Movie News & Reviews

'Iron Man 2' slips a bit by shortchanging Rourke

"Iron Man 2 is just like Iron Man, but with way morerobots" sounds like my dreams.

It sounds like the kind of thing a me from the future would tellpresent-me if he hated me and wanted me to blow my life's savings onIron Man 2 tickets. Obviously this raises a big question — if hedoesn't understand that I'm essentially spending all his money,whatever I did to make him mad must have involved severe brain damage.In any event, he's out $82.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Yet contrary to everything we know about how the universe works,additional robots doesn't guarantee a better result. When I tried toadd them to my margaritas all I got was a faceful of blender shrapnel.Iron Man 2 isn't a disaster of that proportion (do you know howhard it is to lick tequila out of the toaster?), but it does slip, ifjust a little.

As Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr. has brought the world unprecedentedpeace. But his public profile has painted a target on his back. Rivalarms manufacturer Sam Rockwell wants the secrets of his technology;fearing others will develop suits of war, so does the U.S. government.

Rogue Russian scientist Mickey Rourke has a personal score to settle.He duplicates the Iron Man technology and attacks Downey on aspeedway, opening the door for all Iron Man's enemies to come calling.Not that Downey needs help external attackers: the very power sourcethat's keeping him alive is poisoning him from the inside, too.

In plot and style, Iron Man 2 picks up right where the originalleft off. Downey's so breezily charming he could talk the brown out ofcoffee. Director Jon Favreau has a strong grasp of the physical, be itin kickass action scenes or slapstick comedy. Continuing its trend ofexcellent villains, Jeff Bridges returns from the grave to informDowney his views on copyright law vs. national security are just,like, his opinion, man.

Did I make that last part up? Tragically. On the upside, in IronMan 2, Rourke is the new villain.

I would take Mickey Rourke in a fight against anyone. That includesIron Man, and since a glance at IMDb will show you there's already anIron Man 3 in the works, you don't have to guess who came outahead in that clash. Whatever. With his dismissive smile and burningdrive for revenge, Mickey Rourke is invincible.

The only thing that can defeat him is Justin Theroux's busy script. Attimes, Rourke gets lost in the juggle of enemies, frustrated friends,super-secret agencies and career-oriented love interests. To bothTheroux and Favreau's great credit, Iron Man 2 is not theoverstuffed, Spider-Man 3ish semi-mess it should have been. Itshost of characters and their conflicting motivations is neverconfusing.

But all that juggling shortchanges the individual balls. The greatsuperhero movies of the last decade have been great because of theirdepth. With this much going on, it's difficult for any one element tobe drawn as deeply as it deserves.

That's about the best I can explain why the sequel felt like a stepdown from the first. A small step, granted: Iron Man 2 is afine, funny, exciting movie with some inspired moments, especiallywhen Don Cheadle dons a backup suit to whomp some sense into adrunken, self-destructive Downey. As St. Augustine said, it's not aparty until two robots are dead in your living room.

So it's not a killer that a little of the magic's gone missing. Afterall, Iron Man had an awful lot to lose.

Grade: B+

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