Iron Man 2

Marvel sequel scraps the human drama for gearheaded action

Iron Man 2 - Grade "C-"

When it comes to sequels, the sins of the fathers (or the first films) tend to become the sins of the sons (the successive progeny). Nowhere is that more evident than in Jon Favreau’s follow-up to his comic book actioner seeking to introduce the Marvel crossover universe to the multiplexes. Iron Man, a decidedly second-tier hero next to Spider Man and The X-Men who comes across a bit like an armored Batman minus some of the darkness of that urban knight’s tale, won over audiences, though, thanks in no small part to the charms of Robert Downey, Jr., whose career redemption seems tailor-made to the Iron Man mythos, for those in the know.

Billionaire weapons inventor and man about the globe Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) develops a heart and an anti-weapons soul after nearly losing his life in an attack in the first film. He devises an artificial ticker that keeps him alive and powers a nearly indestructible suit of high tech armor that he uses to, as he puts it in the sequel, “privatize world peace.” His heart may be in the right place, but he’s certainly still a headcase with an outsized ego, which we come to find out, makes him a chip off the old block.

Dear old dad Howard (John Slattery) had the same grandiose dreams of using technology to solve all the world’s ills and make a pretty penny in the process. Howard made a few enemies along the way – a Soviet enemy in this case with a son named Ivan (Mickey Rourke) eager to avenge his papa and put a high tech smackdown on Tony for all the world to see. Plus, Tony, like his dad, works too hard and relies on alcohol to smooth over his rough edges, although part of his edginess is concern over the life threatening effects his man-made heart generator seems to be having on him. To top it all off, what’s a hero to do when the government wants to strip him of his identity, a heroic identity that, unlike in most cases, is not a secret? Tony outed himself at the end of the first film and now has to navigate the all-access, 24-hour media blitz where nothing is private.

With all that to deal with, having another enemy – a less-than-successful industrial clone named Justin Hammer (the oh-so snappy Sam Rockwell) eager to grab the spotlight and dance a little jig of his own – seems almost beside the point and that’s the problem with this sequel. There are so many sideplots and characters (because, remember this film is just a piece in the larger Avengers puzzle) and so little time to devote to any one aspect in a truly satisfying way that the whole thing feels like a marathon crammed into a 5K. It would have been fascinating if Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux had edited out two or three of the additional elements (and there are more than catalogued here) and really explored just a couple in a more thoughtful and intimate fashion.

Instead, we get a bunch of men in iron masks shooting and bashing away at each other. No one really believes there really are men in those CGI suits, right?

Iron Man 2 will be shown at Rave The Greene 14, Rave Dayton South and more.

T.T. Stern-Enzi
Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at TerrenceTodd.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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