First Hit: As a follow-up this is a good one, but there is a lack of surprise and a good simple story that makes it hard to enjoy fully.
With most blockbuster action films (Superman, Star Wars, Lethal Weapon), there is a letdown between the original and its follow-ups. For me, this let down specifically relates to the lack of wonder which is present when I see an idea and concept for the first time.
Good follow-up films either get into the characters at a deeper level to tell more involved stories, or they bring in new foes which enliven the film. Some will do a little of both. No follow-up film can ever recreate the wonder of the first except if it is really just a better overall film like the 2009 Star Trek film; which had a sense of wonder and depth to it.
When the first Star Wars film opened, I’ll never forget that initial scene when a very large space ship passed overhead creating a sense of wonder and foreboding excitement. The Star Wars series held its own because we wanted to know about the characters and what would happen to them as they moved from world to world.
A series that lasts, like Batman, generally has downs and ups with each new installment. The downs might be because either the actor playing the main part changes and the character lacks consistency. The ups might be that they have the right main character and they delve deeper into them or they add a powerful new counterpart (foil) character to test the will and fortitude.
In the initial Iron Man, Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) was irreverent, funny exciting, action oriented and whimsical. Iron Man 2 didn’t deepen Stark’s character although they tried by giving him the problem that he is dying because of the Iron Man energy source. This didn’t deepen the character. They did, however, bring in Mickey Rourke playing Ivan Vanko as Stark’s main foil.
Rourke chews up the scenes he is in and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was on the screen. Building on Ivan’s character and his father’s link to Stark’s father might have been a better story; however it wasn’t for the producer.
Therefore they brought in Scarlett Johansson playing both Natalie Rushman and Natasha Romanoff and Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury from some special government ops unit to create more complication which wasn’t required. Although the presence of both did add to the whimsical dialogue, it didn’t really add to the depth of the film. I just made it overly complicated.
Downey was OK here but the writing to make Stark narcissistic failed to get traction and sort of turned me off to the character. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts held her ground and was solid enough in a role she carried over from the first film. Rourke was great and scene stealing. Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Stark’s main business rival, just doesn’t have the inner darkness to make his character believable. Don Cheadle is steady and solid as Lt. Col. James Rhodes. The director, Jon Favreau, could have uncluttered the film and made it more fun by simplifying it and maybe adding some depth to Stark but he didn’t.
Overall: Although Iron Man 2 is not like the original in its sense of wonder and fun, but this film is definitely watchable even though it does lack the punch of the original.