Main cast: Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark), Don Cheadle (Lt Col James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes), Scarlett Johansson (Natalie Rushman), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko), Garry Shandling (Senator Stern), and Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury)
Director: Jon Favreau
Superhero movies tend to follow a familiar trend. The first movie is always about the hero coming into his superhero self and getting the girl while saving the world from the bad guy in an orgy of destruction. Then we have the question of how to make the sequel interesting, given that our superhero is standing at the top of the figurative mountain in triumph by the end of the first movie. An obvious solution is to turn the hero into a whiny emo twit who spends most of the second movie whining about the pressures of being a superhero. Iron Man 2 follows the script and schedule perfectly.
The plot is like this: Ivan Vanko, the son of the late Howard Stark’s partner who was later sent back to Russia for being a spy, blames the Starks for being filthy rich while he and his father, who helped Howard Stark create the arc reactor that Tony later refined to use as his “heart”, wallow in poverty in the cold wastes of Siberia. When Ivan’s father croaks, Ivan decides to show the world that Iron Man has weaknesses and therefore he would rob Tony of the idol worship he currently enjoys from people all over the world. So he goes ahead and creates his own arc reactor in his apartment. Yes, he is poor, so I have no idea where he gets all the resources or how one can even do these things in one’s own apartment, but come on, we all know that Marvel is still stuck in the 1960s when it comes to following scientific developments in the real world.
Ivan is successful in his plan, leading Justin Hammer, the CEO of the rival arms company, to hire Ivan to help him develop an army of android soldiers. Together, they will bring down Tony Stark. Meanwhile, the US Armed Forces want Tony to surrender the Iron Man suit so that they can turn it into an even more devastating weapon of mass destruction. Of course, this can’t be allowed!
But the bulk of this movie deals with Tony whining, behaving very childishly and horrifically, and treating the people around him, particularly Pepper Potts, very badly. His excuse is that he is dying, you see, since the palladium he uses to fuel his arc reactor is also slowly killing him. Therefore, we have Robert Downey Jr running wild and acting like an asshole on a downward spiral for more than one hour in this freaking two-hour movie, making me wonder whether I’ve accidentally watched a movie based on his autobiography instead of Iron Man 2. Meanwhile, the actresses are wasted in their roles. Pepper Potts is a man’s wet dream come true: a woman who remains steadfast, true, and patient as the man goes wild and acts beyond the pale like a selfish asshole. Scarlett Johansson, who for once boasts some curves instead of rib cages, is in the movie purely for fanservice. Jon Favreau is in the movie because his director’s fee isn’t enough to make him happy, and Don Cheadle plays the interchangeable black guy sidekick (apparently this movie is convinced that nobody can tell Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard apart). Don’t be so fast to call this movie on any implied racism, though – it is a black guy who hands over the stuff to let Tony get over himself without Tony having to make any effort on his part, so it’s not like this movie doesn’t respect the Magic Negro stereotype.
Still, I have to admit, the last climatic battle scenes are definitely good enough to wake me up from my bored stupor up to that point in the movie, although Pepper Potts can’t resist pulling off one final stunt of utter stupidity even then. War Machine and Iron Man make a very good combo once Tony stops being an overgrown five-year old brat.
Iron Man 2 is, barring the climatic battle scene, quite a snooze for a supposedly action-packed movie.