Besides the Expendables and The A-Team this is the film I had the highest hopes for this year. A soundtrack by AC/DC, the introduction of one of my favorite heroine's Black Widow and one of my favorite villains Whiplash, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, RDJ, Gwyneth Paltrow, tons of comedy, great special effects and great action. Well this film has all of that and more. And while it's not as groundbreaking or as fresh and original as the first film, it's still an entertaining film and a worthy sequel.
The story starts off in Russia showing the death of a Russian physicist. It's there we are introduced to Ivan aka Whiplash (played by Mickey Rourke). Ivan is the son of this physicist and vows revenge on the men responsible for making his father and his life a living Hell: Stark Industries. Ivan then for the next twenty minutes or so creates a device using the technology that Stark Industries has developed. While all this is happening Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is dealing with some issues himself. The government is on his ass about Iron Man, his secretary is on his ass about getting everything done in Stark Industries, Hammer (Rockwell), a weapons dealer, is on his ass about weaponizing Iron Man and while all this is happening Tony has to deal with his own mortality. You see Tony is slowly dying thanks to the device in his chest which pumps out a poison that grows the more he wears the suit.
Tony decides to change things up a little. He hires a girl named Natalie to be his new secretary and makes Pepper (Paltrow) the CEO of the company so that Stark can focus on being Iron Man and fixing his problem. But things start to become overwhelming and he takes a trip to Morocco which shapes the rest of the film.
You see while there he decides to engage in a race. Halfway through Ivan comes in as Whiplash and destroys the track, leaving Tony in a pile of his own blood. Ivan is eventually subdued once Tony puts on his spare armor and Ivan is led off to prison. From there the film splits into three factions:
Stark Industry-Dealing with the aftermath of this and the ramifications that come with Iron Man getting his ass kicked.
S.H.I.E.L.D- Trying to convince Tony to join the Avenger initiative, get his life back on track, and cure whatever is wrong with him
Hammer and Ivan-A villainous duo working together to take over the weapons market and destroy Stark Industries
The film splits up the time fairly evenly and we are left with a really well done film. The writing DOES get muddled in the middle and sometimes the action can be a bit sparse in the first half, but it's all made up for by the amazing ending which features some of the best action I've seen in a while. Chases, explosions, bombs, boss fights and Black Widow being the greatest thing since sliced bread. But Favreau and Theroux (the writer) have great control over the film and make sure never to make the film lean towards the boring and stupid and instead make it feel balanced and well done.
Part of that is obviously thanks to Robert Downey Jr. RDJ as Tony is brilliant. He is snarky, narcissistic, a total smartass, a womanizer, a thrill seeker, a genius, a madman and a very real person. Every scene with him glows and every time he is on screen you can't take your eyes off of him. Paltrow and Cheadle (a replacement for Terrance Howard) do good as well but each have their own problems which bring their characters down. Paltrow can't seem to decide whether she wants to be a cold, businesswoman or the sweet, happy girl. It's almost bipolarish at times but never distracting. Overall her character arc is quite well thought out. I can't say the same for Cheadle. While he is a better Rhodie than Howard, he never really grows as a character and that makes him hard to really root for.
As for the villains Sam Rockwell is great. He is the anti-Stark. He is rich, smart and powerful but unlike Tony he is corrupted by power and greed. He is what Tony could have been if he had gone to the dark side. That makes him all the more intriguing. That and he never really gets angry until the end and when he does he is scary. Rourke is good too but isn't really given much to do. He comes up, snaps, builds a machine, kicks Tony's ass, gets HIS ass kicked, goes to jail, breaks out and builds for pretty much the rest of the movie. He doesn't talk much except for his token trailer lines and when he does it's in muddled Russian or very thick English. But he does well despite these gripes and makes for a good villain.
Ah I can't forget my favorite part of this movie though...Natalie Rushman aka Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. Look RDJ is great, the writing and directing is great, the action and effects are great and the overall acting is great. But from the minute Scarlett Johanson walked in and all the way to the end with her massively awesome slo-mo action sequence I could not take my eyes off of her. Honestly when she was on screen I didn't see anything else. I realize that she was mostly there for ass shots and to be the token heroine but still...damn. She blew me away.
Overall Iron Man 2 is a great film full of great action, acting and writing. It has it's problems that DO hinder it and it does slightly suffer from sequelitis but it's worth seeing and worth your time and money. And Scarlett Johanson is hot. Nuff said.
MY VERDICT: OWN IT