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Review: Iron Man 2 Catches a Mild Case of ‘Sequelitis’

Title: Iron Man 2
Director: Jon Favreau
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle

The return of the rock-star, superhero, billionaire unofficially ushers in the beginning of blockbuster movie season. Sure, there have been other effects-laden adventures in recent weeks, but none have received quite the accolades (or box office totals) that Iron Man did two years ago. Now, the follow up, Iron Man 2, has landed in theatres and the question is: can awesome-movie lightning strike twice?

Well if you’re Tony Stark, the answer is yes. Mostly. Okay, somewhat.

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the recently self-outed superhero, Iron Man. When brilliant (and slightly bat-shit crazy) Russian physicist, Ivan Vanko swears revenge on Tony Stark for crimes his father committed against Vanko’s family, it sets into motion a series of unfortunate events for the playboy tin can.

Does that plot summary seem a little vague to you? It was meant to be. You see, without going into detail on all of the subplots contained within this movie, it’s difficult to actually say for sure how they interconnect. I mean, I could tell you all about Ivan and his vendetta against Stark, Stark’s professional rival, Justin Hammer, Tony’s relationship with the ridiculously named, Pepper Potts, senate hearings, why Tony keeps taking blood tests, who Samuel L. Jackson is and his overall role in Tony’s life, and many other subplots and characters crammed into this movie’s run time, but the fact is, all these events have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

As a result, what you get are Iron Man 2’s two major weaknesses: bloated script and lack of interconnectivity. The majority of events and scenes in this movie occur in their own separate bubbles. If one event happens or doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter, because there isn’t a cause and effect relationship between people or circumstances. Samuel L. Jackson has nothing to do with Stark’s antagonists; Tony being in a relationship with Pepper has nothing to do with anything. The reason all of this matters to us is that the story actually feels chopped up and edited back together – it lacks flow and cohesiveness and the movie is worse for it.

Secondly, Iron Man 2 suffers from sequelitis: a condition resulting in too damn much of everything. It’s a common mistake seen in many sequels to successful movies. “They liked what we gave ‘em last time? Well, they’ll definitely love double the crap twice as much!” It’s hard to blame Favreau for wanting to surpass his original, but the old adage of less being more, (while mind-numbingly cliché), is still accurate.

But even with both the major problems in this film, their presence only proves that Iron Man 2 isn’t quite as good as the original. It still is a fun, special effects-heavy, sharply written, modern superhero movie. Robert Downey Jr. shines just as brightly as the charming narcissist Tony Stark, and Sam Rockwell pretty much steals the show as the head of Hammer Industries, and all-around nutjob, Justin Hammer.

All in all, Iron Man 2 isn’t as good a movie as its predecessor, but during a year which has featured movies more awful than not, it’s refreshing to revisit familiar grounds where Tony is king and Scarlett Johansson wears leather.

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