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Iron Man 2 (2010)

Now a days comic book films are a dime a dozen, but for the few good ones out there a semi-consistent trend exists.  That trend being the second film in the series usually ends up being the best.  It's been the case in series such as Batman, Spider-man and X-men, but that's not the case with Marvel's latest entry into the Iron Man series starring hot shot actor Robert Downey Jr.  While Iron Man 2 manages to entertain, it's nothing that blows your socks off.  Essentially Iron Man 2 plays it safe by not branching too far out of the boundaries of the original which really makes me wonder if this is all the series has or is there something bigger lurking in the shadows for Tony Stark?

Iron Man 2 picks up seven months after the original film with Tony Stark enjoying the popularity of his Iron Man alter ego being public knowledge.  But with fame also comes exploitation of that fame and the federal government isn't too keen on Tony Stark owning the only Iron Man suit.  They consider it a liability, they consider it a weapon, and want to be able to have the ability to assemble a suit themselves for military defense purposes.

Tony assures them the world has never been safer, and that it will be five to ten years at least before anyone is able to successfully duplicate the arc reactor technology which gives the Iron Man suit it's power.  But that's not the case, in Russia a man by the name of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is developing his own version of the arc reactor off of plans his father had obtained from years of working with Tony Stark's father.  According to Vanko, Stark's father ruined his father's life when he had him deported over twenty years ago, now upon the death of his father Ivan Vanko is searching for revenge.

Meanwhile the government is looking for other avenues to obtain their own Iron Man model and they turn to Stark Industries second rate competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to provide them with a suitable copy.  Hammer, tired of being overshadowed by the great Tony Stark, will do whatever necessary to see that he not only creates something ingenious but that he destroys Stark in the process.  To do that he teams up with Ivan Vanko who has the knowledge of the arc reactor and a shared hatred for the Stark family.  With all this going on Tony learns that the radiation from the arc reactor is quickly poisoning his blood, he has a limited amount of time to come up with a new design or Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer will be the least of his problems.

With the return of Iron Man comes a lot of disappointed opinions, mostly from the critics.  The truth is Iron Man 2 doesn't live up to what everyone has come to expect from a highly anticipated sequel to a highly successful launched series.  Iron Man 2 is no Dark Knight, and it's no Spider-man 2, but with that said it's also not a waste of time, and not a complete disappointment.  The sequel stays within the boundaries setup by the original, and gradually expands that boundary as the film progresses.  The biggest issue with Iron Man 2 is it doesn't bring much diversity to the series, the story isn't overly unique, and if anything the characters of Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer are simply an expanded variation of the first film and Jeff Bridges character Obadiah Stane. Throw in the fact the story spends a lot of time focusing on Stark's health issue, which will obviously be resolved (they're not going the kill off Tony Stark), leaving the film to stay afloat based on character performances.

Because of this Iron Man 2 should have really been entitled Iron Man 2: Tony Stark.  In a comic book film this is one of the few times the superhero alter ego actually takes a backseat in his own film.  Aside from three fight sequences, one of which is against his own friend Rhodey, Iron Man is literally non-existent , it's Tony Stark who carries the film with a level of quick witted humor and sarcasm that puts the first film to shame.  The second character which manages to save Iron Man 2's thinly fashioned story is Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.  Essentially Hammer is Stark's doppelganger, adding a lot of humor to the film and really succeeding in becoming a decent nemesis, essentially your getting two variations of Tony Stark for the price of one.  The rest of the characters have their moments, none of them really shine much individually but what they do succeed in is setting up Stark for some great one liners.  One example being Scarlett Johannson, who is as dull and emotionless as ever but manages to give Downey plenty of opportunities to play off of, and she also manages to provide what I felt was the best action sequence in the entire film.  Another plus was the addition of Don Cheadle as Rhodey, taking Terrance Howard's place.  Howard was probably one of the few things I disliked most about Iron Man, I think his replacement worked out well, and usually I'm not a fan of replacing main characters.

Overall, Iron Man 2 is definitely worth seeing, if you enjoyed the original.  Is it better?  No. But it doesn't ruin the franchise, it simply doesn't progress it much either.  Like Downey's recent Sherlock Holmes outing, Iron Man 2 simply seems to be a springboard for future films, not only in the Iron Man series but also in The Avengers series.  The story isn't as well development and the action sequences left me a little disappointed, especially viewing it all on the IMAX screen I was surprised how underwhelmed I was by most of it, so I would recommend skipping the premium price of the gigantic screen and settling for the standard size because Iron Man 2 doesn't gain anything via IMAX, it simply didn't have the same effect as The Dark Knight or Star Trek did.  In the end, Iron Man is still the better film with a better story and better action sequences, while Iron Man 2 is purely a character driven, comedy overload, and this is one of the few times I'll admit too many characters actually saved a film.  They all managed to serve a purpose, setting up Robert Downey Jr., and amazingly enough it worked.

Update: Second Viewing
September 28th, 2010 
Surprisingly I found myself liking the film even less.  I found the story to be extremely long winded, and the never-ending attempts at comedy to be extremely nauseating at times (very hit and miss).  The characters (especially Downey, Paltrow and Rockwell) seem to spend a lot of time rambling, talking over each other and doing absolutely nothing but running up the clock, which began to become quite annoying and drag out the tired plot.  Ironically the only thing about the film I liked more the second time around was Scarlett Johansson, she flawlessly kicks butt and she doesn't run her mouth 90 miles a minute.  I've read a lot of people who didn't like the first film but love this sequel, well as a big fan of the original Iron Man 2 doesn't compare, it's too corny, too long winded and simply didn't hold up the second time around for me at all.  Demotion from an 8 to a 6.


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