Classic Narcissist – Agreed

Main Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Director: Jon Favreau

Iron Man 2 picks up more or less where the first installment left off.  Well, some time has passed because Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is now pretty much a rock star.  He has achieved world peace acting as Iron Man and has exactly the kind of ego you might imagine goes along with such an accomplishment.  He was always an incorrigible little boy and this new level of fame has made him even more reckless and prone to self-aggrandizing gestures.  As he opens his Stark Industries Expo (an extravagant showcase for global technology) it’s clear that he is the King of the World.  Well, we know that can’t last.  He has a trio of enemies who are hell bent on his destruction, one far less visible and far more dangerous than the others.

Iron Man 2 is an absolute blast.  In many ways.  Remember, this is a super hero action movie.  You get what you pay for.  There are lots of explosions, lots of chases and lots of special effects.  The pace is lightning fast and if you blink you just may miss something.  Even if you don’t blink you may miss something.  Expect it to be loud and exciting and fun – don’t expect it to be too deep.  There is a smattering of insight into the Stark legacy and an integral part of the story revolves around Tony dealing with his potential mortality.  The rest is all fun and games with dangerous toys.

My favorite thing about Iron Man (both 1 and 2) is that the dialogue is smart.  There isn’t a lot of it (remember – super hero action movie), but what there is does not pander to the lowest common denominator.  You are expected to know what a “classic narcissist” is and appreciate the irony of the moment when the phrase is used.  You get to watch all sorts of stuff blow up and use your vocabulary!  What’s not to like?  Screenwriter Justin Theroux and director Jon Favreau (who has a cute part as a hapless bodyguard) know what they have in Downey and don’t waste it, letting him explore the fundamental weaknesses of his Iron Man, using his dry wit as both appealing and obnoxious.

The actors are uniformly great – Downey is perfect as Tony Stark.  He’s an eccentric, egotistical braggart, self-absorbed and self-destructive genius with a God complex.  Doesn’t sound lovable, but he gets put in his place plenty.  This go-round we get Mickey Rourke as the bad guy and he’s wonderful – menacing yet still almost cartoonish in his badness.  Sam Rockwell

RDJ FTW

is the weaselly second tier baddie and he’s fantastic.  Simpering and foolish, Rockwell plays the character like a harp.   Don Cheadle steps in as best friend Col. Rhodes and has a good time playing in the super suit.  A delicious small part for Gary Shandling as a blowhard senator rounds out the enemy triad.

Gwyneth Paltrow is back as assistant Pepper Potts and while this show belongs mostly to the boys, she makes a good showing with what she’s given.  I like that her character is very feminine, but not weak.  Pepper is not someone with whom one should trifle.  Scarlett Johansson gets off to a rocky start but kicks some serious butt by the end.

The real star of this show is the amazing special effects.  From the suits to the bad guy tech to Stark’s lab – it’s all incredibly well done.  You know it isn’t possible, but it looks, well, totally real.  I know, I sound like a gibbering fan-girl, but the visuals are just super cool.  The lab is perhaps the part I enjoy the most.  The virtual touch screens and manipulables appeal to my inner (and outer) nerd.  Watching Stark play with technology is just plain fun – it isn’t as flashy as the flying and exploding, but it looks great.

The parts I’m not completely sold on involve the greater evolving Marvel universe.  Samuel L. Jackson appears as the leader of The Avengers and I understand that they want to tie all these franchises together.  But some of those scenes take away from the immediacy of the story.  It isn’t a big complaint and one probably irrelevant to those interested in the other movies that will be placed in this universe.  For me it’s a little confusing at times.  I don’t really want to study up on all the Marvel superheroes in order to get the Iron Man movies.

But then RDJ says something witty and blows something up and it’s all good!  Iron Man 2 is a fun movie and well worth seeing on the big screen because of the awesome visual effects (and the great big – did I mention occasionally kind of shirtless? – RDJ).  It’s a fix for any RDJ fan as well as a solid installment in the franchise.  If you liked the first Iron Man, I see no reason not to like this one.

photo by Edgar Meritano