Unlike in most superhero films where the character is a caricature, Iron Man is believable in that it takes a bit of narcissism to think one can bring peace to the world by his own actions. Tony Stark, the billionaire behind the suit, has the resources and the intelligence to make things work, and this time he is up against the U.S. Senate. He keeps his wits about him as Justin Hammer (a weapons contractor played by Sam Rockwell) recruits a dangerous Russian, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a self-made, poor man’s superhero who also has past history issues with Stark, to outdo Stark and his weapons technology.
While the first Iron Man film was its Batman Begins storyline, this second installation attempts to introduce more nemeses and possible superhero partners. Scarlett Johansson, with a demure, straight-out-of-the-40s look as Natalie Rushman, Stark’s new executive assistant, astonishes the audience when she reverts to her alter ego, Natasha Romanoff (the name itself lends to images of Xenia Onatopp of 007’s collection). As Natasha, she sexily kicks ass with acrobatic martial arts moves in her skintight suit, knocking down scores of bad guys as Stark’s chauffeur (director Jon Favreau) happily exclaims he’s taken down one (his name is also “Happy”).
Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts, Stark’s super efficient personal assistant who keeps him intact until Stark begins to get reckless while hiding a secret from her. Their relationship progresses and it will be interesting to see how it works out should there be an Iron Man 3 in the future. In this feature, Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes. While Cheadle is a great actor, Howard’s previous version of Iron Man’s possible sidekick (the “silver” Iron Man) seemed to have more impact in comparison.
There are plenty of hard iron metal-on-metal action in this film as well as computer imagery. Iron Man battles not only Ivan the terribly unkempt and creepy technical genius, he fights his best friend and a mini army of soldier drones (similar to the metal soldiers in Star Wars Episode II). The sound editing is perfectly clunky-cool for all the flying metal and explosions. All the tough show of iron is offset by Stark’s use of computerized technology at the touch of his fingertips (shades of Minority Report). He manipulates digital graphics that seemingly float around him as he talks to the main “guy” Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany).
This is not the dark, psychological superhero film like Batman but a fun, entertaining ride with smart, witty Iron Man. The characters are memorably interactive with each other, and the dialogue at times is spontaneously funny. Iron Man’s suit is hard and shiny, yet he’s vulnerable to human weaknesses. Tony Stark remarks that he is Iron Man, but Robert Downey, Jr. is the perfect embodiment of Tony Stark.
Standard screen vs. Imax? That depends on how large an Iron Man you’d like to see onscreen.
Ultra cool moment in the film: Iron man literally suiting up in his suitcase.
Not-so-cool fact: the trailer clip that repeatedly plays on TV showing Iron Man telling Pepper that she completes him – is not featured in the full length feature.
P.S. After the ending credits there is a short clip hinting what’s to come next from Marvel Comics.