Old Jack here actively need to watch this film. I’d just got through The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Made in Italy (more on that later…may be a while to summon the politeness needed to review it), and the call of wit, pith and Starkish arrogance was strong. It didn’t disappoint. I spent two hours in Robert Downey Jr‘s flippant company and it cleansed my soul. Oh yes. Not original, not surprising, but always fun: Iron Man 2.
It starts with an angry Russian losing his Dad. Yup – more Dad issues in the M.C.U. Mickey Rourke is thickly fantastic as Ivan Vanko, embittered son of Tony Stark’s Dad’s old physics-partner. They worked together, it ended badly, and so Vanko Sr unintelligibles his last and Junior sets about righting the family wrong.
Cut to Tony Stark – still basking in telling the world he’s Iron Man, running an expo to honour his late Dad’s inventiveness (if not his warmth…), and Tony’s libido. It’s 2010 and scantily clad beauties prance about the expo stage, a timely edit removing a multiple-arse shot that could’ve killed half the TV room. But things aren’t good off-stage. Stark’s fake heart from the first film is killing him: radiation or something. His Fitbit-alike reports his blood poisoning when the film needs to up the tension.
Downey deftly balances the twattishness of Stark with the man’s fear of finitude. Tony labours his relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow‘s Pepper, gifting her the CEO role she’s doing anyway, then annoying her with interpersonal charmlessness and a set-piece at the Monaco Grand-Prix. Which is great fun: nicely shot, pointedly CGIed, and with Rourke turning up to lash electric whips that cut cars in two, chop most of Pepper’s to bits, and nearly take out Tony.
Yup – if you’re bored of an Easter afternoon, and not one for simpering in the home’s chapel, here be fun.
And then there’s Scarlett Johansson. She’s a woman from Legal, soon revealed to be an unsurprising spy, and on to the Black Widow antics. It’s a low-key introduction, given what she becomes in the franchise, and sufficiently 2010 to include lingering arse shots, for the film has a theme. Lechy Lenny fell off his chair in… let’s go with shock at the dated skin-tight dress, cat suit and camera angles. Look away, and you sense Johansson redrafting her contract with Marvel…
Ditto Don Cheadle, whose tolerant buddy and Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes nabs a spare iron man suit and matches Stark’s arseholery with a straight back and strait-laced decency. Slaps him into order, too, when the junior Stark loses himself in a party of self-pity. It’s a refreshing performance in the face of the archest cast of the year, but perhaps too uptight and joyless.
Did I mention Sam Rockwell‘s Hammer? Super-arch and bouffant. And a floundering competitor to Downey’s business. He’s charisma-ed off the screen by Rourke’s Vanko: his employee, man of parrots and war.
The climax is as violent and noisy as you could want – with plenty of bickering to keep the tone light. But the best comes midway, when Downey Jr sourly ignores a film made by his long-dead Pop, Howard Stark (John Slattery giving his 1950s’ American haircut and dream). For a moment, Dad addresses Son, and Downey’s Daddy issues roar forth. All Junior wanted was to be loved and respected, and, well, you’ll see.
Smooth, fun and funny, Iron Man 2 is a smart reworking of elements from the first film. But you won’t mind. Ok, you will a bit. But bask in it. There are MacGuffins aplenty, from radiation warnings to Hammerbots and the mightiest stretch of the imagination wrapped around a hologram and a town planning model… But this is Downey Jr’s show, and he bounces off his fellow thesps to deliver the right tone to make billions at the box office. For a decade.
Good to see a Dad understood, if not quite forgiven.