Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Favreau
Watch Iron Man 2 online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Back in 2008, Iron Man impressed everyone with its bright tone and breezy action before blowing its load on an uninspired final punch-up. Now, old Shellhead is back, our charismatic lead keeping it irreverent, only to blow it all again with another lazy climax – and a lot of Marvel advertising. Here lies the main weakness in Iron Man 2’s armour: it’s essentially a two-hour trailer for The Avengers.
Fortunately for Favreau, though, his main man has still got the magic. And he’s not afraid to show it: barely a minute of the film passes when Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) isn’t babbling away about something. He’s still entertaining, even if his romance with assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Potts (Paltrow) remains unengaging, and keeps the mood up when it could easily nosedive. You see, there’s a lot of new bad guys in town. Weird bad guys.
Ivan Vanko (Rourke) had his dad ditched by Tony’s father (John Slattery, an inspired choice) and so he wants revenge. Revenge in the form of big electrical whips. Meanwhile, Justin Hammer (Rockwell), rival inventor to Stark, is trying to outdo Iron Man’s massive weaponry. How’s he going to do that? Why, by trying to win over Stark’s friend Rhodes (Cheadle), as well as doing a deal with Rourke’s loopy Russian scientist. But as soon as Ivan instigates chaos at the Monaco Grand Prix – a great set piece with real menace – he disappears altogether, relegated to playing solitaire on a laptop. In his place, we get Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson).
“Who’s Nick Fury?” you ask. Well, he’s the star of Marvel’s The Avengers. And the script takes every chance to remind you – cue a Thor reference here, a Captain America nod there. The way that the film connects up to every other part of the MCU is immensely impressive, particularly in retrospect, but ticking boxes and matching spreadsheet entries isn’t the basis of entertainment; Iron Man 2’s connective tissue wouldn’t be a problem, if they didn’t put the rest of the movie on hold for 30 minutes just to chat about S.H.I.E.L.D. And they do. For 30 minutes.
When the story does get going again (all shiny suits and no brains), it builds up to another clunky metal-on-metal face-off, which is hardly a fair pay-off. But while the structure slips, the spark comes from its central performances; thanks to Rockwell, Rourke and Downey Jr, we do have some fun. A muddled sequel, then, which is bigger but never better than the first outing. Iron Man 2 could have developed character or boosted its mindless explosion count, but doesn’t quite do either. Fun but muddled, Iron Man 2 is an oddly mechanical blockbuster. Light-hearted, but leaden.
Iron Man 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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