The Review: 2008 was fairly unsuccessful for the summer blockbusters, at least in terms of quality, but one movie stood out above the rest of the poor quality crop, and it wasn’t Indiana Jones. Iron Man started a trend which seems to be running through a lot of this year’s offerings, by remembering to be fun, as well as having some smarts and a certain amount of dramatic tension. So it’s a shame that a certain amount of that sense of fun has been lost here.
The standard progression for the first two comic book movies, including pretty much all of those with ‘man’ in the title, is to have a first movie to explain the origins and to set the tone, and then a second which darkens that tone slightly but is free to get straight on with the plot. Iron Man 2 fails slightly on the first count, as the tone gets more serious, but if anything there is less actual feeling of threat, apart from in the movie’s best set piece early on, set in the middle of the Monaco Grand Prix.
There’s also a problem on the second count, in that it’s been made well known that this forms part of a larger sequence, this and other Marvel movies building to their superhero team up ‘The Avengers’ in a year or two. There’s such a smattering of references to the set-up for that, from a prop here to a character there, that the overall feeling is of more exposition, not less, than the first movie, not helped by the fact that there’s no major action set piece between the Monaco set piece and the climactic battles. You can’t escape the feeling that knowing where this is heading has served to remove some of the jeopardy and also some of that crucial fun.
There is still a fair amount to enjoy, just not as much as the first time around. Robert Downey Jr again dominates the film and comes out on top of plenty of verbal sparring. Those others returning from the first movie are also good value, and Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and even Scarlett Johansson fill in characters that fit well into this world and that we’d be happy to see again. Only Don Cheadle loses out, coming off as slightly more worthy than Terence Howard’s earlier incarnation, but still enjoying his own chance in the suit. But the hope has to be that the next film in this series, whether its with or without other Avengers, gets some of the lost enjoyment back.
Why see it at the cinema: Both of the major set pieces feature an awful lot going on on screen, so the bigger the screen, the easier to make it all out. And let’s face it, this kind of movie is what the big screen was made for.
The Score: 6/10