By Brian Lafferty
May 6, 2010 (San Diego)--When I saw Iron Man two years ago, I left the theater feeling it was a great movie but functioned more like a set-up for a better and bigger story. It raised my expectations for the sequel, which is out in theaters today. Iron Man 2 is bigger and better but not by much; it suffers from two major story flaws. Yet, I walked out of the theater feeling much more satisfied because everything that did work more than made up for what didn't.
This time around, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) faces a much more formidable opponent in Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Upset over his father’s ruination at the hands of Tony Stark’s father, Vanko becomes Whiplash. His weapons of choice are large whips loaded with heavy electrical charges that can sever a car in half as easily as an axe chops firewood.
The screenplay for this movie was written by Justin Theroux, who two years ago worked on the script for Tropic Thunder. He inserts copious amounts of droll and entertaining character moments expressed through visuals, dialogue, or a combination of both. The rapid-fire dialogue laced with pop culture references, irony, and wit gives the characters three dimensions, allowing for a film that is as much fun to listen to as it is to watch.
This benefits the film immensely. The action scenes in this picture make only a few appearances. By my count, excluding public appearances, Iron Man shows up to fight around three times. Yet, the intensity, excitement, and action increase with each appearance. If it weren’t for the pleasantly listenable dialogue and the richly developed characters, the movie would be extremely uneven and boring.
The sound design by Skywalker Sound punctuates the little things, including the sizzles of the electric whips, the whooshes from Iron Man’s suit, and the motors of the racecars rushing across the track before crashing at the hands of Whiplash. Iron Man 2 takes full advantage of surround sound by making ample use of the rear speakers, resulting in a surprisingly immersive experience. The classic rock soundtrack boasting hit tunes from artists like AC/DC, Queen, and The Clash round out the meticulously crafted sound design.
There are two gripes I have with this picture. The movie tries to do too much. It would have been better for the government to be left out and feature just Vanko and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) as the primary villains.
The second is the defeat of Vanko. A very spectacular sequence precedes it in which Iron Man is chased through the air by heavily weaponized drones and Lt. Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) wearing an Iron Man suit controlled by Vanko. This sequence is more exciting than the many car chases I’ve seen over the years. But when Iron Man and Rhodes kill Vanko, it is equally anticlimactic.
Stick around until after the end credits. There is a post-credits scene that I found much better than that seen in the first movie.
A Paramount Pictures release. Director: Jon Favreau. Screenplay: Justin Theroux, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. Original Music: John Debney. Cinematography: Matthew Libatique. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, and Garry Shandling. Running Time: 124 minutes. Rated PG-13.