Iron Man 2 (2010)

Director: Jon Favreau
Robert Downey Jr.Gwyneth PaltrowDon Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot: Billionaire Tony Stark must contend with deadly issues involving the government, his own friends, as well as new enemies due to his superhero alter ego Iron Man.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Awards: -
Runtime: 124min
Rating: PG for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.


Iron Man 2 is sure to be welcomed by a united chorus of Marvel fans and Hollywood blockbuster fanatics alike. Jon Favreau’s follow-up to his box-office success will inevitably draw hordes of people into the theaters. In my review of Iron Man (2008), I expressed hope that its sequel would “defy the odds and fare better critically”. But the film does not appear likely to have a positive effect on critics. To those skeptical of another superhero sequel, is it worth the wait?

The answer is no. To Favreau’s credit, Iron Man 2 is fairly consistent in style and tone. The visual effects and sound editing are on par, if not better than its prequel. But the answer is still no. The most disappointing aspect lies in the treatment of its story. With most of the characters quite comfortably developed in the first film, in particular Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), what unknown writer Justin Theroux has on his plate is to just pen a good and engaging story. Unfortunately, he fails to do so.

It would literally be a different story if Paramount Pictures kept the writers of Iron Man on payroll. Why swop Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (whom are Oscar-nominated writers of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006)) for Theroux? It is the most important question the producers will ask of themselves if Iron Man 2 does not perform up to expectations i.e. hit the US$600M (worldwide) mark. With Favreau staying on board, it is also a mixed blessing, but one that is for better than for worse. He is an average director who makes average films that excite on the surface but perform unsatisfactorily at its core. At least, his films have that mass appeal that would set cash registers ringing.

The shallow story is obvious. During quieter moments when characters converse, one could see that there is a struggle to even move the story along, let alone at a pace faster than an insomniac trying to sleep. Both Mickey Rourke, who plays villain Ivan Vanko, and Sam Rockwell, who plays the self-centered Justin Hammer, give excellent performances that even upstage Downey Jr.'s, whose narcissistic caricature of Tony Stark prove to be more hilarious (in an irritating sort of way) than endearing to viewers. But his charismatic screen presence can still be felt.

There is just too much humor to label Iron Man 2 as a serious superhero film (the first was successful to a certain extent in this regard). Scenes of Downey Jr. in an Iron Man suit dancing drunkenly are obviously played for quick laughs but they devaluate the quality of Favreau’s film and undermine fanboys’ respect for superheroes in general. The action sequences are well executed but are inexplicably short-lived. This is also a problem that plagued the prequel. The Iron Man series deserve so much better than what Favreau’s two films have attempted to create. I now wait with trepidation for Iron Man 3.


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