the idea of Iron Man having a bonafide sequel would have
been as unlikely as Robert Downey Jr. being the man in the suit.
The man in the suit is just as important as the iron man, as it tells
you the story about how he got into the suit and his transition from
entrepreneur to super-hero.
Following on from the box office success and critical acclaim for the
first film, the necessary sequel follows and with it a whole list of
characters and continuation of the Tony Stark narrative; as he attempts
to deal with becoming one of the most recognisable faces on the planet
and the reason there is world peace in this parallel universe.
The reason the first film was so triumphant was partly due to the
ballsy casting of Downey in the lead role; before that Downey was
considered to left of mainstream, too indie, too impressionist and his
talent was not disciplined enough to the stringent nature of mainstream
comic book movies. Favreau (who directed ‘Elf) was himself a
ballsy decision in directing but his grasp of the material, and the
positive relationship between himself and Downey meant they found a
common ground – as Downey is in the suit, the CGI takes over for action
sequences; yet you can make Tony Stark into Downey Jr. all charisma,
sarcasm and a whirling ball of self-belief.
At the start of the sequel, the planet is a peaceful place and yet the
US government want Iron Man and Stark Industries to fall into line and
make his body suit available to the people (and by people they mean the
US military ) for research. At a Congress hearing, Stark makes
the case that the suit is his design and his creation, therefore not
open to offers and Earth is peaceful –whilst Iran and North Korea toy
around with there own suit prototypes, Stark remains 10 years of the
competition, therefore American people should enjoy their freedom.
The other reason to make it accessible to the industry is so Justin
Hammer (Sam Rockwell – always welcome) can gain the military contracts
to make the suits for them – Rockwell has a lot of fun with one scene
displaying guns to military officials; the guns getting bigger and
bigger in comparison to his slight frame which is dwarfed by the
Throw in a personal vendetta against Stark by Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
(Mickey Rourke) who he blames for the death of his father who helped
Tony’s father design the basis for the power source of the Iron Man
suit. Vanko appears at Monaco as Stark is driving in a Grand
Prix, making his presence known by nearly killing him – Vanko is
arrested but later escapes from the French prison with the help of
Hammer. The contract being that Hammer will supply the weaponry and
materials for Vanko to gain his revenge and so Hammer can have Stark
out of the picture.
Thrown into this is the Justice League led by Nick Fury (Samuel L.
Jackson) and his assistant Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) - who
infiltrates Stark’s offices as a legal assistant – who seek Stark’s
help and want Iron Man to join the League, much to Stark’s chagrin, who
in spite of the adulation of hero worship he receives he believes he is
solo, and does not need a sidekick; in spite of James Rhodes’ (Don
Cheadle) insistence that he be War Machine – the decolourised Iron Man
The action sequences are of greater fluency and artistry on this
occasion in comparison to the clumsiness of the first film; where it
felt the narrative was driven by the anticipation of the next punch
up. There is a better balance on this occasion between the
chemistry of Stark and the returning Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow –
breezy and alluring) that is reminiscent of screwball comedy romances
featuring Grant and Hepburn; whilst there dialogue zips of the screen
making you smile at how easy they make it look.
The villains are better (with all due respect to Jeff Bridges);
Rockwell is just as sarcastic and geeky as Downey and has a way with
words and actions, whilst Rourke is brooding as the tormented Russian
which makes the film hark back to cold war politics, the filmmaker’s
intention I believe being that they did not want to make the villain
from the Middle East and stating that villainy comes from all corners
of the globe.
By the films ends, there are some plotlines completed whilst others are
teasingly left open ended including that of Stark’s position in the
Justice League and the will they/won’t they relationship of Stark and
Favreau (who also has a small role as Stark’s bodyguard/driver) has
again come up trumps making a comic book movie that is faithful to the
Marvel universe, whilst making subtle political statements about world
affairs and the US government’s position on weapons of mass
destruction; but he also has fun with the film making light of
situations and in Tony Stark having a character who will happily make
fun of himself as well as others, that is a true sign of the man inside