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Iron Man 2 movie poster

Iron Man 2: Movie Review

Action, Adventure
Rated: N/A
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Kate Mara, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Olivia Munn, Don Cheadle
Released by: Paramount Pictures

In Short: With an overly complicated story and a sagging midsection, it’s not as good as the original, but Robert Downey, Jr. helps make Iron Man 2 an entertaining start to the summer box-office season.

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Plot Points Aplenty Crowd this Comic-Based Film

It’s been just two years since the first "Iron Man" blew into cinemas like a refreshing breeze, and ended up ruling the summer alongside a certain "Dark Knight."  The film was a reminder that blockbusters (comic-based or otherwise) had a lot to gain by relying on strong characterization and a less-is-more approach to action and effects. And that Robert Downey, Jr. can find humor in any line when he puts his mind to it. It becomes even clearer that he was probably the first film’s strongest asset after watching the second, which lacks its predecessor’s engaging clarity and consistency. "Iron Man 2" suffers from more than a few mediocre stretches, but when the film jolts into life, Downey, Jr. is usually the culprit.

One thing it definitely does not suffer from is a lack of plot points. Having outed himself as Iron Man in the first film’s conclusion, Tony Stark is now an international celebrity superhero, but is hiding the fact that the energy cell keeping him alive is also slowly poisoning him. Meanwhile, he must try to keep the US Government’s coveting hands off his Iron Man tech with the tentative assistance of his military buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Which is to say nothing of the vengeful Russian scientist who wants to kill him (Mickey Rourke), the rival industrialist who wants to replace him (Sam Rockwell), and the two secret agents who want to cure him so they can hire him (Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson).

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man 2 Scarlett Johannson in Iron Man 2

If that sounds like a mess on paper, it's even more confusing in the theater, but that's not to say there’s nothing to appreciate here. While "Iron Man 2"'s mid section drags considerably, the first thirty minutes or so have all the brisk verve of the first film thanks to clever scripting, solid staging, and a truly tense action sequence set at the Monaco Gran Prix. And of course… Robert Downey, Jr. He remains engaging throughout, even when the film is doing its best to bog itself down, and he’s not alone.  Somewhat surprisingly, Gwyneth Paltrow, as his former personal assistant and newly appointed CEO Pepper Potts, finishes a solid second in the comedic acting race, as the scenes of the pair ribbing each other are among the film’s best. Rockwell is perfectly obnoxious as the overly-spray-tanned Justin Hammer, and Rourke is serviceably menacing as Whiplash, though he begins to look more like an Austrian decorator as the story progresses. Cheadle does what he can with what is effectively the wet-blanket role.

Though she doesn’t have much to do acting-wise, Johansson does give an impressive physical performance in one of the film’s best set pieces: a creatively choreographed brawl between super-spy Black Widow and a handful of security guards. Unfortunately, along with a brief robot slaughter at the climax, it’s also one of the few action sequences to leave a lasting impression. Entertaining as the movie ultimately is, one can help wonder how much better it could have been with half as many competing themes, characters, and storylines. It’s a lesson the original "Iron Man" should have already taught the filmmakers, but so many sequels still have to learn the hard way.

Reviewed by Matt Kane

Check out our movie review of Iron Man

Updated: (05/06/10 AR)

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