Iron Man 2 Review
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Director Jon Favreau’s follow-up to his super-sized superhero blockbuster, Iron Man, is easily one of the most anticipated releases of 2010. And that means that the chips are already stacked against Iron Man 2—because it has so many expectations to live up to.

The first Iron Man was, for many moviegoers, a pleasant surprise—a superhero movie with depth and character on top of the usual action and effects. And that’s one tough act to follow—even for a billionaire superhero.

So, for the sequel, Favreau held nothing back, taking the original and making it bigger and more complex—bringing in an incredible all-star ensemble, adding more storylines, and giving the whole thing a whole new swagger. It’s all slick and explosive, but it’s also just a bit too ambitious.

Robert Downey, Jr. returns as Tony Stark, the cocky billionaire playboy who’s bringing about world peace with his Iron Man suit. But not everyone is thrilled by Stark’s bold new venture. The U.S. government wants to get their hands on the suit, and they’re putting pressure on Tony’s friend, Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), to help them. Weapons contractor and Stark competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) would like to capitalize on Stark’s invention. And Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) would simply like to see Stark destroyed.

But even the Iron Man suit can’t stop the deadliest of Tony’s challenges. The palladium that’s powering the arc reactor that’s keeping him alive is poisoning his bloodstream—and if he doesn’t find an alternate energy source, the palladium poisoning will kill him. So Tony puts his trusted assistant, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), in charge of Stark Enterprises while he tries to make the most of his few remaining days.

Iron Man 2 operates under the assumption that if one is good, then eight will be awesome. If one storyline is good, then eight storylines will be awesome. If one super-cool star is good, then eight super-cool stars will be awesome. Thus, it takes everything that worked in the original and multiplies it by about eight. There are more allies, more enemies, more conflicts, more fight scenes, and more dancing girls—and the result is sheer sensory overload. There are so many storylines running throughout the film that it’s hard to keep track of them all. And there are so many talented cast members that many of them get lost in the shuffle.

Of course, Downey is as cool as ever—both in and out of his super-suit. And the supporting cast is spectacular, too—from Cheadle (who easily tops Terrence Howard as Rhodey) and Samuel L. Jackson as the mysterious Nick Fury to Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson (who plays Stark’s tough new assistant, Natalie). Even Favreau himself gets a fun fight sequence of his own as Stark chauffeur Happy Hogan. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches, really—so much of a good thing that you hardly get a chance to appreciate it all.

Perhaps its biggest obstacle, though, is the one in viewers’ heads—because, with Iron Man 2, that element of surprise is gone. We already know what Downey and Favreau can do. So this bigger, bolder sequel lacks the shock and awe (as well as the smart, simple excitement) of the original.

Still, Iron Man 2 is the perfect way to start another summer movie season. It’s filled with big-budget action and effects. It’s got danger and conflict, friendship and romance, suspense and humor. It has a little [too much] of everything. It isn’t as breathtaking or original as its predecessor, but if you can get beyond your elevated expectations, you’ll find that it’s still pure summer blockbuster fun.

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