Ah, Tony Stark, the waves cast out in all directions by your splash on the silver screen, culminated with the revelation that you…billionaire narcissist, playboy, genius, adrenaline junkie…are the man in the suit itself. Iron Man gave audiences a view into the life of a man who has it all finally learning what it means to stand for something. The sequel is a lesson for you, Mr. Stark. The lesson is simple.
You can’t do it alone.
Iron Man 2 is among the most anticipated sequels in modern movie history. The smashing success of the first film should be credited to the creative team of Director Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura) and leading man, the phoenix himself, Robert Downey, Jr. (Zodiac, The Soloist.) This time around, the bar is higher than ever, as Marvel Studios is banking on the momentum of a successful franchise to lead the way to complimentary films, including The Avengers, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
The only technology that runs hotter or heavier than Iron Man’s Arc Reactor-powered suit is the Hollywood hype machine. Anyone who didn’t know that IM2 was coming this weekend probably lived in a desert cave or a hole-in-the-wall in Siberia. No, even the villains in those far reaches knew about this. No excuses.
IM2 feeds off of the strength of its leading man, but this film begins to draw the focus outward. Stark’s dedicated assistant, Pepper Potts (Se7en’s Gwyneth Paltrow) is far more than a simple yes-man. Col. James Rhodes (Ocean’s Eleven actor Don Cheadle) plays a pivotal role in defining Stark’s enemies, and also his chances for success. Other new players enter the scene as Stark’s Iron Man technology is the desire of the U.S. and foreign governments, and one pesky rival in the arms game, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, who should always be remembered for his quirky role in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
Stark has two primary enemies in this installment. The first is himself. Like any Type A personality, Tony burns the candle at both ends. We learned from Blade Runner’s Roy Batty that strategy is pretty flawed. In Tony’s case, the combination of Iron Man’s workload and his partying is literally killing him. He needs a new formula to power his body, and Iron Man’s armor, or he won’t survive. (This is a nice family-friendly alternative to the comic series element threatening Tony’s life…booze.)
Stark’s second enemy is a focused, unforgiving beast of a man named Ivan Vanko. Vanko (portrayed with appropriate venom by Mickey Rourke (Sin City, The Wrestler) threatens Tony on physical, emotional and mental levels. He knows things about Tony, and more importantly, Tony’s father, Howard, that no one should know. Ivan is enough of a threat. When he partners with Hammer, he represents something Tony cannot overcome without help.
This synopsis scratches the surface, but would be remiss without mentioning the additional members of Stark’s support network; the sarcastic S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and newcomer Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson.) Fury carries out the agenda he set in motion in his post-credits appearance in the first film. Natasha is the new instrument applied to ensure that Stark doesn’t undermine the S.H.I.E.L.D. plans.
The film’s introduction, and its conclusion, tie tightly into the theme of resurrection; a look into the past, and paths to new beginnings. Fans will not be disappointed at the view into Stark’s emerging challenges, expanding allies and evolving threats. When Stark became Iron Man, he set forces in motion. Iron Man 2 treats viewers to some of these forces, and the challenge Tony Stark must face – give up control and admit he can’t face it alone, or die in the death throes of his own will.
The theatrical release runs 124 minutes (including another important post-credits scene.) The film has gobbled up success, topping over $134 million U.S. in its first weekend.
For more information, downloads and some fun extras, check out the film’s official site: http://ironmanmovie.marvel.com/.