I may not have been in the right frame of mind when I saw this. My beloved grandmother passed away in hospital recently, my mother and sister there holding her hands; I saw this the next night, with Chris and his mother, as both an early Mother’s Day present for her and a bid to distract myself from my emotions. I thought: it’s Iron Man 2. There’s not going to be much in the way of grandmother-related materials in here for me to get sad about.
The very first scene of Jon Favreau’s sequel has Ivan Vanko, played by Mickey Rourke, at his elderly father’s deathbed. They’re watching Tony Stark on television making the astonishing declaration from the end of the first film: “I am Iron Man.” Anton Vanko says to his son, “That should have been you,” then draws his last breath and dies. Ivan screams to the heavens. I am in my cinema chair covering my eyes with my hands thinking: this is a bad start.
I really enjoyed the first Iron Man movie. It was fun and funny, Robert Downey Jr just the right amount of smug and endearing, but with too much eyeliner. This movie had less eyeliner, but unfortunately, less action. It had more characters, but was less interesting.
After being the big obnoxious hero of the first movie, Tony Stark is now in a bad place. While he is still loaded, launching the famed Stark Expo, and surrounded by cheerleaders in his first scene, things aren’t all so great. The US Senate wants him to give them his suit, and is accusing him of having a military weapon at his disposal. Their star witness? Stark’s best friend, Rhodey. To top it off, Stark’s new heart is not capable of sustaining him long-term. Can he come up with something better, or will he die, along with the option of a sequel or ten? Will the business fall apart while he tries, despite Pepper Potts’ best efforts? And are they going to finally make out or what?
And to the character list. First we have Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, out to get revenge on Iron Man for Stark Snr’s faults. We also have arms dealer Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell (and, unnervingly, someone who could tie in with his Moon character quite well). And then we have Natalie Rushman, played mysteriously and with repressed bosoms by Scarlett Johanssen. Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, aka War Machine, aka Don Cheadle, turns up as Stark’s bestest pal but—if you were working with knowledge from this movie alone—it would be confusing as to why they were friends, as they only fight and appear to have nothing in common. Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts is there too, innocent and red-haired and tempting me to colour my hair as it worked pretty well for Gwyneth Paltrow. Favreau himself rolls up as Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan, mostly useless but there to be available for a later gag with Johanssen. Also in the mix are Stark’s computer Jarvis, voiced by Paul Bettany; Garry Shandling creeping it up as Senator Shem, one of the more realistic villains who wants Stark to give up his tech secrets; some of Nick Fury’s henchmen out to look after an ailing Stark; and some old footage of John Slattery as Stark’s deceased father Howard, because apparently we needed some poignancy and the other thirty thousand characters couldn’t cut it. To be honest, all those people became exhausting, especially when all I ultimately wanted to see was Tony Stark hand out some knuckle sandwiches for an hour and a half.
Which brings us to the action. It’s an action movie, right? Well, I know I shouldn’t pigeonhole, and movies should be whatever they want, and an action movie with no heart is usually not as good, and so on, but generally you’d put this in the action shelf in your DVD collection, wouldn’t you, if you hadn’t seen it first? Well, there was almost more heart-stopping mech-suit action in Ladies in Lavender. Favreau would set the scene—Monaco Grand Prix, for example—and stick Iron Man in a racecar and Whiplash on the circuit. He has a superpowered whip that can slice metal in half. How thrilling! And it was, for a few seconds, until it all ended and our pulse rates had barely risen. The ending suffered the same fate: a lot of smoke and not much fire.
While not a terrible movie, because the acting talent is really quite wonderful, it is packing far too much into a single film and it does suffer for it. If we’d just not had to worry about the army, maybe we could have had some more scenes with Tony Stark ’sploding some heads. Less Nick Fury (possibly just there to promote the coming Avengers movie anyway) could have meant more Scarlett in a catsuit. And so on and so forth involving my personal preferences.
If it’s worth seeing anywhere, it’s probably on the big screen, which gives what dramatic scenes we have the proper treatment. It’s still a fun movie, and Downey Jr makes for a very human and fallible rich superhero. It’s been getting fairly good reviews, too, so take what I say here—due to the fact that I might not have been on top of my reviewing game—with a grain of salt. I do, however, stand by my opinion that Mickey Rourke needs to get a haircut; between his greasy locks here and in The Wrestler, I am beginning to consider directing my adoration elsewhere. Got that, Mickey? Great.