Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Summer usually begins with a Marvel picture, and this year Iron Man returns with a bang.
Let's recap: in the first instalment, Tony Stark builds a device that not only keeps him alive but also powers a suit that allows him to become a hero. He unfortunately decides to reveal his identity to the public, which complicates matters.
Now in this film, Stark deals with the aftermath of that revelation. He becomes a celebrity, but as always, there is a price. The government demands that he hands over his technology to them, which he refuses to do. Then he discovers that the device that saved his life is slowly killing him unless he comes up with a solution soon.
And to top it all off, a man named Ivan Vanko makes an attempt on his life, using the same technology he has. Vanko has the same ingenuity as Stark because their fathers had worked together before. However their partnership ended badly and Vanko got the shorter end of the stick, so now he wants some payback. How will Stark handle all of this and stay alive in the process?
Jon Favreau returns in the director's chair, and once again he succeeds in bringing the excitement and action, heck even more this time. Although things slow down in the middle third of the film, there's plenty of action to behold, such as the awesome confrontation between Stark and Vanko on the Monaco racetrack. At the same time, the script by Justin Theroux includes a lot of witty banter between Stark and his associates, which helps to lighten things up whenever necessary.
Downey once again shines as the arrogant but brilliant Tony Stark, who has to dig deep down and do some soul searching in order to overcome all the obstacles in his path. Paltrow and Cheadle provide useful support as Stark's personal assistant Pepper Potts and best friend James Rhodes respectively, Cheadle sitting in for Terrence Howard who dropped out due to negotiations going south. Cheadle is the lucky guy who gets to put on the metal suit and become War Machine, something all Iron Man fans have been looking forward to.
Mickey Rourke makes a better villain as Ivan Vanko this time around, being a mean badass in comparison to Jeff Bridges in the first film. Scarlett Johansson is a welcome distraction as SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff while Sam Rockwell brings his enigmatic personality successfully as Justin Hammer, Stark's rival who assists Vanko.
Many have complained that this movie has way too many subplots going for it, but personally I think it works. It has a great cast, great action sequences and a smart script. Perhaps the final battle between Stark and Vanko was a bit anti-climactic, but it's something I can forgive overall.
Verdict: A great start to the summer movie season. By the way, wait till the end credits finish rolling. (4/5)