Iron Man 2

After the surprisingly enjoyable Iron Man bucked the trend for cherished superhero franchises being less re-imagined and more arse raped by Hollywood, can we really expect a repeat performance from Jon Favreau's sequel?

Things start promisingly enough. The tantalising prospect of renaissance men Downey Jnr and Mickey Rourke going mano a mano certainly propels the movie through its first half an hour, but it's not long after that the cracks start to show.

Plot wise, Iron Man 2 follows on seamlessly from its predecessor, with narcissistic multi gazillionnaire Tony Stark enjoying widespread adulation since revealing himself as the man behind the world's coolest suit.

Enter Mickey Rourke's psychotic Russian Ivan Drago, sorry, Vanko, who likes his vodka straight, his tattoos in plain sight and his revenge bloody ridiculous. Looking to avenge his disgraced father, Vanko's first stab at Stark proves suitably showstopping, as he sneaks into the Monaco Grand Prix with electric whips attached to his hands and proceeds to get medieval on the racing cars. Never mind that Stark wasn't even supposed to be racing until the last minute- it's a brilliant set piece so early in, and truthfully represents a pinnacle that's never quite regained.

After Vanko's big entrance and his success in his aim of making God bleed, things rapidly stack up against the protagonist. Rival robotics company owner and perpetual loser Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) recruits Vanko to help him outshine Stark, unwittingly allowing him to construct a mechanised army for the purpose of his own revenge. Meanwhile, Stark is quickly going off the rails, battling with a serious crisis of confidence, chemical poisoning from his own suit, father figure issues.

I could go on for some time describing the plot of Iron Man 2, and in fact this stands as one of the film's main problems. Reports of scripting difficulties seem slightly overbaked, but nonetheless so much is going on at a given moment in the movie's narrative that you'd be forgiven for wishing you had access to slo-mo control at certain points. While a lack of ideas can be one of the cardinal sins of comic book adaptation, Iron Man 2 crams in enough plot turns to make your head spin.

Cast-wise, Favreau's film is a knock-out; Downey Jnr is a perfect as ever as Stark and Rourke does the villain justice by virtue of his own formidable physicality. Gwyneth Paltrow gives commanding support as Stark's long-suffering assistant and love interest Pepper Potts. Best of all, the performances on display suggest that the cast as a whole genuinely enjoyed making Iron Man 2, with every part exuding energy and panache.

Which makes it even more of a shame that Iron Man 2 ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. The big action set pieces that are the pay-off of any blockbuster of this nature do their job well enough, but blend into an uninspired haze when viewed in hindsight. For sure, a couple of big themes are touched upon to lend substance, but it's hard to pinpoint anything remarkable.

Criminally, Stark's rebellious charisma is also castrated in the course of the narrative. After Iron Man had the balls to break with convention and out Stark as the man behind the mask, the sequel goes two steps further, resolving the hero's troubled relationship with his dead father and finally consummating his unspoken love for Potts. Arguably the latter had to happen eventually, but by the end Stark has essentially been reduced to a loud-mouthed rich boy who's about as edgy as a Werther's Original. He even gets a medal of honour, as the film ushers him into mainstream acceptability and simultaneously shoots itself in both feet.

All told, Iron Man 2 is certainly enjoyable, but it's also by-the-numbers candy floss, a sweet head rush that's almost instantly forgettable.

Iron Man 2 Trailer

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