colorful characters that made the first Iron Man such a success.
Downey (Sherlock Holmes) returns as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, who, when not gallivanting around the world promoting his multinational company and himself, moonlights publicly as the crime-fighting, peacemaking Iron Man.
It's an identity that's rocketed him into the public eye and beyond, garnering the adoration of fans and the scorn of enemies, including Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler), a Russian physicist whose father was partly responsible for the technological advances Stark inherited from his late father.
Vanko holds a deep-rooted grudge against the Stark family and uses his father's knowledge, along with his own ingenuity, to create a weapon that could defeat Iron Man and ruin Tony's credibility.
But Vanko's not the only one with an eye on a prize. The U.S. government is pressuring Stark to sell the Iron Man technology to the military, while Stark's business rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, Moon) is competing for the same contract. And he's willing to use shady ways and means to get it, including the vengeful Vanko. Add to this Stark's declining health, and it could mean rust for Iron Man.
But Iron Man 2's slick as WD-40, well-polished and quick-paced, though not so much that you can't enjoy the scenery. While there's action aplenty, Favreau keeps steady focus on the film's strength - its characters.
Downey fits the benignly narcissistic Tony Stark to a tee, by far more entertaining in a business suit than an armored suit, and Gwyneth Paltrow's (The Royal Tenenbaums) reprise as personal assistant Pepper Potts remains fresh and endearing. It's blatantly obvious that these folks are having fun.
And the good times seem to be contagious. Series newcomer Rockwell steals almost every scene he's in, even those shared with Downey, and his smarmy character is one to look forward to, hopefully, in the sequel.
In fact, the only two characters that somewhat detract from story flow are those guaranteed to be in the sequel, namely Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation), who are only there to set up the spin-off series of Marvel Comics films, i.e. Thor, Captain America and the resulting Avengers movie.
Though in Johansson's case, it offers some cat-suit sporting, bad-guy fighting eye candy.
All the same, these characters seem tacked on and don't quite seem to fit, distracting from the film at hand and making it more of a setup than a stand-alone series.
But they're just a few minor speed bumps on an altogether fun ride. Then again, few would dare to even consider driving over Samuel L. Jackson. Or Scarlett Johansson in a cat-suit fighting bad guys.
Iron Man 2, rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.