Iron Man 2 Review - It's Awesome

I tried to avoid the early "Iron Man 2" reviews that came out last week, but from what I heard of them, some critics were giving the movie negative reviews. The common complaints were that the fun had been taken out of the movie in relation to the first one, that the movie was too full of references only fanboys would get and didn't relate to a general audience, and that it spent too much time setting up "Avengers" rather than being a sequel to "Iron Man".

I have no idea what the fuck they're talking about.

I just got out of a screening of "Iron Man 2", and it was amazing. The movie was incredibly fun and lived up to the expectations I had for the sequel. Tony Stark/Iron Man continues to be one of the best characters out there today, and this movie did nothing to damage his status as Marvel's tentpole character for the next few summers.

Spoilers within, as I tell you in further detail just why you should go see this movie.

The movie stars with Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, watching Tony Stark's "I am Iron Man" news conference from the end of the last movie, while developing his own version of Stark's in-chest arc reactor. It turns out that Vanko's father co-developed the original arc reactor technology with Stark's father.

The movie jumps ahead six months, where Stark kicks off his Stark Expo in style at the same site as the last Stark Expo in the '70s (and yes, this turns out to be a pretty important plot point). Tony is still acting like the same ass he's always been, but it turns out the palladium that's powering his arc reactor is also killing him. Meanwhile, Congress wants him to turn over the "Iron Man Weapon" so the U.S. government can mass produce them for the military. They even bring in one of Stark's corporate adversaries, Justin Hammer, to testify against Stark.

At this point, I feel the need to point out that having Hammer and Whiplash both in this movie doesn't come close to being villain overload. Hammer is a villain for Stark, while Whiplash is a villain for Iron Man. They end up working together, sort of, but it's never like "Spider-Man 3" where the hero has to face both of them at once. In fact, Hammer's villainy is limited to corporate evil, which is completely in line with the kind of villains that have populated the Iron Man comic throughout the years.

Feeling torn between his fading health, running Stark Industries and being Iron Man, Tony hands over control of the company to Pepper Potts, again a development straight out of the comics. And just because something is true to the source material, it doesn't mean it's pandering to fanboys. In this case, it's just good decision-making by the people making the movies. Potts's removal as Tony's assistant opens the way for Scarlett Johansson's "Natalie", actually Natasha Romanoff working undercover for SHIELD.

Tony heads to Monaco and enters himself in the Monaco GP (which, as an aside, is on my bucket list of sporting events I want to attend before I die), where the Whiplash attack we've all seen in the trailer happens. This leads to the briefcase suit transformation scene, which might be one of the 5 coolest things I've ever seen on screen. Seriously, it's fucking amazing (and, again, right out of the comics). Whiplash is incarcerated, but Hammer breaks him out and puts him to work, developing a suit for his company.

As Tony's health declines, he decides to live his birthday party like it's his last, getting completely drunk off his ass while wearing the Iron Man suit. This happens while Jim Rhodes is coming to inform Tony that the government is ready to seize his suits, because they no longer trust that he can control Iron Man technology (his big selling point for keeping Iron Man to himself was that no enemies of the U.S. could develop the same thing, but Whiplash clearly proved that wrong). Tony's too busy having fun, so Rhodes slips into the basement, and into the Mark II suit. This leads to a fight between Stark and Rhodes, which is also fucking amazing. After beating a drunken Tony, Rhodes ends up flying off with the suit and taking it back to Edwards Air Force base.

At that point, the government brings in Hammer to "upgrade" the Mark II suit, and he shows a bunch of weapons to Rhodes, who asks for ALL of them to be added to War Machine. Meanwhile, Tony gets lectured by Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff, who also help him with his health problem, at least on a short term basis. They explain that his father's research holds the key to solving the problem long term, and we finally get to see the genius of Tony Stark at work.

I know a lot of people would prefer more Iron Man and less Tony Stark, but I think seeing Tony at work is one of the coolest things in these movies. It's not just his ridiculous 3D holographic computer interface (which I'm pretty sure Jonathan Ive is working on duplicating as we speak), but it's the way his mind works. Remember, unlike Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four or Superman, Tony Stark isn't a "super" hero. He's just a brilliant genius who invented one of the best super-suits of all-time. But it's his genius that sets him apart from Rhodes, Obadiah Stane or anyone else who just slaps on an Iron Man suit (well, except for Vanko's Whiplash, who is pretty fucking genius too, which is what makes him an amazing adversary for Stark).

Stark ends up solving his problem and creating a new chestpiece in a scene that is both technologically impressive, lightly comedic and a nice callout to comic fans -- just like the corresponding scene where he starts developing the Mark II suit in "Iron Man". At one point Agent Coulsen, from the first movie, pulls an unfinished version of Captain America's impenetrable shield, which Tony uses to balance a pipe. That got a pretty big laugh from the theater I was in.

The last half-hour or so of the movie is pretty much a series of amazing action sequences that need to be seen to be believed. The final fight between Whiplash and the Iron Man/War Machine duo is everything I expected it to be, especially after the preceding battle between our two heroes and Hammer/Vanko's suit drones. I could have stood to see more of Johansson's Black Widow, but her infiltration of Hammer's HQ was even cooler than the brief snippet in the trailer let on. My only real disappointment with it was that she had her normal voice the entire time. I would have loved to have heard a Russian accent from her, at least once.

The movie ends with Fury telling Stark he's "un-fit" for the Avenger Initiative, but bringing him on with a consulting gig, then getting Senator Stern (the hilarious Gary Shandling) to present Tony and Rhodes with their medals of honor, in a bit of turnabout from Stern's interrogation of Stark earlier in the movie. Obviously the "un-fit" part is a bunch of bullshit, since we're getting an Avengers movie, and Iron Man is going to be a huge part of that.

Oh, and speaking of huge parts in the Avengers, stick around after the credits. That's the one thing I'll leave unspoiled here.

I'm not sure the movie is better than "Iron Man", but the first movie had the benefit of coming out to very low expectations (since Iron Man has never been as well known of a character as Batman, Spider-Man, Superman or even the X-Men). This movie had two years of hype to live up to, and I think it did an admirable job of doing so. Stark's one-liners throughout the movie were right on point, Nick Fury's appearances were well managed and very true to the "Ultimate" version of his character and the Stark-Hammer dynamic came through perfectly.

There was definitely a touch of Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates in the Stark/Hammer relationship, with Hammer being jealous of Stark's popularity and status as an icon, Hammer "stealing" Stark's tech and even Hammer's tech failing War Machine in one of the better jokes of the movie. I didn't think it was too heavy handed, but it was definitely there.

I could write on and on about this movie, but I think the best recommendation I can give it is this: I saw it for free tonight, and I'm still planning on paying to see it again, possibly as soon as Friday at midnight. 


  1. tony stark is iron man??!!! spoiler alert!


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