Iron Man 2 tries so hard to outdo its predecessor that much of the magic that made the original film entertaining is left by the wayside in favor of bigger bangs and larger quantities of machine gun-toting robots. The heavy reliance on practical effects made the first feature more realistic and readily believable, resulting in a heightened sense of immediate danger. While the number of computer-generated androids Iron Man must face in his second outing may have increased exponentially, the level of thrills have been reduced by as much. At least Mickey Rourke’s whip-wielding maniac isn’t the silliest aspect of the movie – that honor belongs to the Golden Avenger’s actor-swapping counterpart War Machine.
After revealing to the world his superhero alter ego Iron Man, billionaire playboy and self-proclaimed world peacemaker Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) must continue to contend with his rapidly growing fame and his hot-headed personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but now faces several new threats. The U.S. military wants Stark to turn over the Iron Man suit, his competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) secretly attempts to match the technology, and a Russian physicist with a vendetta, Ivan Vanko, (Mickey Rourke) plots to kill the industrialist. His old nemeses, booze, narcissism and an enormous ego that attracts assassins at every turn, also arrive. To compound matters even further, Stark discovers he is steadily being poisoned by the arc reactor, the very machine keeping him alive. With time quickly running out, the superhero must find a solution derived from his past while battling against the forces of evil who wish to exploit the mysterious mechanics of the Iron Man.
From the death-defying freefall stunt into the crowded Stark Expo, complete with enthusiastic cheerleaders and fireworks, to the Grand Prix racecar event, to the final showdown with four squads of ironmen, this much anticipated sequel prides itself on trying to outdo the first film. Unfortunately, it fails. Rarely do sequels improve upon the original, and in this case, like the follow-up to Transformers, Iron Man 2 simply gets louder and uses more expensive locations and props. It takes advantage of a loftier budget, but doesn’t manufacture anything creatively unique – the “wow” factor has surprisingly vanished.
“With no power comes no responsibility.” That quote comes from Kick-Ass, but it’s appropriate here. In a fleeting moment of realism, the government tries to step in and confiscate Stark’s weapon; what follows is a circus, a farce of procedure and power, demonstrating a completely conflicting message. The film goes on to exaggerate situations to the point that it’s clear the filmmakers no longer wish for Iron Man to be grounded in reality. When Tony gets involved with The Avengers, creates a new element, and utilizes his computer system “Jarvis” (voiced by Paul Bettany), the fine line between the believability of a character like Batman versus Iron Man is radically distanced. Neither one is supposed to possess any real superpowers.
Director Jon Favreau gets his own fight scene, Rourke manages to have a toothpick in his mouth 24/7 (even after a short prison term), Scarlett gets oodles of close-ups, Iron Man’s suit is now reminiscent of a Transformer, and Rhodey has undergone a complete transformation. It’s only the second movie and they’ve already run out of interesting villains, resorting to a cross between original comic book baddies and just another guy in an Iron Man suit, almost identical to the disappointing antagonist in the first film. At least Iron Man 2, in a move similar to altering the X-Men’s costume colors, dispenses with actually naming Ivan “Whiplash” or calling Natalie Rushman (Johansson) “Black Widow.”
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)