Iron Man 2 does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a fun bit of summer blockbuster fluff, full of snappy comebacks and explosions, and without any real sense of weight, unless you count the weight of excess characters. If we’re comparing Robert Downey Jr vehicles, Sherlock Holmes, while ridiculous, totally wins thanks to the fun of the rapidly-becoming-text Holmes/Watson. (“It’s our dog!”)
Tony Stark, ladies man, man’s man, man about town tries to get a bit of character development via some manpain courtesy of his father, an underused John Slattery (Mad Men’s Roger Sterling). It doesn’t really take, which doesn’t matter, as director Jon Favreau has a bunch of other little plots and big action sequences to throw at us. The Monaco showdown, introducing us to Mickey Rourke’s Russian gangster-with-highlights, comes first of three battles, and though it makes pretty much no sense it’s definitely the most effective. By the end of the movie, it’s tiresome seeing more stuff getting destroyed. We know Tony’s going to make it through — it’d be damned hard to film Iron Man 3 without him — so there’s not much actual tension, just a lot of cars being blown up.
The supporting cast is great, if poorly used: Don Cheadle (bizarrely replacing Terrence Howard — I had no idea they were interchangeable) has nothing to work with but makes an effort nonetheless, Gwyneth Paltrow is fabulous as always as the ultracompetent Pepper Potts (I would very much like her to organize my life, thanks), and Scarlett Johansson is virtually wasted until her third act crowning moment of awesome (better late than never, I suppose). And in a production where people were clearly having a blast, no one but no one is having more fun than Sam Rockwell as a slimy rival businessman. I would have been quite content to watch a movie just about him.
That said, I had fun. I didn’t check my watch, but I didn’t remember a single quip five minutes after it ended. I’ve seen better action movies, and I’ve seen a lot that were worse. So it goes.
PS Where the hell is Nick Fury’s damn cigar? Seriously, people.