Iron Man 2 review by Susan Granger (Member of New York Film Critics Online, Alliance of Women Film Journalists) -

Two years ago, when Robert Downey Jr. transformed from billionaire playboy Tony Stark into a hip, metal-clad hero, attacking corporate amorality and skewering the military/industrial complex, the result was a mega-hit, grossing $579 million globally.

Here’s the highly anticipated sequel and the question is: Will it be one of those rare second installments that equals or surpasses the original or will it disappoint? The answer is neither. It’s a good – but not great – popcorn picture.

Tony Stark has become pathologically conflicted about the complexities of his legacy and inevitable demise, since he has a nuclear reactor integrated into part of his anatomy and the high-tech is slowly poisoning his blood. Stark’s new nemesis is a tattooed, muscle-bound, revenge-seeking Russian physicist, Ivan Venko (Mickey Rourke) – a.k.a. Whiplash – who creates similar super-powered armor and is bankrolled by rival wealthy arms dealer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who’d like his own private army of Iron Men. (As a side note, before Downey accepted the part, scene-stealing Sam Rockwell was originally considered as Tony Stark.) There’s also Stark’s sexy new aide, covert superspy Natasha Romanoff/Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), who causes friction with Stark’s conscientious CEO, his former confidante/assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Espionage agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) returns and new to the franchise is Lt. Col. Jim Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Stark’s right-hand man who becomes the War Machine. (Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard after a salary dispute).

Despite a slow midsection, weighed down with extraneous characters and shallow, dialogue-heavy subplots, writer Justin Theroux and director Jon Favreau deliver an edgy, provocative beginning and noisy, metal-on-metal conclusion, seasoned with considerable wit, and cameos by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and comedian Gary Shandling, plus terrific visual/CG action at Monaco’s Grand Prix and the Stark Expo site in New York’s Flushing Meadows.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Iron Man 2” blasts in with an action-packed 8, including Avenger references that fuel speculation about a future Marvel Universe, featuring superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk.

Iron Man 2
Director : Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Garry Shandling, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Leslie Bibb, Jon Favreau, Christiane Amanpour

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