At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Iron Man 2

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, John Slattery, Garry Shandling, Olivia Munn, Kate Mara, Stan Lee; Voice of: Paul Bettany/ Runtime: 124 minutes

I think it is safe to say that Iron Man really was quite a film to be the follow-up to. That is because when it was first released back in 2008, this film was easily one the finest entries in the superhero genre in a long time that didn’t have a certain bat, a spider, a gun totin’ vigilante, a vampire killer, or a school of gifted people in the leads. Indeed a large chunk of this was due to the fact that Iron Man, more than anything, was able to show us all just how much comedy, sincerity, and quality work on both sides of the camera could be inserted into an entry in the superhero genre that was able to please both longtime comic book lovers as well as those just simply looking for a well-made summer movie that gave them what they wanted without taking away from the narrative. Thus it was 2 years later in the year known as 2010 and we now come to Iron Man 2; a film that manages to keep the same helmer and much of the same main cast and I am pleased to say this film is just pure fun. Heck not only does it liven up the typical revenge narrative that many films have come to play with, but even better, it continues to flesh out its cast of characters whilst also molding and shaping just what exactly the future holds for them. Indeed in many respects, Iron Man 2 is a wonderful example of the summer blockbuster done right. Indeed it’s engaging, has a decent narrative to work with, terrific work on both sides of the camera, and wonderful special effects work which aid rather than define the film. Suffice it to say then that this film is truly a terrific movie to watch time and time again.

The plot is as follows: In the aftermath of Tony Stark declaring to the world that he is the superhero known as Iron Man and becoming both a global treasure as well as a gifter of private world security, we also see that this results in a lot more stress, a significantly higher amount of exposure than he has ever known before, and a nemesis who not only has an axe to grind, but also has the tech savvy to combat Iron Man one on one. On top of that, Tony is also finding himself stricken with rising toxins in his blood and it is only by finding a secret his dad left that he can hopefully save his life. Plus, as if this wasn’t enough for one man to deal with, Iron Man is soon brought into combat when a new enemy by the name of Ivan Vanko has created a device that can square off against ol’ shell head. Meanwhile our own government is trying their darndest to get their hands on Stark’s tech, but he isn’t about to hand it over so easily. However all this does is leave a rival of Stark’s by the name of Justin Hammer open not only to be in a position to try, but also to acquire the services of Ivan to help him make it happen. Thus with all of this going on to say nothing of his on-edge friendship with Rhodes, new twists and turns in his bond with Pepper Potts, and the sudden appearance of a mysterious woman named Natalie, it’s safe to say our favorite superhero playboy may have finally taken things a bit too far…..

Now I think it is safe to say that this might best be seen as a film that is constructed on the idea of consequences. The consequences of having fame and money to spare, the consequences of what could happen if powerful things fell into the wrong hands, and the consequences of what trying to avenge past mistakes looks like. Indeed even though Tony Stark is relishing all the fame he has ensnared in his attempts to give the world peace through his Iron Man suit, we still see an enemy plotting against home because of his dad and for other reasons that go beyond Tony’s time as CEO of Stark Industries thus strengthening the idea that actions and ramifications can and often will go beyond their intial scope and it is these ramifications which come to define the film’s narrative. Indeed the fact that this film is that preoccupied with its core concept is a truly strong plus in its favor. I mean here is a series of movies that takes what it is working with seriously to the extent that it is able to build a well-functioning world around the superheroics to the point that the world of Iron Man in many respects feels like a parallel of our own thus helping it feel more grounded and also relatable. Indeed it is the fact that the Iron Man films, or any of the MCU for that matter, hat the Iron Man movies are not as generic as countless other entries in the superhero genre and because they also present realistic consequences for their heroes’ actions are a pair of reasons why the MCU has worked as well as it has.

It also isn’t detrimental to this film in the slightest that beyond staying as grounded and realistic as possible, this is a movie which is filled to the gills with some truly enjoyable action beats made possible by some incredible special effects work. Indeed Iron Man 2 manages to do a wonderful job of beautifully blending its action and narrative together and making sure it also serves a purpose. Yet out of everything it’s the seamless special effects which take the cake. Indeed Iron Man 2 might not have the most jaw-dropping visuals out there, but film helmer Jon Favreau still does a wonderful job of integrating these effects into the environment to such an extent that you will literally not know where the practical concludes and where the CGI picks up the baton from there. I mean they may have made the claim with Superman from back in ’78 that “you’ll believe a man can fly”, but the Iron Man films have managed to do one step greater: they actually, through their visual and special effects, enabled a man, and through him, each and every one of us to do just that much to our amazement and wonder.

Now when one chooses to look at this film from a structure-based point of view, it is quite easy to see just how passionate everyone involved is in making this film not only as close to the source material as it can get, but in making a film that is about characters and plot first and foremost (unlike other movies like Transformers for instance). Indeed this film really is a dictionary definition of a film that manages to triumph where others have fallen short and which manages not only to be serious, humorous, and full of action all at the same time, but also to have none of its supporting ingredients completely nullify the narrative and instead help support it. Oh and I guess it doesn’t pain the film in any way that Robert Downey Jr., via his role of Tony Stark, is able to find a way to take advantage of the chance to freshen up and gloriously give quite the exaggerated performance as he immerses himself in this iconic comic book character’s trademark quippy narcissism all while balancing it out with a brilliant and decent foundation that gives him the chance to show yes an intellectual can be a party animal, save the world, get a cute girl, and have a bankroll which would make Scrooge McDuck jealous. Indeed for all the wonderful work done by the special effects, directing, and narrative teams, Iron Man 2 belongs first and foremost to Downey. Indeed not only is he Tony Stark through and through, but he is also able to showcase the different facets of just who Tony is perfectly be it the inebriated party animal, the genius tech whiz, or the superhero in the suit of armor trying to save the world.

Yet while I’m on the subject of Downey, I should also point out that within Iron Man 2 is another actor who, at the time of the film’s release, had witnessed a revitalization of their career and who was back in the land of prominence and that was none other than Mickey Rourke and he is actually really good in this. Yes, in all fairness, Rourke’s role is nowhere near as flamboyant and it may also look like he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot other than just look like a genuine menace yet Rourke gives his part just enough in the depth department in order to make him an antagonist that is a challenger in just the right ways. Now also of interest to those who enjoyed the first film was the switch-up behind the scenes of Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle in the integral part of Stark’s best buddy Rhodes. Yet Cheadle not only makes the switch as smooth as possible, but also seems to fit the character a heck of a lot better than Howard did especially when taking into account the arc the character has in this film while also delivering one of the film’s best lines when he’s introduced for the first time by saying “It’s me, I’m here, deal with it.” Indeed Cheadle manages to deliver this with a confidence and wink that manages not only to ease him into the role, but also get the fans on board with his casting in a New York minute. Also terrific is Sam Rockwell as Tony’s brilliant but utterly nerdy nemesis Justin Hammer. Indeed Rockwell, per the demands of the part, tries desperately to come across as Tony’s equal only to fail spectacularly every single time. Nevertheless Rockwell manages to show off another side of his talent in this film that is sure to showcase him further as a genuine class act in the world of acting. Finally we come to the powerhouse dynamic actress duo that is Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson and to no one’s surprise they both manage to give truly wonderful performances in this as well as some more screen time from perennial screen treasure Samuel L. Jackson who at long last manages to showcase in this that he is a brilliant choice for the role of SHIELD head Nick Fury. Indeed make no mistake: Iron Man 2 is a good film, but trust me when I say that this franchise, with its tie-ins to the greater MCU, was only going to get better and better as time went on.

All in all I am pleased to tell you that Iron Man 2 is able to deliver exactly what you would desire from both a follow-up and a summer movie. Indeed it’s boisterous, engaging, and possesses terrific special effects work. Just as important however, it is also constructed well and supported by a routine yet decent narrative that manages to be grounded in the world around us. Indeed much like any good follow-up, Iron Man 2 further fleshes out the characters involved, gives us action beats that are just as good as what has come before, and also works toward laying the groundwork for the future. On a scale of 1-5 I give Iron Man 2 a solid 3.5 out of 5.