Over the past few days, I’ve been blogging about all the Avenger movies before watching the Avengers movie, even though I never read any of the Avengers comics. But the Avengers movie is apparently very good. Avengers!
Perhaps keen to recapture some of the golden rusty magic (and not inconsiderable box office) of the first Iron Man, Marvel Studios were quick to rush out a sequel within two years of their debut, and Iron Man 2 is much more of the same from Iron Man 1. Returning director Jon Favreau deems his metallic megastar not broke, so does not fix him. Instead he is multiplied. Stark’s sidekick Colonel Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) is given a beefed-up role with his own Iron suit, and together they fight buggerloads of Iron drone copycats, plus Iron Mickey Rourke as the baddie. It’s Iron Man to the power of 50!
Too often, though, it is as if Stark’s onboard computer JARVIS is at the reins, pre-programming the action to a carefully calculated formula. As before, Tony Stark acts the rich playboy, goes off the rails, and realises his wayward indiscretions in time to save the world. The final act explodes but does not adequately dazzle, adhering to the structure of a final mission of a video game, complete with big boss (Rourke, who commits most of his evil deeds via a laptop).
Still, it has its moments. Marvel’s films seem to have minor characters stealing the show – in the Incredible Hulk it was Tim Blake Nelson, and here it’s Mad Men’s John Slattery as Howard Stark, an actor seemingly born to play old-timey sharp-suited Americans and doing a damn sight better job of it than Captain America’s Dominic West does in the same role. The scene where Tony discovers the secret his father has hidden is wonderful (if laboured).
And with Downey Jr leading the pack, a healthy spoonful of charm and humour is seldom far away. It’s a curious quirk, and credit to the original Marvel writers, that a spoilt weapons manufacturing billionaire could be among their most likeable creations.
All in all, it’s fine. A by-the-numbers entry, sure, but it’s reassuringly hard to care with numbers this entertaining. And we have Shane Black’s threequel to look forward to next year. Perhaps we’ll see ol’ rustbucket bowing out, or indeed, “gettin’ too old for this shit”. Also, fun fact: Iron Man 2 was written by Justin Theroux, aka Adam from Mullholland Drive and cousin of Louis. The more you know!