Returning to the screen in excessively self-congratulatory ostentatious mode, the flashy over-wrought Iron Man 2 could have used a bit of oiling to smooth out its more than clunky attitude. Turning up again less as a sequel than footage retrieved from the cutting room floor following the first mineral fortified escapade, Iron Man 2 virtually discards back story for brashly assumed bragging rights.
And while crafting the hyperactive followup oddly enough in lazy mode, director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder) seem to have forgotten that show and tell spectacles need to show as well. Instead of simply detailing for audiences the superior skills of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) on the world stage as a shortcut given in good faith.
Iron Man 2 drops rather than sails into theaters this time around with a thud, as Stark pompously presides over a worshipful Expo gushfest over in Flushing. Declaring that he’s successfully ‘privatized peace’ across the planet in contrast to the ineffective US government, Stark inevitably sets himself up for multiple jealous rivals. Including government officials plotting to acquire his weaponry for themselves, devious flamboyant tycoon competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) mulling his own hostile takeover, and Russian brainy bad guy with corroded teeth, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke).
Shifting the action from Flushing to Monaco, Iron Man 2 finds Stark in the local racing competition. And, with Vanko waiting in the wings to tear up the track with an invented incendiary device or two of his own, while chewing on a toothpick when not the scenery, and spouting evidently mean-spirited rants without benefit of subtitles and a bad Russian accent.
At the same time, dual damsels on the payroll Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Natalie (Scarlett Johansson) fret on the sidelines over Stark and his assorted mishaps. Though Scarlett’s impressively graceful beatdown of an entire staff of male bodyguards in her alternate secret kickbutt persona as Black Widow, nearly upstages the final showdown among all those clumsy ferrous fashionista clones and drones. On the other hand, dainty Gwyneth mostly sniffles and whines, biding her time waiting patiently for her eventual awkward big kiss scene, as part of the ‘stable-ish’ relationship with her loony metalhead lover.
Iron Man 2 is only into its second of who knows how many sequels, and it’s already getting a little, well, rusty. Downey retains his Chaplinesque elegantly eccentric charm, but it’s beginning to wear a little thin, even when weaponized or brooding over his own internal ecological disaster. And, while newcomers Sam and Scarlett threaten as formidable scene stealers whenever they’re around. Adding up to a sequel with a serious Iron deficiency.