After watching this movie for the second time I discovered another benefit of Alderney getting movies late. It allows for better retrospective of the movie, and it can perhaps allow me as the viewer to lay down the expectations I may have had watching it the first time, and perhaps prove whether a film improves on repeat viewing. Iron Man 2 is one such film. The first Iron Man was a surprising hit and was probably better than it should’ve been really. Due to the fairly low expectations with the first movie, that perhaps heightened my expectations for the inevitable sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the sequel the first time round, it’s fun, features great performances, the action is better and faster, but the story itself seemed to have too much going on. I still felt that way the second time round, but it seemed a lot more coherent and not as off kilter as the first time round, I assume mostly due to the fact I knew what was to come.
The story picks up minutes after the events of the first movie, with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr.) having revealed to the world that he is Iron Man. The Government want his technology, but he couldn’t care less as he believes the world is a better place with him in sole control of the Iron Man tech. But all that changes when Russian Scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) develops his own version of Stark’s design and makes it his mission to put an end to Stark’s life to settle an old family score. Not only that, Tony must deal with issues closer to home as his best friend’s (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard) loyalties seem to lie else where, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) has trouble trusting Stark whilst tackling her new role as CEO of Stark Industries. Meanwhile the director of SHIELD, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), is breathing down Stark’s neck in order to persuade him to join The Avengers programme.
That is the basic outline of the many plot strands. On top of that you have the competition between Sam Rockwell’s weapons developer, Scarlett Johansson’s secret agent Natalie working within Stark’s business and Stark trying to find a new element to stop his blood from being poisoned by the very device that is keeping him alive. There is a hell of a lot going on in this movie, and it’s amazing that it still finds the time to put in some damn good action sequences. This works in both the films favour and also against it. It tries to address everything quickly, making it hard to keep up at times. But because there are so many plot lines it feels jumbled and slows down the pacing of the movie. The best scenes that aren’t action sequences are the scenes between Downey Jnr. and Paltrow. The script is very snappy, but it feels flowing, energetic thanks to their comfortable performances, and great chemistry radiates from the two stars performances. The Nick Fury/Avengers plotline is what irritated me the most. I am very excited for The Avengers movie but I felt Marvel were a little too concerned with pushing the aspect of The Avengers rather than producing an Iron Man movie. For the first hour or so, there is no mention of Nick Fury or The Avengers and this is where the film feels more at ease and more structured. It is when Fury comes in that the movie shakes a bit. But like I say, repeat viewings can improve your opinion of a film, and on the second time round The Avengers sub-plot didn’t seem as prominent as the first time round, I may have been more self-conscious of it and it bothered me more on first viewing. But it still felt like a walking advert for The Avengers and was distracting from the action of the actual movie.
The main villains of this movie, Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Rourke’s Ivan Vanko are set up rather well but are inevitably underused, particularly Rourke, who ends up sat at a computer and then features in a brief 2-on-1 iron men fight. It is a shame as Rourke’s character gives the film a darker edge within the build up in the first hour or so but feels wasted after the excellent Monaco Grand Prix sequence. Don Cheadle is much better in the role of Rhodey then Terrence Howard was in the first movie, and he has a lot of fun particularly once he dons the War Machine suit. He and Downey Jnr. have a much better relationship and there is tension created between the both of them that I don’t think would’ve been achieved if Howard was still in the role. Their bust up in Stark’s house is one of the highlights of the movie. Johansson is fine in her role, convincing more in the fight scenes then other element of her performance, and she looks hot in her Black Widow suit. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that in The Avengers. Downey Jnr. is his usual self, love him or hate him, I think he’s great as Stark and is perfectly suited for the role, Paltrow very much the same in her role as the sweet and caring Pepper Potts.
Jon Favreau is an excellent director for getting the best performances that he can from actors, being an actor himself (here giving himself more to do as bodyguard Happy). He has improved on the action side of things as well, creating more exciting set pieces that the first one seemed to lack. And although the high-flying chase with the drones does end in a rather brief and routine robot punch up, what he produces before hand shows he much more an improved action movie director this time round. But where this film improves on the action from the first one, it doesn’t seem to match up with story, the first one being a very well devised origins story. This sequel is very much a chase of the filmmakers trying to do too much for their own good. But what is very important and what makes the film work is that the sense of fun established in the first movie is still here and is buzzing on fresh energy by the returning and new cast members and I would welcome another Iron Man movie following The Avengers. Just keep things simple, yeah?