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May 7, 2010
Review - " Iron Man 2 "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Iron Man 2
Direc etd by: Jan Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltro, Mickey Rourke, Sam
Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Samuel L Jackson

It was always going to be an uphill battle for director Jon Favreau in
creating a sequel to Iron Man that lives up to the original, one of the
best superhero films of all-time (along with The Dark Knight,
depending on personal preferences).  Despite a valiant effort, as
expected, Iron Man 2 falls short of its predecessor, but that doesn’t
mean it isn’t still a fun, thrilling superhero action film.

Iron Man 2 begins where the first one ended, when weapons genius
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) reveals to the world that he is indeed
Iron Man.  To be honest, there’s not a whole lot in terms of plot.  
Most of the film is about the brilliant and cocky Stark as he struggles
to deal with being a superhero and facing his own mortality.  
Meanwhile, he has the US government pressuring him to give up his
invention, a couple of new villains on his back, and dealing with a
range of difficult personal relationships all at the same time.

The cast is again brilliant.  Apart from the sensational Robert
Downey Jr as Stark/Iron Man, there is a brand new Russian villain,
Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), a new competitor by the name of Justin
Hammer (Sam Rockwell), and a sexy and mysterious new assistant
Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson).  Characters returning from
the original include secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow),
supportive friend Happy Hogan (John Favreau), and army buddy Lt
Colonel James Rhodes (played this time by Don Cheadle, replacing
Terrence Howard).  Samuel L Jackson, who appeared in a cameo
after the end credits in the original, has a slightly bigger role this time as Nick Fury of SHIELD.

Robert Downey Jr shows once again why he is getting all the biggest and best roles in Hollywood.  He is totally believable as
a genius, a narcissistic prick and a superhero, sometimes all at once.  For me, Sam Rockwell absolutely steals the show as
jealous rival Justin Hammer.  He is equal parts pathetic and dangerous, but always hilarious.  Mickey Rourke is also very
good as Whiplash, his performance giving the character a dimension not achievable from a lessor actor.  Scarlett
Johansson felt somewhat underused, though she did get to strut her stuff for a brief moment.  If there is a weak link, it’s Don
Cheadle, whose straight-faced performance doesn’t live up to the deadpanning foundations laid down by Terrence Howard.

As for the action, most of Iron Man 2 felt more subdued than what I remembered from the original.  That is, of course, until
the final battle, which is insanely exhilarating.  There’s more machines, more weapons and more explosions than the first
film, but because it lacks that unexpected
freshness and attitude, Iron Man 2 has less of a
“wow” factor.  And for some reason, I felt there
were a few moments where the film sagged a little.  
A stronger script with less subplots and fewer
characters may have served the film better, but
these are relatively minor complaints.

The first Iron Man film blew me away because it
was so different and fun.  Being a sequel, Iron
Man 2 started from a disadvantaged position
because it is stuck with the parameters it has set
for itself and consequently has become so much
harder to surprise.  That said, it’s still a solid film
which is a lot of fun and about as well as you could
have expected under the circumstances.