Director: Jon Favreau.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson.
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ONE of the biggest problems with superhero franchises is that in an effort to go one better than their predecessors, sequels get crammed full of more characters, more action scenes and generally just more of everything.
It's this method that sunk the pre-Nolan Batman movies and Raimi's Spider-man 3 and it's a worry that a similar rot seems to be creeping in so early in the strong-starting Iron Man series.
Having revealed he is Iron Man at the end of the first film, Tony Stark (Downey Jr) is now dealing with the consequences - the US government wants the suit and Stark is fighting a losing battle to stop the power going to his head.
The suit is also affecting his health but that might be the least of his worries thanks to the appearance of Ivan Vanko (Rourke), a Russian physicist who recasts himself as Whiplash to exact revenge on Stark.
Looking at Iron Man 2 objectively, it's not a good film. There are plot-holes big enough to fit Stark's ego in and the script feels like its key action sequences were written first and the rest of the story was forced to tenuously join the dots, with the worst example being the F1 race near the start of the film that serves as Whiplash's introduction. It's an exhilarating set-piece but its presence is frustratingly incongruous.
As the script struggles to latch on to a direction, the excellent array of characters flitter in and out, and proper plotting is supplanted by a messy story that stumbles from explosion to explosion.
Another downside is that positives of the first film have been amped up into negatives - the humour that made it so great now borders on cheesy and the sketchy hyper-reality of Iron Man's world is stretched to new levels of ludicrousness.
Subjectively, as a fan of Marvel and the first movie, I really enjoyed it, in spite of the plotholes, the increased cheesiness and the extra ludicrousness. Stark is a great character wonderfully realised by Downey Jr, the supporting cast is great, particularly Rourke, the comic book's qualities shine through, and the widening of the Marvel universe reduced me to a giggling fanboy. I laughed in spite of the cheese. I was thrilled by the action sequences despite the plotting making little sense at times.
So I'm torn, as I was with Watchmen. My inner comic book nerd loved that movie, but as a film reviewer I could see the cracks, and Iron Man 2 has some pretty big cracks in its shiny metal suit. Fans will be satisfied, even if it doesn't match the nuanced and well-rounded brilliance of the first film. But many will be disappointed with this seemingly rushed follow-up.