Suspend your disbelief (as is called for by all comic book films), and Iron Man 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Make no mistake, however, as sequels go, Iron Man 2 is no Dark Knight.
Following on from Iron Man, the sequel focuses on Tony Stark as he faces a new nemesis in the form Ivan Vanko. Coupled with this is the issues the protagonist faces in his personal life, particularly with his health…
Iron Man 2 is very much a typical comic book film sequel, albeit a good one. Themes from the first film are carried through, characters gain more depth, and the narrative is built to an exciting climax. However, in one sense, it is very much like the first film; new characters are introduced and obstacles are generated to form an archetypal narrative arc. In this way it differs from The Dark Knight – Iron Man 2 lacks the depth and creativity of Nolan’s Batman sequel.
Most of the genre’s sequels concentrate on the story of the villain, whilst also developing the motives and trials of the superhero. The origins of the hero are inevitably covered in the first film, thus the back story element must be fulfilled by another character. Iron Man 2 follows this lead, as we are almost immediately introduced to Ivan Ranko. The film bucks the trend somewhat by later sidelining this character and firmly focusing on the hero. Tony Stark is in many ways the antithesis to Bruce Wayne; outrageous and arrogant, he revels in his superstar/superhero status.
Robert Downey Jr. once again gives a charismatic performance as Tony Stark – one of the highlights of the film. Mickey Rourke is suitably cast as antagonist Ivan Ranko, offering just the right level of over-the-top-ness required for the role. Scarlet Johansson is slightly more enigmatic as Natalie Rushman; it is unclear whether her slightly stilted performance is intentional, or due to the actresses’ limited range.
Kudos to Jon Favreau for directing an entertaining action film. The special effects are excellent, and the action scenes are what fans have come to expect from the big-budget genre. A welcome addition comes in the form of the AC/DC soundtrack, providing the perfect accompaniment to the high-octane visuals.
There is no doubt that Iron Man 2 will do good business. A third film seems inevitable, however like this sequel, it is unlikely to match the critical acclaim enjoyed by the original.