Marvel Studios has crafted itself a rather impressive filmography over the years, although not all of its releases have been of a high calibre. A prime example is the sequel to Iron Man, a relatively enjoyable movie that doesn’t skimp on action, but neglects to make use of the franchise’s winning components.
Having revealed himself as the alter-ego of Iron Man, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has made it his mission to single-handedly achieve world peace. Said mission hasn’t been an easy one, for Stark has faced many adversaries, including rival entrepreneur Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and a Member of Congress, Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), who is leading a governmental inquiry into Stark’s non-sanctioned activities.
Another foe wanting to cross hairs with Tony is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), the son of a former Stark Industries associate who accuses the businessman of stealing his family’s work. Whilst holidaying in Monaco, Stark is confronted by Vanko in a rudimentary Iron Man suit, complete with electrical whips, and barely manages to defeat his newfound adversary. Their battle draws the interest of Hammer, who senses an opportunity to thwart Stark once and for all.
Arriving just two years after the first Iron Man, Jon Favreau’s sequel sees the majority of the cast return, with an exception being Terence Howard – he was replaced by Don Cheadle, who looks much more relaxed and comfortable in the role of Colonel James Rhodes. Additionally, the movie boasts expanded roles from Favreau himself, playing Stark’s chauffeur Happy Hogan, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nicky Fury, as well as the inclusion of Scarlett Johansson, who joins the franchise as Natasha Romanoff.
Those who enjoy thrills and fight sequences will be pleased to read that Iron Man 2 is more action-heavy than its predecessor. In addition to the abovementioned confrontation between Stark and Vanko – which sees cars being sliced in twain on Monte Carlo’s Grand Prix circuit – there’s a prison escape, a close-quarters battle between two Iron Man suits, two people fending themselves against a horde of baddies and an attack from a litany of autonomous military robots, so there’s certainly no shortage of skirmishes.
Because Iron Man 2 is so preoccupied with delivering action, unfortunately little effort has been placed into the remainder of the blockbuster, depriving it of two qualities that made its precursor so enthralling, the first of which is comedy – while the film is reasonably light-hearted and its fair share of jokes, there is no moment where the viewer finds themselves chortling heartily. Perhaps more significantly, it lacks a form of humanity that the first Iron Man was so adept at delivering.
Iron Man 2 falls short again when in it comes to its antagonists. Despite having a weighty backstory, Ivan Vanko proves dull and dreary, with his personality only extending so far as his accent; Rockwell looks to be having fun as Justin Hammer, but lacks menace, giving the audience no reason to be fearful of him. Thankfully, Downey exhibits enough charisma to make up for the both of them, once again defying his critics to be the most appealing aspect of the movie.
Having forfeited what made its forerunner a triumph in favour of spectacle, Iron Man 2 isn’t an outstanding picture, yet nor is it deserving of damnation. The sequel benefits from a fabulous cast and exemplary thrills, factors which allow it to be a decent, if forgettable, entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.