By JENNIFER CHAN
If there’s one movie you should watch this summer, it’s Iron Man 2 directed by Jon Favreau (who ironically plays Happy Hogan in the movie). After the success of the first movie (also directed by Favreau), audiences gamely waited for the sequel. And if the ticket lines are any indication, Iron Man 2 is guaranteed to be a smash hit as well.
In the movie, Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) returns feeling a little less like a rock star than he did the last time we all saw him. It has only been six months since he came out to the world as Iron Man after all. And while he has been spending a lot of time saving the world—“privatizing world peace” as he puts it, he’s also grown more pompous and more reckless than before—usually a sign that something is wrong.
Personal problems aside, Stark also faces new enemies in the movie. The government disapproves of his possession of such a weapon and demands that the Iron Man suit be handed over to them. This motion is unabashedly supported by Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell) who is probably Stark’s biggest competitor in the industrialist field. He teams up with Ivan Vanko a.k.a. Whiplash (played by Mickey Rourke), a brilliant physicist who has a bone to pick with the Stark family, to destroy Iron Man.
With all this drama, it’s a good thing that Stark got help from old and new friends. Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) finally gets to wear a suit of his own. Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) moves up a rank or two at Stark Industries. Happy Hogan (played by director Jon Favreau) provides a little bit of comic relief. The new secretary Natalie Rushman (played by Scarlett Johansson) proves to be quite a distraction while Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) watches over Stark with his one eye.
The Rewards of Good Casting
An action movie is an action movie. Most directors just toss the latest leading man in Hollywood into the fray and use bright lights to keep the audience entertained but Favreau has debatably done an excellent job with Iron Man 2. The scenes move well into each other, never missing a beat. Even Fury’s appearance at the doughnut shop doesn’t feel out of place.
Of course, it goes without saying that Downey Jr. owns the character of Tony Stark. He does irresponsible-turned-responsible-superhero-rock-star-coping-with-depression like no one else. He’s funny and a teeny bit tragic at the same time. One of my favorite scenes in the movie has to be the one where he celebrates his birthday and dances drunkenly in his Iron Man suit. Remember that? That’s not an image you can get out of your head for a while.
Paltrow also holds up her end of the stick as the endearing Pepper Potts. Cheadle, who replaces Terence Howard as Rhodey, does well enough to pick up where his character’s friendship with Stark left off from the first movie. Luckily, Emily Blunt who was poised to play the part of Natalie Rushman couldn’t make it and was replaced by Johansson. It feels weird to say this but I really missed this woman (even though I’m not a big fan of her acting).
Personally though, I find Rockwell’s acting to be a standout performance. The writers behind the movie made a good call by making his character Justin Hammer younger as opposed to the original comic book storyline. Rourke also did a good job transforming himself into a Russian villain, even interviewing Russian prisoners to make his character come to life. It’s interesting to watch the dynamics between him and Rockwell since the two characters are complete opposites of each other. The latter being all talk and no bite and the former needing no words to make his point. It’s actually quite refreshing to meet a villain who doesn’t talk too much.
The Age of Technology
As usual, Stark technology never fails to draw appreciative moans from the audience. It makes everything we have here seem practically ancient! His work room is still something every fan boy and fan girl aspires to have. Never mind that he keeps destroying the whole place time after time. It’s also in this movie where the portable Iron Man suit makes an appearance. Stark uses it during his first confrontation with Vanko on the race track.
Unlike the first movie, there are more weapons in Iron Man 2: from the big guns to a small pen-like gadget called the “ex-wife.” In fact, one of the Iron Man suits gets accessorized with said weapons. An army of Iron Man duplicates also wreak havoc in town but of course, the original trumps them all.
As expected, the special effects are also quite a sight to behold. The people working at the visual effects department have certainly upped the ante. Everything looks so sleek and real. The touch screen holograms that appear out of thin air… Vanko’s lightning whips… The glow in Iron Man’s eyes… Everything is so seamlessly created that nothing looks fake.
Iron Man 2 basically leaves you breathless and wanting for more. Don’t worry though, Iron Man 3 is said to be done by 2012.
P.S. If you haven’t seen Iron Man 2 yet, let me give you a word of advice. Stay inside the theater until the last of the credits roll. (Bulatlat.com)