- Production Values
No one else can ever play Iron Man – Robert Downey Jr. owns the role and owns this film. That is an accomplishment considering the talent stacked up in Iron Man 2: Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Shandling, and Scarlett Johansson.
If there is a significant complaint to be made about this film, it might be that there is too much talent in this film – putting the film into a strange configuration where there is both too much going on and each actor is not given quite enough to do.
Mickey Rourke creates a really cool and complex villain, but essentially disappears for the second third of the film. Sam Rockwell is one of the few actors that can verbally keep up with Downey, but doesn’t get enough time to develop himself past a caricature. Scarlett Johansson is playing a character that is supposed to appear inscrutable, so she doesn’t even get an opportunity to emote. Cheadle, Paltrow, and Jackson fare better because their characters were already established in the first film.
Paltrow is perfect as Pepper Potts. She manages to make it quite clear how long-suffering her character is, without coming across as at all whiny. She is convincingly smart and sexy enough to be able to knock Tony off his balance.
Samuel L. Jackson gets a lot more screen time this go around. He again serves as connective tissue to tie all the Marvel films together and setup the big event of 2012 (The Avengers). Even with only one eye exposed, he pulls off a great badass stare.
Don Cheadle had the challenge to interpret a role that was portrayed by a different actor in the first film. He’s a great actor and there was no doubt he would be able to do it.
The Black Widow, Natasha Romanov, is one of my favor Marvel comic characters. I would have loved to see her character developed. She gets a great action scene, but the initiate will leave this film knowing absolutely nothing about her other than she is hot and can kick ass. They won’t even know that she is a former Russian spy. But, ultimately it isn’t her film. It is Iron Man’s film. Well… actually it is Tony Stark’s film. Iron Man, surprisingly, really doesn’t get that much screen time.
The sequel of a great film has the burden of expectation. Fans have waited two years to see the sequel to Iron Man. Even if the sequel is equally as good as the original, it will appear to pale because of that built up expectation. I think the worst recipe to follow is to try to give the fans more of what they liked. It won’t seem as special the second time. Filmmakers have to surprise the fans. It is rare that filmmakers pull this off. The Dark Knight is such an example. Batman Begins was very well received and expectations built for the sequel, but the sequel managed to subvert those expectations by providing something new and different and in some ways better than the first. Everyone was hoping that would happen with Iron Man 2. It probably hasn’t happened.
All that said – Robert Downey Jr. is such a joy to watch that the film still manages to be a joy. It is as if the director and editor had to compress the plot elements to make more time for Downey to improvise.
Tony Stark is not a pure hero. He has a lot of not so redeeming characteristics but Downey makes the character so open that even the harshest critique could see the good in Tony Stark.
For the long time fans of the comics, the film is loaded with easter eggs – everything from the weapons of Captain America and Thor to the invention/discovery of Vibranium.
Overall, I’ll be surprised if there is a better film, this summer. Director, Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. obviously had a great time making the film and that feeling will extend to those watching it. It is a great film. I just wish it were thirty minutes longer. Another thirty minutes would have given more plot elements and the actors better opportunity to realize their potential.