By Karl J. Paloucek
What makes a great action film? A lot more than just a bunch of costly, effects-laden sequences. The best pull together great characters and a compelling plot into which the expected explosive scenes fit seamlessly. In 2008, Robert Downey Jr.’s career got an incredible jolt with Iron Man, as the long-troubled actor met the perfectly fitted part of eccentric inventor and weapons contractor Tony Stark. The film blended wit, glamour, spectacle and a lot of really cool gadgetry into one of the best superhero action films in a decade that’s been full of them.
And then, of course, there’s the inevitable sequel.
The action picks up just where the inaugural film left off. After Stark announces to the world that he is, in fact, Iron Man, the U.S. government demands that he turn his technology over to its military. He refuses. Unbeknownst to anyone — even Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom he suddenly names CEO of Stark Enterprises — Tony is beginning to suffer adverse effects from his use of the Iron Man suit, putting his life in jeopardy. At the same time, halfway around the world, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a dark character from the Stark family’s distant past, begins drawing up his own plans to kill Tony with a suit based on Tony’s design, with the backing of the weasely Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). And seemingly out of nowhere, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his colleague Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) come to Tony’s assistance when his life begins to spin out of control.
Yes, there are a lot of big-name players in this second installment. Don Cheadle even stars as Rhodey, Tony’s friend and military liaison. But the better news is that in spite of the star power and the considerably impressive visuals, the story remains the axis around which this franchise revolves. Everything onscreen serves it, whether it’s the still-impressive visual effects, the ever-more-defined characters or their rapid-wit dialogue. We’re drawn further into Tony’s story and the mystery surrounding his family’s past, particularly through the glimpse of Tony’s father (John Slattery) that we receive via some old film footage that Tony is given.
A bit more depth to Rourke’s Vanko and his past would have added more dynamism to the film as a whole, but this is clearly a bridge adventure, as it introduces characters and scenarios that will be integral to 2012’s The Avengers. Even the climactic battle scene requisite to all superhero films leaves a slight feeling of unfinished business, but the film doesn’t suffer for it. It’s still a worthy sequel to one of the best films of the genre, and one that will likely see greater appreciation when its follow-up appears.
“Iron Man 2” is now showing on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
™ & © 2010 Marvel © 2010 MVLFFLLC. Credit: Double Negative/Marvel