Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2

(M) Paramount DVD/BD

Iron Man is the rock star of super heroes.

The sequel picks up from the press conference Tony Stark gave declaring he was Iron Man. Stark quickly becomes a media sensation who now must justify his existence to the US government or they will shut him down.

They argue he is a one-man weapon of mass destruction. He claims to be the US’s only hope for peace.

Now that the world knows that billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is Iron Man, Tony seeks to underscore the benefits of the Iron Man suit by re-launching his late father’s extravagant Stark Expo, a showcase for the humanitarian innovations inspired by its technology.

The media attention and pressure from his friend in the military Lieutenant Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard in the role) see Stark secretly pursuing a cure to the disintegrating power source that is keeping him alive while it is ironically also killing him.

He quickly installs former PA and confidante Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as CEO of Stark Industries so he can focus on finding a cure.

As the US government insists that Tony turn the revolutionary weapon over to the military and weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a mysterious figure from the Stark family’s past, sets out to destroy Tony by revealing his own devastating weapon based on Stark’s technology.

Overwhelmed on all fronts, while also facing his own personal demons, Tony must finally call on his allies — old and new — to help him confront the gathering forces that threaten to destroy him and all of humanity.

The first Iron Man film relaunched the career of Robert Downey Jr in an origin story that seemed to parallel the real life travails of the actor. That, coupled with excellent performances from Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, propelled the film to international success at the box office.

This second outing, again directed by Jon Favreau, builds on the excellent chemistry of Downey Jr and Paltrow and adds Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson into the mix.

Sequels often suffer by comparison but this film is even better than the first. Downey’s self aggrandising humour perfectly fits the Richard Branson-styled Stark — just as able to take on the press as throw a rowdy party.

Where the film could have been mired in the personal demons of the Stark character, the film instead is full of excellent characters and clips along at a cracking pace. Particularly hilarious is the over-the-top bravado of weasel Justin Hammer — played to comic perfection by Rockwell.

The film also introduces Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who will become the leader of the Avengers (due in 2012), which will ultimately bring a number of the Marvel characters together in a film. Avengers aficionados will be able to spot of a lot of in-jokes from Captain America’s shield to Thor’s hammer in this film.

Perhaps the only niggle is the fact that aside from an excellent set piece early on, set in Monaco where Vanko showcases his weapon to bring down Stark, Rourke is then sidelined in the second half only to be revealed again at the film’s climax.

Johansson, too, is a little underused as legal expert Natalie Rushman. While her character has some great chemistry with Downey Jr and causes some friction between Potts and Stark, her big reveal is left to one (excellent though it is) short action sequence.

But such is the case with films of this calibre; they are designed to whet the appetite for future instalments and, trust me, ol’ shellhead will be back!

Adrian Drayton

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