The repercussions of superhero life and the weight of family legacy take centre stage in the busy yet charismatic superhero melodrama Iron Man 2.
A much anticipated sequel to the surprisingly good 2008 blockbuster, director Jon Favreau once again displays how to create an entertaining comic book movie, by taking advantage of the rich complexities of these long lasting characters, while providing a visually stunning backdrop for them to play out their superhero soap opera.
Much like The Dark Knight, this comic book fable takes its cue from the karmic school of thought that for every action comes a reaction. In this case, the emergence of Iron Man brings the nutters out of the nuthouse with everyone lining up to take a shot at Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his golden avenger alter-ego.
Top on that list is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian physicist who has sworn revenge on family Stark for their role in destroying his scientist father’s reputation. Backing his play is Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) a rival CEO who also wants to see Stark dead in the water, albeit professionally.
Yet Stark’s biggest battle is with himself: his suit is slowly killing him, leaving Stark in both a professional and personal rut, with the sharks coming ever so close to take their piece of flesh.
Many more plot points are featured and characters (both new and old) feature, and that at times can be a problem. Yet if Justin Theroux’s script comes off as convoluted, that is purely because he is dealing with some complex characters, especially Tony Stark.
A mixture of James Bond, Superman, and Albert Einstein, Tony Stark / Iron Man is a superhero born out of necessity, yet he chooses to carry the burden of responsibility. He is an egotistical playboy prone to streaks of selfish behaviour, but cannot live without the friendship of his closest confidants. And most importantly, he is a self made man that still longs for the support and love of his long deceased father.
Reprising his role of Stark is an on top of his game Downey Jr., whose comedic and dramatic chops are both on full display and firing on all cylinders.
A star studded cast provide stellar support: Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is much more confident trading garbs with Downey Jr.; Rourke is chillingly authentic in a high volume villainous turn; Scarlett Johansson sexes it up while kicking ass as the deceptive Black Widow; and Sam Rockwell almost steals the show with his off the cuff improvisations.
As Favreau draws out spirited performances from his actors and confidently weaving a web of comic book melodrama to mostly uncomplicated results, he also plays architect to superbly designed metal on metal warfare that makes Transformers look like tin scraps blowing in the wind.
In the process Iron Man 2 builds on the solid foundations of the first movie, yet it does not have enough momentum to better it, with pacing its main negative.
Yet just when it feels like it is about to implode, Iron Man 2 shifts gears and moves into another direction. Viewers won’t see many action films with this much confidence in its melodrama.