Okay, let’s be honest here. We’re all thinking it, so we might as well admit it. It just wasn’t as good as the first Iron Man, was it? That’s the problem with sequels, they never quite hit the same spot as the first film because we have more of an idea what we’re going to get, whereas the first instalment is an unexpected pleasure.
It’s not like ‘they’ didn’t try, it just didn’t quite meet the expectations set up by the first film. Having publicly declared that he is Iron Man, six months later Tony Stark’s living (if not quite enjoying) the rock and roll lifestyle. He flies into a press conference slash party and lands in the middle of scantily clad dancing girls dressed in skimpy outfits loosely based on the Iron Man suit and surrounded by pyrotechnics. It almost reminded me of a Mötley Crüe gig! And like any rockstar who parties too hard for too long, he starts to suffer the all too familiar public crash and burn, getting embarrassingly drunk when he realises he’s dying from palladium poisoning, accidentally destroying his own house, and at the same time being dragged into a lawsuit with the United States of America demanding that he hand over his Iron Man ‘weapon’ to the state government. Despite claiming that nobody else has the technology capable of creating another Iron Man, Tony hadn’t reckoned on the existence and stereotypical need for revenge of Ivan Vanko, the son of Howard Stark’s partner, who has large amounts of technology and bitterness at his fingertips. He also has a cockatoo and a dodgy accent, it’s almost like he’s trying to be Marvel’s Blofeld.
If I’m honest, it’s the character of Ivan Vanko and, more importantly, his portrayal by Mickey Rourke which is the main problem I have with this film. I’m not a fan of Mickey Rourke’s acting at the best of times (mainly because I don’t think it’s fair to call it acting), and his attempts to put on an accent and try and demonstrate some kind of facial expression at the same time seemed to be a stretch too far for his capabilities. Apparently he took the role very seriously and bought the gold teeth and cockatoo out of his own money (gasp!) in an effort to make the character his own, only he hasn’t really made it his own, he’s made it his interpretation of Blofeld. I can imagine the negotiations when Vanko was dreamt up: “Hey, we need to get a new villain, let’s have someone in need of a good wash with a funny accent and a pet trying to get revenge!” It’s just boring and predictable, but I think I’d have been happier with it if he was portrayed by anyone other than Mickey Rourke.
And then Tony Stark discovered a new element based on his father’s plans to build a new development. What a load of rubbish! There’s a lot of ridiculous things that I can overlook (he can walk through fire in a metal suit and it doesn’t get hot? The actor who played Rhodes inexplicably changed and we’re just supposed not to notice?) but to try and convince me that a map of a town is actually the structure for a brand spanking new element that will power the Iron Man suit, stop Tony being poisoned by palladium and keep shrapnel from piercing his heart is a step too much. (Although visually I quite liked how the element structure was floating in the air while being rearranged by the computer, but I will admit that, despite being pretty, that was also unconvincing).
There were many parts that I liked though. Scarlett Johansson working as Tony’s new PA and serving as an Avengers crossover was quite entertaining, and of course there was a whole AC/DC album released in conjunction with the film (although only a couple of songs actually featured in it). Plus my favourite ‘character’ Dummy, the slightly confused robot, once again brought me joy, and there were enough explosions and action sequences to keep me happy (even if the drone suit things did remind me a bit too much of Toy Soldiers, a slightly sinister film from the 1990s which made me a little bit afraid of my Barbies for a while).
I didn’t think Iron Man 2 was a bad film by any stretch, I just didn’t think it was as good as Iron Man. But then Iron Man was an unexpected treat and a way to test the Marvel waters before developing a proper three-film story arc, and it sounds like they spent quite a long time deciding which villain should be used in which film, and may from the sounds of it have come up with the idea of Ivan Vanko quite late in the game. It’s still good fun though, and sequels are rarely as good as the first films anyway, so I can’t really complain when I was still entertained. As it stands I’d give it a thumbs up, but replace Mickey Rourke and it’d be a double thumbs up from me, hands down.
See also a review of Iron Man.