I had this big introductory paragraph parsed out about how difficult it is to make sequels that don’t suck in Hollywood and how it’s even harder to push out a comic book sequel considering the rabid throng of fans frothing in the background, waiting to pounce if their beloved story isn’t up to par with their expectations. I imagine this type of stress might cause the bookkeepers in Tinsletown to drink Mylanta like an ice-cold pitcher of summertime Kool-Aid and probably gave director Jon Favreau many a night of the Rocky Mountain Quick Step. That’s the shits in layman’s terms, but between you and me, I think he can relax now, because Iron Man 2 is so chock full of awesome that I was entertained from start-to-finish.
Iron Man 2, like Superman 2, Spider-Man 2, and The Dark Knight, is easily better than its 2008 predecessor, the movie Robert Downey Jr. can thank for restarting his career and making him Hollywood’s new/old hot commodity. Again, in Iron Man 2, Downey Jr. is the driving force, but he’s helped a long nicely by Favreau’s deft directorial touch and solid performances from Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell. Probably the only person that seems out of place is Samuel L. Jackson, who just hasn’t been relevant since, um, Pulp Fiction. He’s a face and a voice, but his acting chops aren’t even in the league of the other players in Iron Man 2. I suppose one positive is the production didn’t have to pay for his costume as Nick Fury, as it appears Jackson opened his chest o’ memorabilia and found the costume he donned for 2000’s Shaft.
Iron Man 2’s story begins six months after Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) told the press “I am Iron Man,” and we find the world at peace, Tony’s ego inflated beyond belief and the same sinister arms manufacturers, this time sleazy Stark-wannabe Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), conspiring to control and/or eliminate Iron Man. It’s all about the money and in the world of weapons, peace does not equal profit. The same can’t be said about Ivan Vanko (Rourke), a silver-toothed, skunk-haired Russian who wants Tony/Iron Man dead based on alleged past transgressions against the Vanko family by Howard Stark, Tony’s father. Vanko creates an angry Electric Horseman whip suit and attacks Tony during a race in Monaco and this gives Hammer, and the government, fuel to try and shut Tony down. Fortunately, Tony can rely on his pals Pepper (Paltrow), James Rhodes (Cheadle) and new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) to get him back on his feet and win the day.
Iron Man 2 establishes yet again that a cast of actors, not just pretty faces, along with a capable director can turn a Marvel comic book, one not as popular as Spider-Man or others, into a first-rate movie that has broad appeal. If Marvel Studios does the same with Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers and the Spider-Man reboot, I have nothing but anticipation for these films in the next few years.