Ever had a meal where you had so much to eat that the flavours just piled up on your tongue, one on top of the other, so you couldn’t really recall what the heck it was that you ate? The cinematic equivalent of that experience is called Iron Man 2.
Let’s see: You’ve got Tony Stark trying to stave off — or failing that, come to terms with — his impending demise. The Palladium in the reactor in his chest is poisoning him, and no known element or compound can stop that. To make things worse, there’s a Russian guy named Ivan Vanko who believes that Stark Sr. cheated and ruined his dad and now wants revenge. Trouble with a guy like Stark is, enemies aren’t in short supply, so it isn’t long before Ivan finds an ally in Justin Hammer, a rival arms dealer who wants to make scores of Iron Men for the US army. Which the army is only too happy to get because Tony refuses to part with his suit. Meanwhile… See what I mean?
There’s so much happening that it becomes all too easy to tune out, let the proceedings wash over you and savour the pleasures of the occasional well-made scene or smartly written piece of dialogue.
… Like Mickey Rourke’s entrance as Whiplash in the middle of a race track in Monaco. Thanks to years of God alone knows what all he’s done, Rourke now has a face that does half the scriptwriter’s job when it comes to character development. With that toothpick nestled between his lips and that metal-toothed smile, he steals every scene he is in by simply turning up.
… Or the scene where Tony Stark finally figures out his father’s legacy. There’s a moment there when he says, in a voice filled with wonder, “Dead twenty years, still taking me to school.” Robert Downey Jr. does so much with just that one line, it makes up for the shoddy I-thought-my-father-didn’t-love-me-he-was-a-cold-asshole excuse for character development all in one go.
… Or Sam Rockwell’s little jig before he delivers his address at the Stark expo. Stars come and go, but good character actors never go out of style. The Sam Rockwells will always be around, and that is reason enough to celebrate.
Trouble is, these moments don’t add up to a satisfying experience. There’s just too much happening, as though Jpn Favreau wasn’t sure if he’d get funding for Iron Man 3 and decided to shoehorn the plot for the next movie into this one. As a result, nothing really gets enough attention. Think about this: I haven’t even mentioned Pepper Potts or the Black Widow or Nick Fury so far, and that should tell you something right there.
Plots like these require extraordinary acting for us to care about what happens. Two actors prove themselves to be up to the task: Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke. The others manage the occasional moment where they pique our interest, but that’s about it.
When Stark says, “The suit and I are one,” he means more than he intends to. Take him out of the picture and all you have is a drone.