Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow
Runtime: 124 Mins
Rating: * * *
“Not everybody runs on batteries, Tony,” sighs Pepper Potts. That’s about as deep as Iron Man 2 gets, not that the emphasis on breadth rather than depth was something I wasn’t expecting from the first bubblegum blockbuster of the summer. But this film’s box office baiting roots are too blatant; Jon Favreau’s sequel feels like a procession of who’s who in Hollywood, and consequently there’s more than one unnecessary character that’s rammed into the film’s narrative.
Mechanically going through the motions of superhero genre expectations, we follow Tony Stark revelling in the success of his Iron Man creation before an arch nemesis decides that it’s time to deliver him a wake-up call. This comes in the form of Mickey Rourke, who excels as evil Russian Ivan Vanko a.k.a Whiplash. Yet his screen-time is cut short to make room for the classic jealous rich boy-turned-evil Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, who employs Vanko to help him get one over on Stark, and who feels slightly miscast in the role. Secondary character Scarlett Johansson merely feels like an afterthought, the cameo by Samuel L. Jackson seems tiresome, and the half-hearted attempt at adding another dimension to Stark and Potts’ relationship adds conspicuously little to the talky middle portion of the film. Elsewhere, it provides plenty of infectious excitement, gleefully accompanied by with Downey Jr’s stylish wit and charisma. In a closing scene Stark is accused of ‘textbook narcissism’; it’s a refreshing change from Watchmen and Kick-Ass to see a superhero who isn’t suffocating from self-doubt or psychosis. He just wants to have fun.