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film review: Iron Man 2

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
May 7, 2010 4:01 AM
13 Comments
  • |

The best thing I can say about Iron Man 2 is also the worst thing I can say about it: it’s a sequel. Kids will probably like it fine; there’s plenty of action and it’s easy to follow. But big-league comic-book movies want to appeal to adults as well as kids these days, and it’s not easy to serve both constituencies.

There’s also no reason a sequel can’t be good. The Godfather Part II and Toy Story 2 remain the pinnacle of such achievements—the exceptions to the rule. In the comic-book movie realm, X2 built upon the success of X-Men, and Spider-Man 2 improved upon—

—the original in so many ways that it made the disappointment of Spider-Man 3 all the more profound.

A big factor in Iron Man’s success was bringing a fresh face to the world of superheroes: not only the unusual character of Tony Stark—a celebrity billionaire who makes money manufacturing high-tech weapons—but the offbeat choice of Robert Downey, Jr. to play him. The actor’s restless energy and self-deprecating sense of humor gave the movie a unique vibe, along with that great high-tech suit.

Given that, the sequel has several strikes against it right from the start: we’ve seen Downey play this guy before. What’s more, Iron Man’s identity is no longer a secret, so the always-intriguing plot device of an ordinary man with a superhero alter ego is gone.

To make up for those debits, a sequel needs a great screenplay, and that’s just what Iron Man 2 lacks. (The first film’s writing team was supplanted by Justin Theroux, an actor-turned-writer whose principal credit to date is Tropic Thunder, which he shared with Ben Stiller.) Oh, there are plenty of new characters, played by an array of fine actors including Mickey Rourke (as a Russian bad guy), Scarlett Johansson (as a sexy Stark aide), Sam Rockwell (as an oily rival to Tony Stark), and Samuel L. Jackson as Marvel character Nick Fury. The estimable Don Cheadle steps into Terrence Howard’s shoes as Lt. Col. “Rhodey” Rhodes, while the film’s director, Jon Favreau, again gives himself an amusing supporting role.

The combined appeal of these actors gives Iron Man 2 most of its entertainment value. But the story is just so-so, an excuse for a series of action scenes that lack credibility and the emotional connection that makes a superhero movie soar.

One of my complaints about the first Iron Man was that it wasted Gwyneth Paltrow in a clichéd role as the hero’s Girl Friday who harbors a secret crush on him. This time around the filmmakers go to the opposite extreme, creating a love story that seems utterly fabricated, though it’s not the actors’ fault.

Iron Man 2 is not a bad movie; far from it. But it is an example of Hollywood “product,” made to satisfy a commercial demand and a release-date deadline, as opposed to a movie born out of passion to tell a good story.

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13 Comments

  • Simon | June 15, 2010 1:57 AMReply

    Things the director didn't thought about

    1) Why the bad guy wearing no armour has little injuries after hitting by the car on the race course. (At least, legs disjointed etc.)

    2) Why the explosion taking so long to explode to give iron man time to escape and save his girl friend.

  • Stephanie | May 27, 2010 8:17 AMReply

    i love Iron Man but not actually the film version but the animated one or rather the original version though this one is ok, not that bad except for the story i expected much but love the effects

    hmm i was thinking a little more comedy on the movie somewhat similar to GI Joe... or like the upcoming movie Get Him to the Greek. which sure is packed with comedy

  • Cam | May 26, 2010 11:42 AMReply

    I disagree, and in this post-modern post-structuralist world my opinion is no less valid and carries no less weight than any person paid to give their opinion (aka a 'critic'). I think 'Iron Man 2' was excellent for its emotional weight and the way it highlights the conflicts and trials that a superhero (or a person vested with unusual power) experiences.

  • Rob | May 21, 2010 5:11 AMReply

    Good Movie. See our review of this film and The Messengers reviews. 1st Annual Hall of Fame inductees and our weekly poll, this week it's dealing with Film Genres. read them all at

    http://cinemacriticsclub.blog.com/

  • love Downey | May 17, 2010 11:27 AMReply

    I love Iron Man!! Robert Downey Jr. is charming and endearing and made me love this movie! Normally I'm not a comic book fan, usually I go for more dramatic stuff like the movie Cycle (you can check it out at www.myspace.com/cyclethemovie), but because of Downey I'm a convert and loving it!! But Scarlette Jo has got to go I just find her annoying.

  • Chip | May 12, 2010 10:05 AMReply

    I cannot give my take on the movie because I haven't seen it yet (probably this weekend), but I love how you included Toy Story 2 as the pinnacle of great sequels. People always mention the obvious names such as TESB (which I love) and The Godfather Part II (haven't seen this or the first), and occasionally Terminator 2. Toy Story 2 is often put lower than (I feel) it deserves on best sequel lists, and I think it has to do with the fact that it's animated. It's my favorite sequel of all-time at the moment, because I've never known another sequel to stay so continuous with the first film, yet simulataneously tell a great, new story. I can only hope that Toy Story 3 is just as good.

  • Jason | May 12, 2010 1:44 AMReply

    hate to sound like an uber nerd here but why is Empire Strikes Back never mentioned with good movie sequels that surpass their originals?

  • T.J. Royal | May 11, 2010 7:14 AMReply

    I enjoyed "Iron Man 2" as an action movie, and I thought Sam Rockwell was pretty darn hilarious and enjoyable as Stark's rival Justin Hammer.

    "'Iron Man 2' is not a bad movie; far from it. But it is an example of Hollywood 'product,' made to satisfy a commercial demand and a release-date deadline, as opposed to a movie born out of passion to tell a good story."

    Though I liked it, you nailed it with the comment above, Leonard.

  • juan chavez | May 10, 2010 7:31 AMReply

    I could not disagree either. It is unlikely for a sequel to overcome its predecessor. The movie is definitely set for children and adults with flights of fancy, but never the less I am one of those adults. As the storyline I think Stan Lee would agree, but resisting a comment to his fans may disburden his pockets. If you know what I mean. just being sarcastic.

  • Alex Ozuna | May 8, 2010 4:05 AMReply

    The first movie was really special because of Robert Downey Jr and the characters played by Jeff Bridges and Gwen Paltrow. This sequel has a great villian in Mickey Rourke, but it also introduces too many characters. Thankfully, it's the not the train wreck that was "Spider-Man 3", but it's no "Dark Knight". At it's best, the movie is good fun. At it's worse, it's less inspired than the first. But then again, most sequels are. Overall, I had fun with it. Good flick, not great, with solid performances by the entire cast. 3 stars out of 4.

  • Andrew Smith | May 7, 2010 10:12 AMReply

    I enjoyed the film but can see the value in some of your points.

    However, I can't agree with your comment about Iron Man's secret identity in the first film being an "always-intriguing plot device." If anything I think I'm bored with that trope, having seen it done, and done well before in the Spiderman and Batman franchises. Iron Man 2, on the other hand, offered me something new – a hero who struggled with his all too public persona. In some ways I feel that Stark's very media-centric heroism would be the norm if super-heros actually existed in our modern world.

  • Jason | May 7, 2010 8:10 AMReply

    I guess I didn't think the first Iron Man had that great a story (and was SHOCKED to find it had four different screen writers!) and I thought maybe the second movie would embelish the personalities (particularly Paltrow's character) and make it more fun. Sadly it seems to take away any reason to "connect" with the characters (as leonard said) and in the process deadens any impact the movie might make. I'm glad at least this superhero franchise is staying away from 'Dark Knight' territory but it'd help to have a slightly more grounded screenplay and plot.

  • anis | May 7, 2010 7:39 AMReply

    Couldn't agree more Leonard. Iron Man 2 lacks a good story. I saw this last week and I'm still disappointed today. I liked the first Iron Man so much that I expected the second one to surpass it. Boy was I wrong. It's not a bad movie, but it's just isn't good enough!

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