Posted by: Dr P | May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

My 4 year old boy has a bit of a growing obsession for Iron Man – he keeps googling it and asked me about it last week. I told him that his Daddy is Scandium Man, one of the world’s leading authorities on the rare earth element, yet this left him strangely unimpressed. Harumph.

After the resounding box office success of the first movie, a sequel was never in doubt. Fast-paced, exciting, dynamic, the original was a cut above many movies of its ilk, and so it was with great interest that Big G and I zoomed along to the flicks to take in part 2. And we were anything but disappointed – this is a cracker!

For those not familiar with the backstory, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a tormented genius and playboy who was kidnapped and forced to create a weapon of mass destruction. However he suffered a heart attack and instead created an artificial device to keep him alive – and with it the “Iron Man” suit, a hi-tech flying machine filled with weaponry and special features. Naturally this soon topped the US military’s “most wanted” list, and so Stark was forced to fend off not only a whole host of enemies but also his own government, who are seeking to steal his technology.

As the sequel opens, Stark is attending a hearing which is attempting to force him to hand over his secrets. However, he refuses and makes a mockery out of proceedings, together with one of his main opponents, the arms manufacturer and rival Justin Hammer, claiming that no-one can recreate his design within the next 5 years. Stark is also hosting an expo to bring together the world’s leading inventors and minds for the benefit of mankind.

Yet Stark has reckoned without a ghost from the past. His father collaborated in weapons research with a Russian physicist, and following his death his son, Ivan Danko (Mickey Rourke), discovers blueprints for a device very similar to the Iron Man weapon. In his grief-stricken state, he develops the machine and sets out to exact revenge for the wrongs he believes the Starks perpetrated against his father, who was deported from the US before Stark Sr claimed the technology as his own.

Danko appears at a Monaco racing event and wreaks havoc on the course, almost killing Stark before he’s arrested. He’s then secretly extracted from prison by the renegade Hammer, who’s building a series of Iron Men of his own and wants the maverick Russian on his side – initially to upstage Stark, but also for more sinister aims.

An added complication is that Stark himself is slowly dying – the palladium cores that power his suit are causing his body to degenerate; he hands over the reigns of his empire to his PA, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and then proceeds to get very drunk on his birthday and pick a fight with best friend Randy Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Rhodes takes the Iron Man technology to the military, where it falls into the hands of Hammer and Danko.

If all this wasn’t intrigue enough, gorgeous Stark Industries lawyer Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) falls under his gaze, and he appoints her as Pepper’s replacement. It transpires that Natalie is not just a hotshot lawyer but also part of an elite and highly covert secret unit known as SHIELD. Led by the superb Samuel L Jackson, the unit hand over secret materials left behind by Stark’s father, which leads our hero to discover what may be an alternative power source for himself and his suits … but will he create it in time to deal with the newly-revealed threat of Danko and his rogue army of robot Iron Men?

If ever the word charisma was applicable to a movie star right now, it would be Robert Downey jr. He’s absolutely mesmerising on screen – he was great as Sherlock Holmes, and his portrayal of Stark as a playboy self-loving egomaniac is just wonderful – “Narcissism? Check”. He lights up every scene he’s in, and the chemistry with both Paltrow in particular and also the stunning Johansson is terrific. He’s worth the admission price alone.

The movie itself is set at full throttle, and veers from glamorous location to glamorous location. There are well-crafted fight scenes, drama, brilliantly observed humour, some very very funny lines, and a rampaging plot to boot. The thumping AC/DC soundtrack is terrific, but not overused.

The lead actors all carry their roles well. Rourke is hard to top as a badass, and his own resurging career continues to shine. Paltrow is most watchable and likeable as Pepper Potts, proving more than a match for her boss most of the time, while Cheadle is also terrific in his more straight-laced role as the army guy torn between love for his best friend and a sense of duty. Johansson absolutely smoulders!

All in all, a smidge down on the near-perfection of the first film, but a corking 2 hours of entertainment; it won’t topple Kick-Ass as the best superhero movie of the year, but it gives it a damn good go. Highly entertaining, great fun, and one that will appeal to adults and kids alike.

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