Iron Man 2 is a very good science fiction movie and one of the best robot vs. robot movies ever filmed. Admittedly, robot vs robot isn’t a very big genre, but let’s consider the obvious. The Matrix villains were, essentially, robots. Machines. The Terminator is…a machine. And the Avatar symbiotic/hybrid thingy might be a new “body”, but it is a man-made body…a robot. So our fascination with getting inside our toys…being our toys, has made a minor character in the Marvel Comic world a major figure in American culture today. You really crave to hear the Black Sabbath hit single, “Iron Man”, as the riff is all over television, but you get AC/DC instead, and despite the fact that the soundtrack and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance sometimes distract, the inevitable battle of the robots is so well executed and so tastefully brought to the big screen that the good far overshadows the uninspired aspects of this motion picture.
Downey Jr. is a terrific actor but he slips into the Hugh Hefner playboy role that deviates from the comic book. Rule #1, never deviate from the original comic book that made the character something special in the first place. The subdued Tony Stark implied playboy in the pages of the book was a lot more believable than Stark/Downey Jr. chasing every skirt when you know that his heart, as mechanical as it is, belongs to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. Pepper and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan are essential plot elements and sidekicks and their expanded roles here are most welcome. The real sleeper, though, is the terrific Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff. Wow. Her fight scenes feel like they are in 3D, her “triple agent” persona, as Tony Stark references her, is brilliant…and though we all love Samuel L. Jackson (known as “Sam” to Jay Leno) he is just not Nick Fury. Would you have some white guy play The Black Panther?
Reinventing these characters deviates from the comic book…the other problem for Samuel L. Jackson is that he is suffering from Jack Nicholson/Robert De Niro syndrome…when the actor is so famous that his own persona overshadows every character he takes on. Al Pacino just shed his membership in that group with his brilliant performance of Dr. Jack Kevorkian on HBO, and that’s what it takes for these Hollywood legends to jump into a role and not be viewed as themselves. This only makes a better platform for the robot fights (though it is still no excuse)…and the robot fights are why you came to the theater in the first place. Double crosses, political espionage, and more than a dash of James Bond add to the intrigue.
Tony Stark is now a 007 as well as a private entrepreneur …Hollywood realizing there’s room enough for Bourne identities and shaken-not-stirred competing for audience affections on the big screen. Is he too Hugh Hefner? Too JamesBond? For a purist like this writer, born and raised on Marvel Comics, yes, but will it matter? No, the box office will be huge, and despite the gripes of the purist there’s a lot to like about Iron Man 2. It isn’t The Dark Knight, there’s no Heath Ledger here to mesmerize …but it all works…and the teaser trailer at the very end, after the credits, got as much of a rise out of the audience as the film itself.
Iron Man 2 delivers what it promises, it opens the summer of 2010 with a big bang. Three stars out of four.