BUSAN, South Korea – I think it’s safe to say that Iron Man 2 is easily the most anticipated film of the summer, so it’s kind of a bummer that I’m here to express my overall disappointment with director Jon Favreau’s sophomore, comic-adapted effort. I may be dashing the hopes of those fans who have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up to the fairly solid origin film. I’m sorry to say that people might find that this bloated sequel isn’t as good as its predecessor. Still, in its moments, this new suit of armor has got a few tricks up its metal sleeve. Maybe that’s all that matters?
Picking up six months after where the first film left off, Iron Man 2 sees Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark, the energetic and egotistical genius who is now donning his high-tech suit of armor in full-view of the public eye. Under pressure by U.S. Government scrutiny (naturally), his corporate competitor Justin Hammer, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency, Tony Stark finds the threads of his life tying together into one big knot.
Playing a severe personal issue close to the chest, Stark finds himself somewhat overwhelmed and unable to cope with the latest string of challenges facing him as he attempts to own the Iron Man persona, keeping it out of capitalist hands. He is then hit with the revelation of a bitter new enemy, a Russian physicist named Ivan Vanko, played with a subdued intensity by Mickey Rourke.
If all of this sounds like a lot to chew on, that’s because it is. Believe it or not there’s actually more to this plot that I won’t even bother mentioning, and this is the most frustrating thing about Iron Man 2. The film is full of promise, with “first class entertainment” written all over it from the very beginning, and when the first real bit of action hits with Ivan’s attack on Stark during a Formula 1 race in Monaco, it becomes an outright breathtaking spectacle.
Unfortunately the film misses a lot of beats after this point, with the snappy dialogue being poured on thick, coming as furiously as ever. The witty banter of the first film is here, times one hundred. There’s a point, though, when it becomes a little less “snappy” and a lot more “people who like to talk over each other”. It’s never boring, there’s always a good laugh in there somewhere, but amidst some of these golden zingers you can’t help but feel as though you’re being channeled into a dozen conversations simultaneously…and there’s only one taking place. Robert Downey Jr. is in his element here, though, and his performance is as strong as ever. He loves this role, and it shows.
This is where I’m wrestling with my opinion of Iron Man 2. While the leading cast gives us so much to like about individual scenes, it’s the whole damn show that feels overwrought and cluttered, and the supporting cast is simply for show (Scarlett Johansson’s character getting the worst treatment of all). There is just too much going on for me to care about the central plot threads, and emotionally identifying with Stark’s serious personal issues. There has to be roughly a half-dozen things happening at once here, and all of it collides in a tremendously loud fireworks display of a climax.
Yet, what good is a climax of that magnitude if there’s been an absence of build-up due to the juggling act that is the plot? Especially when the last substantial action scene was the aforementioned Monaco race sequence? As the explosive final action bang comes to a close, I found myself feeling rather tired and even a bit bored.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I still think Iron Man 2 has a thing or two to offer in terms of entertainment value, and it’s definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the first one. I thought the first one was solid, but far from great. You could do far worse at the theater, considering what’s been offered as of late, but Iron Man 2 should have been much better.
Jon Favreau has proven that he is a very capable director of popcorn entertainment, and there’s no doubt that he has a very hot property on his hands with some extremely good material. Tightening up the script, giving the film a more focused narrative, giving more screen time to an awesome villain like Rourke’s Ivan Vanko, while making everything far more personal for Stark was definitely a tremendous opportunity that was sorely missed here.
Next time I can do without corporate espionage, government interference, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. screening process. Give me more of Mr. Stark, please.
Iron Man 2
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell & Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time Approximately 124min
Now playing in select International Markets including South Korea, World Wide on May 7th