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I found Iron Man 2, contrary to word of mouth, to be perfectly complementary as a follow up to the original. The cast that remained held up brilliantly, with Gwyneth Paltrow and director/co-star Jon Favreau actually bringing much more substance to their respective characters. Robert Downey, Jr. remains the perfect choice to play Tony Stark. He puts on a suitably more manic performance in the sequel, though the plot does demand that he do so. Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes/War Machine vastly improves on the departed Terrence Howard’s previous performance. Where Howard played Rhodes as worrisome and sometimes whiny, Cheadle’s Rhodes is collected and cool but quick to act. Samuel L. Jackson makes much of his brief moments to establish his Nick Fury, S.H.E.I.L.D., and the “Avengers Initiative” subplot. None of it overwhelms or distracts from Tony’s story, though, and feeds the main plot in a fairly organic, if slightly convenient, manner.

The movie manages to work in three solid new characters masterfully. It’s quite a load if not handled well (see Spider-Man 3, Batman & Robin) but Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux pull it off. Presumably returning in some capacity, Scarlett Johansson’s Natalie/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow character proves vital to Iron Man‘s success. While not getting the most screen time, every moment the Widow is shown moves something forward. Her fight scenes are amazing, too. Mickey Rourke plays his Ivan Vanko/Whiplash appropriately stony, letting his actions speak for him mostly. As a villain he works well as Iron Man’s foil, a man just as capable as Tony Stark but fixated only on vengeance. His accomplice, Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, would have stolen the movie out from under a lesser actor than Downey. He captures the neurotic competition with Stark perfectly, showing what a shallow, bitter knob Hammer really is in his every little word and action. I can only hope that Rockwell returns somehow in the next installment.

Hopefully not giving too much away, the main thread of the film is Stark’s ever looming loss of his much needed control. From the Senate hearing where a great Garry Shandling demands the armor be turned over to the U.S. military through Tony’s search for a non-lethal element to power his mechanisms, and on to a very condensed version of his alcoholism rendering him unfit to pilot his armor, the movie keeps pushing Stark into a place where he cannot control what’s happening around him. With each event, though, Tony pushes back, spinning further and further out of control. And only once Tony listens (or is forced to listen) to someone else for a change, does he find the key to his problems.

Visually, the film trumps even its predecessor. The Iron Man armor and its bells and whistles look better and do more cool tricks than previously. The War Machine armor gets its trademark, militaristic look through a natural chain of events and looks great in the final battle. Whiplash’s final weaponry holds less visual appeal than his early crude experiments but works in keeping two powerhouses at bay, and that’s what Iron Man movies are about: men in armor clobbering each other. The nice thing is that Favreau and company have crafted an excellent film with rounded characters inside of that basic premise. 4 ½ stars

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7 Comments

  1. This review is to long xscarlet yohanson needs to akt better

    • Thank you for your well thought out rebuttal. I’m certain Ms. “yohanson” could greatly benefit from your coaching as well. Perhaps you should mail her a letter of intent and your resume.

  2. This review is the proper length. Scarlet Johansson is, in my opinion a fairly good character actress. Great review, I’ll have to catch it after I rent the first.

  3. I CAN HAZ REVYOO COMMENT?

  4. Huh. Maybe I should buy a bootleg of this in Chinaman land…

  5. Nice review! Thanks for sharing this. I personally love this movie. It may not deserve an Oscar, but it is really entertaining.


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