But, I digress. The original Iron Man shouldn't have been a monster hit. In a world of Batmen, Spider-Men, and Supermen, Iron Man just isn't in the same league in the comic book world or in the viewpoint of regular Joe moviegoer. However, when something is cool, it's just cool and the original Iron Man was freaking cool and audiences ate it up.
Robert Downey, Jr. is the living embodiment of Tony Stark. He's got the swagger and the presence to play exactly what Tony Stark is supposed to be, an over-the-top, brilliant playboy. Mix in some superb directing by John Favreau, a very competent script, and really convincing special effects and the result was simply oozing with coolness.
Iron Man 2 picks right up where the first left off with Tony revealing to the world that he is Iron Man. This brings all sorts of trouble his way. The U.S. government wants the suit. A competing weapons manufacturer envies Tony's success and wants everything that Tony has.
These are major threats but they turn out to be side events compared to an unknown threat that Tony must face from the other side of the world. Stark enterprises certainly couldn't achieve it's lofty status without making a few enemies. Along these lines, a genius, ruthless Russian played by Mickey Rourke decides his mission in life is to destroy all that Tony Stark stands for because of perceived wrongs that Tony's father inflicted on his family.
All this and Tony is slowly dying because the element that powers his suit is contaminating his blood. It's quite the deck stacked against Iron Man and he doesn't exactly deal with it well. He alienates his friends and allies as he collapses in on himself in self pity.
That's the basic set up of the film. Now, what really works in the film is Mickey Rourke as the villain. We get a good glimpse into his agenda and he's a great mix of a terrifying brute and a super brain. Iron Man 2 also takes its time a little more than the first film and has more character moments that work pretty well.
The action, on the other hand, didn't quite do it for me. There are no moments in this film as cool as the flight with the fighter jets or blowing up the tank from the original Iron Man. The action can best be described this way.
Pretty amazing sequence against Whiplash at the car race. It's by far the most effective action set piece.
Man in suit vs. man in suit.
Man in suit vs. robots that look like men in suits. And, then there's more robots that look like men in suits.
Finally, there's two men in suits vs. angry guy in suit.
Universally, the one negative thing most fanboys agreed was disappointing in the first film was that the last action sequence revolved around Tony slugging it out with Warmonger in a battle of iron suits. It didn't live up to the rest of the film and felt very simplistic when the rest of the movie had been so masterfully put together.
In Iron Man 2, it seems that the producers of the first film absolutely loved the big machine vs. machine ending and decided to do that times ten in the sequel. All the fights take place at night and except for Iron Man, all the evil machines are gray or black and it's quite boring to look at.
Iron Man does not have the gallery of villains that Batman or Spider-Man has and, unfortunately, it really showed in this film. Iron Man is still cool but he needs his version of the Joker or this franchise will get stale really quick.
Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, have minor parts in the film but they are really just set up for the Avengers movie that is coming in a few years. I'm still really a fan of what Marvel is doing with their shared universe of movies and I really am looking forward to the Thor and Captain America movies.
However, for me, Iron Man 2 was a marginally sized bump in the road that didn't live up to my lofty expectations. I hope the future Marvel movies can recapture the magic of the first film and just make everything cool again.