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Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)


     While the first Iron Man movie became a success on the basis of smart-alecky banter and big explosions, its sequel finds itself curiously neutered in both respects. Taking a lumpy form that bears more resemblance to a television series pilot than the second entry in a summer blockbuster franchise, the movie has an overabundance of foreshadowing that prevents it from really delivering as a modern action spectacle. In a curious decision, this film, the successor to one of the most successful superhero movies of our time, clearly has been designed to serve as a launch pad for Marvel’s upcoming superhero movies. This results in a nonstop introduction of characters and ultimately bloats the runtime to the extent that the impact of Iron Man 2’s three action sequences is diluted. Between reintroducing the original film’s cast, adding a half-dozen new characters, and setting up a series of spin-off films, this Iron Man’s script is so exposition-heavy that a robot is utilized to explain the finer details of many major plot developments. As a comic book publisher, Marvel never seemed particularly worried about continuity, but here everything seems devoted toward creating the impression of a holistic world that cannot be contained by any one film.


     What results can only be compared unfavorably to the earlier Iron Man movie. Whatever can be said about the first film, it had a certain element of playful surprise about it, embodied by Robert Downey Jr.’s smarmy yet likeable performance. Here, all of the charm and romance of the original has been ironed out by excess. Somewhere between the first and second films, Downey’s Stark has morphed from billionaire playboy to borderline psychotic. Paltrow especially suffers from the influx of additional cast members. Her Pepper Potts was a highlight of the first Iron Man movie, but here she is given a remarkably thankless role that stands in stark opposition to the co-pilot that she represented to Downey before. Over the course of Iron Man 2, she not only has to idly stand by as her man ogles an intern/secret agent (fetchingly played Scarlett Johansson), but also has to suffer the indignity of being given control of Stark Enterprises and then resigning a week later because the job was too hard. Like Paltrow’s Pepper, Iron Man 2 itself now seems worn down and exhausted of potential… the very opposite of summer fun. The first film’s warmongering subtext has now moved front and center, so that the threat here is that the government’s future military spending might be diverted. The CG spectacle is sidetracked and rendered secondary by the clunky, story-advancing dialogue. The end result is less disappointing than depressing.



Jeremy Heilman