I love Iron Man 2.That feeling I got at the end of the first one - joy, excitement, anticipation of a next chapter, the realization that the Great Movie Season was upon us - was back again, this time from the word go. You know in those old movies when something surprising and mind-blowing happens and the heroine throws her hands up to her face? I did that. I didn't even realize it until I set them down, but my instinctive physical response to the film climactic fight sequence was the ol' hands-to-face routine. Exciting!
What's interesting is that they manager to progress the character by regressing the character. The Tony Stark who realized there was a world to save in the first movie, has let that power, fame and awesomeness go to his head. And so, once again, we get Robert Downey, Jr., doing his fast-talking smart-assery while Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle try to keep a handle on him. Ah-ha, but there's a darker edge to his behavior, due to plot developments that you'll just have to see for yourself. So, yeah, he's reckless and kind of an asshole, but he's Tony fucking Stark, so he's also lovable and we know he's going to come round in the end. Hurrah!
The villains are great fun. Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko is mesmerizing to behold, with Rourke disappearing into the role. I know, I know: it's an Iron Man movie, where everyone's constantly winking at the camera, but sue me, the man actually becomes a Russian baddie. He's amazing to watch, and so it's a shame that he's kind of given short shrift in the film's finale. For such a great climax, it really blueballs the audience Rourke-wise. Not so much Sam Rockwell's nefarious Justin Hammer, Stark's competitor, who is deliciously sleazy. To see these two Hollmann Award Winners sharing scenes of villainy together was almost too much. I wish we had more of them, really.
Except I don't, because there's one thing the Iron Man movies have that the other superhero movies don't: a hero more interesting than his villains. And I love the villains in the Iron Man movies, even Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane (don't know why people didn't, I thought he was incredible). It's not that the bad guys are boring. It's that this is a superhero franchise that's actually about the title character! Crazy, novel idea, that! No Kevin Spacey chewing scenery, no Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson getting awards, no Thomas Haden Church getting the better underscore, no William Hurt; we paid for Iron Man, and that's what we're going to get!
(This is not true, of course, for the Fantastic Four movies, which have no one of interest, anywhere.)
You have to give credit to director Jon Favreau and scribe Justin Theroux for remaining fun while still developing a story and characters. They've managed to find a perfect balance for this film, assisted by the effective score by John Debney. I don't remember any music of note in the first one, but Debney's opening piece is still ringing in my ears, a haunting track that's going to get a lot of play on my iTunes. And by the way, Mary Zophres' costume designs are just as fun, from Whiplash's outfits to Stark's smoking jacket to Hammer's suits. Not to mention the catsuit worn by Tony Award Nominee Scarlett Johansson.
She's fun, by the way. Not distracting, and actually plays a real role in the film's proceedings. I was afraid it would be a glorified cameo, but she's quite effective here. Seems unfair to the male population that she shares so many scenes with Gwyneth Paltrow in which both wear skirts and heels. If we have heart attacks now, how will we buy tickets for the Thor? And furthermore, once scene has them conferring in a room, and Christiane Amanpour appears on one of the television screens. Where was I, Heaven?
OK, typical hetero male rant over. It's a great movie and a fun ride. Been too long since I wrote a completely positive review. Really, there hasn't been a movie this good since Kick-Ass, and that was almost a month ago. I can't recommend Iron Man 2 highly enough.