Tony Stark could be the poster boy for one of my favorite songs, “You Gotta Have Heart,” from the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. “When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win, that’s when a grin should start,” the lyrics advise. In "Iron Man 2," Stark faces signs of his imminent death because of complications relating to the hi-tech heart he wears. But, as the song says, “You gotta have hope, miles and miles and miles of hope,” so this mega-rich designer and manufacturer of military weapons finally tries to discover a solution to his problem.
Much of this sequel focuses on the way Stark deals with his physical condition, but don’t worry, Iron Man fans, the movie also contains enough great action sequences, impressive special effects and splendid performances to hold your interest most of the time. And, of course, there’s the highly watchable Robert Downey Jr. displaying his marvelous screen charisma again as billionaire playboy Tony Stark/Iron Man.
Downey excels in delivering witty, boastful dialogue, as always. But he also reaches deep within himself to show Stark’s emotional turmoil here. After Stark realizes he’s dying, Downey does a superb job of showing the man’s various stages while dealing with it. In denial, Stark foolishly enters a dangerous car race. Later, he loses his dignity at a birthday party, which he worries will be his last. Then he gives the power of running Stark Industries to Pepper Potts (the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow), his loyal personal assistant and love interest. Because his behavior becomes so questionable, Stark even needs a martial-arts-trained body guard (Scarlett Johansson, sexier than ever in this key role). Not surprisingly, Downey makes all of Stark’s bizarre behavior appear quite believable.
Besides dealing with his heart condition, Stark must handle challenges from two extremely different villains -- played by Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell. Rourke is Ivan Vanko, a burly Russian physicist with a personal score to settle; Rockwell is Justin Hammer, one of Stark’s ambitious competitors. Rourke (The Wrestler) looks eerily magnificent in a sequence where he wields electricity like two gigantic whips as he marches down a racetrack toward our hero’s smashed car. Rockwell’s (Confession of a Dangerous Mind) best scene shows him dancing across a huge stage to make a presentation of his (?) newest weaponry. According to my husband, that snappy dance is the best special effect in Iron Man 2. He insists it must have been speeded-up!
Am I forgetting anything? Ah yes, that incredible gold-and-red Iron Man suit. It’s still amazing – and everyone wants to own it, especially the government. Plus Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) is outstanding as Rhodes, Stark’s worried friend. However, I’m disappointed that the wonderful Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) appears in only a couple of scenes as Nick Fury, one of Stark’s supporters. Another complaint relates to the film’s lack of humor. There are a few amusing lines, most of them spoken by Downey, but additional levity throughout would have helped make this sequel even more entertaining. Still, I don’t have the heart to pan Iron Man 2, for it’s an excellent way to start the 2010 summer movie season.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.)
Review also posted at ReelTalk Movie Reviews.