Everything Robert Downey Jr touches turns to gold these days — so maybe if he’d had more screen time in Iron Man 2, the movie would have been a worthy successor to the first installation, the vastly successful action-comedy-romance and hottest new franchise of recent years, instead of a victim of the sequel trap.
Iron Man 2 opens with Tony Stark, (Downey Jr), being celebrated as the harbinger of world peace. His life of detached decadence is marred by only two problems: first, the State Department is after his Iron Man suit, and second, he is dying.
Enter the villain. Ivan, the brilliant but demented Russian physicist, played to perfection by Mickey Rourke. Ivan has nurtured a long-standing personal grudge against Tony and joins forces with an ambitious defence contractor to bring him down. Now, Tony must battle America’s traditional Cold War enemy to exterminate the cancer poisoning good old American values from within while saving his own life and attempting to get the girl in the process.
It’s smooth sailing until this point. But little does the viewer suspect that the director is about to sail into some very choppy waters. With two side-stories running parallel to the main plot and twice as many sidekicks to contend with, the clarity of one solid plot is swapped for several sub-plots, spreading the storyline too thin to hold anyone’s interest for over four seconds, precisely the attention span they were going for.
Iron Man 2 literally loses the plot, which is a shame because the film can boast of some genuinely pleasing moments. Downey’s Stark is selfish, bratty, and emotionally stunted — and ultimately, extremely likeable. You get the feeling he’s the underdog and end up rooting for him even when he’s unbearably obnoxious to the only person who truly cares about him: his assistant Pepper, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Despite Paltrow’s limited on-screen presence, the chemistry between the two is the movie’s saving grace and you end up wishing their relationship was explored further.
As far as dialogue is concerned, the script is witty without being clichéd, and the themes bear some relevance to the real world — Ivan is unapologetically supportive of ‘drone technology,’ saying at one point: “People make problem. Trust me, drone better.”
Unfortunately, a few good takes and some catchy one-liners couldn’t stop Iron Man 2 from collapsing under the weight of its own design. Like Tony Stark without a Pepper to swoop in and rescue him, the film couldn’t help but self-destruct.
And, finally, a larger concern — having sat through almost two hours of exhausting plot twists, we don’t get to see Downey topless. Surely that isn’t too much to ask from your average summer blockbuster?
Published in the Express Tribune, June 6th, 2010.
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