Iron Man II

The first blockbuster of the summer season, Iron Man II arrives on a tsunami of hype and expectation following the commercial and critical success of its predecessor. But by the time the special effects boffins have sated their thirst for bombast and pyrotechnics, what remains is an ordinary follower-upper which delivers more of the same, just louder and longer.

The previous Iron Man benefited from being an unfamiliar superhero property in an over-subscribed genre. Just 18 months later, the novelty may have worn off but returning director Jon Favreau and his new screenwriter Justin Theroux (who penned the scabrous action comedy Tropic Thunder) still cannot muster enough momentum to make the continuing adventures of playboy arms dealer Tony Stark feel fresh and vital. Instead, we get noise, confusion, overplayed stunt-work, irrelevant distractions and underdeveloped story lines.

The sequel picks up shortly after the events of the first film, with Stark (a rejuvenated Robert Downey Jr) admitting to the world’s media that he is the metal-clad superhero Iron Man. No sooner has he revealed his alter-ego, than the US military arrive at his door, demanding that he share his technology for weapons development. Leading the call for an army of robotic GIs is Stark’s bitter rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), an oily opportunist who has the support of a crooked congressman, played by comedian Garry Shandling.

At the same time, in Moscow, a villain emerges. Ivan Blanko (Mickey Rourke), the son of a failed Soviet engineer, has developed an all-powerful electrical weapon which he intends to use to assassinate Stark and restore his family name.

The bad-guys established, the story turns in on itself, with Stark struggling to develop a cure for an adverse reaction to his metal heart while transferring control of his corporate empire to his loyal assistant and love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Late in the day, a little too late as it turns out, Stark teams up with government spook Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and the deadly Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) to prevent Blank and Hammer from developing a rogue army of killing machines, sent to destroy them.

From that point on the film bounces through the various plot permutations in less than compelling fashion. The middle section of the story, heralded by a crushingly stiff party scene, contains all the technical finesse a $200m budget can buy but doesn’t hold anything like the same narrative grip of the first film. For a film with a multitude of villains, there is very little at stake in the story, with the only real threat being made to Stark’s shiny new technological exhibition, a kind of World’s Fair for science geeks. What happened to saving the world?

Iron Man II suffers the same fate as most Hollywood sequels, being determined to revisit all the same elements audiences responded to in the first film without having enough new material to justify a second run out. That’s not to say the movie lacks charm, Downey Jr’s performance alone is reason enough to buy a ticket, but fans might be left feeling their Iron Man has turned into a tin god.

1 comment:

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