Robert Downey Jr. proved his balls of steel after creating an icon out of a lesser-known Marvel character. But does the new Iron Man film possess a pair of grand gonads itself? With a $134 million opening weekend the box-office crown is tight upon the head of Iron Man 2. However, the film itself might just be kneeling before its overblown hype.
After revealing himself as Iron Man to the world, Tony Stark faces the music with the US Government. The Senate wants Tony to turn over his Iron Man “weapon,” fearing that copycats may replicate his technology. Despite Tony claiming that everyone all other attempts are years away from gaining the Iron Man capabilities, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an old enemy of Tony Stark, has duplicated the technology and royally whiplashed him at a Grand Prix racing event. Seeing the potential of Vanko’s technology, Tony’s weapons production competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) allies with Vanko to create a weapon that would render the Iron Man technology obsolete. Additionally, Tony promotes Pepper Potts to CEO of his company, he has a mysterious new assistant (Scarlett Johansson), some unresolved daddy issues, and an iffy recruitment by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of the Avengers Initiative. On top of all that, Tony’s power core, which is supposed to be protecting his heart, is now failing and is forcing him to count the days until his demise.
I admire the fact that screenwriter Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) really honed in on Tony’s struggle to balance his role as Iron Man the superhero and Tony Stark, head of the world’s premier weapons manufacturer. It makes for interesting conflict. But Iron Man 2 is first and foremost a superhero movie. Where’s the action? Despite the Grand Prix scene and the lackluster final battle with Vanko, there isn’t much action. Oh wait, there is in fact a drunken battle between Stark and Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle). But it hardly counts as action–even leaning towards comedy. It was an opportunity for the film to focus on Tony’s drinking problem but Favreau handles the fight in such a way that makes Tony goofy instead of irresponsible.
The movie sets up what could have been a formidable villain in Vanko and then kicks him to the side of the road. Although Mickey Rourke does his best, the script wastes his talent. Justin Hammer, a whiny weasel of a character, gets all of the screen time that Vanko truly deserved. And Rockwell is just so damn terrific as Hammer, making it all the more insulting that he had to play such an annoying character that deserved much less of a presence. Even Iron Man/Tony Stark himself seems to be sitting on his ass the entire movie. Fortunately, Robert Downey Jr.’s outstanding acting keeps us involved…mostly.
Ultimately, I would suggest seeing Iron Man 2 simply because the film needs to stack up enough money to warrant producing a much better third installment. Despite the best efforts of the cast and some excellent special effects, Favreau’s misfire direction and Theroux’s convoluted script left me to walk out of Iron Man 2 thinking, Iron Man who?