Thursday Night Movie Club
Iron Man 2
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Release Date: 7 May 2010

Director: Jon Favreau
Robert Downey Jr.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Don Cheadle
Scarlett Johansson
Sam Rockwell
Mickey Rourke
Samuel L. Jackson
Clark Gregg
John Slattery
Garry Shandling
Paul Bettany
Kate Mara
Leslie Bibb
Jon Favreau
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Pepper Potts
Lt. Col. Rhodes / War Machine
Natalie Rushman / Black Widow
Justin Hammer
Ivan Vanko / Whiplash
Colonel Nick Fury
Agent Coulson
Howard Stark
Senator Stern
Jarvis (voice)
U.S. Marshal
Christine Everhart
Happy Hogan
Iron Man movie poster #1 Iron Man movie poster #2 Iron Man movie poster #3
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in Iron Man 2At the end of Iron Man, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) announced to the world the he is Iron Man. Iron Man 2 begins six months later. Life has not become a bed of roses for Stark. He has used his Iron Man alter-ego to ease hostilities between the world super powers. Following in his father Howard Stark's footsteps, Tony Stark has brought back the Stark Expo to showcase new technologies and developmental projects. Nothing wrong with all of that.

Backstage at the opening ceremonies of the Expo, Stark is suffering physical ailments. The miniature reactor in his chest is putting out harmful radiation that is slowly killing him. The reactors have a shortened lifespan. When the reactor dies, it is a hopeless pile of burned out circuits. On top of that, Stark has been subpoenaed to testify before a Senate Subcommittee regarding his Iron Man technology. The government, led by Senator Stern (Shandling), wants Stark to turn over his research to the military for further study regarding military uses. Another of Stark's nemeses also testifies. He is fellow inventor/scientist Justin Hammer (Rockwell). He is jealous of Stark and would like nothing more than to see Tony Stark fail. Stark refuses. He has proof that no one else in the world is close to duplicating his technology. The world is safer if Stark keeps things close to the vest.

Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko / Whiplash in Iron Man 2Meanwhile in Russia, a drunken wreck of a man Ivan Vanko (Rourke) watches a news report on Stark's testimony. Vanko goes into a rampage swearing revenge on Stark for ruining his father's reputation and sending Vanko into alcoholism. But Vanko is in possession of a family secret. A secret that will cause Tony Stark a lot of misery. Vanko pulls out an old set of blue prints and begins constructing a weapon of his own. The plans look amazingly similar to the technology Stark used to build the power reactor embedded in his chest. In the corner of the plans are the names Stark/Vanko. Tony and Ivan Vanko's fathers knew each other and worked closely together. Where Howard Stark rose to world prominence, Anton Vanko was ruined and returned to Russia a shamed man. Ivan will avenge his father at all costs.

Stark, his secretary Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and his driver Happy Hogan (Favreau) are attending a Grand Prix race in Monaco. Stark Racing has a car entered in the race. When no one is watching, Stark sneaks away to take the wheel of his race car. During the race, Vanko sets his plan of revenge in motion in spectacular fashion. He unveils the weapon he has created, two high-intensity charged whips thus giving him the moniker of Whiplash. These two whips can cut asphalt like a hot knife through butter and can cleanly slice a speeding race car into two pieces. Potts and Hogan barely deliver a traveling Iron Man suit to Stark moments before his becomes a cut-up, literally. Iron Man defeats Whiplash but not before the armored suit suffers serious damage.

Robert Downey Jr. and Gweneth Paltrow in Iron Man 2The government comes down harder on Stark adding further tensions in his life. His good friend Lt. Col. Rhodes (Cheadle) is given orders to get the Iron Man suit from Stark no matter what. Justin Hammer sees the opportunity of bringing down Tony Stark once and for all by forcefully "recruiting" Vanko to work for him. Hammer breaks Vanko out of his prison cell.

Slowly dieing and seeing his life fall apart around him, Stark turns to alcohol. He puts on the Iron Man suit during his birthday party. In a drunken state, he amuses the guests of the party by using the suit's sonic blasters to blow apart empty champagne bottles. Truth be told, the only two people at the party who actually look like they are friends of Stark are Potts and Rhodes. Rhodes is fed up with Stark's behavior. It is only a matter of time before one of the guests is seriously injured. Rhodes tries to rein in Stark by donning one of Stark's prototype Iron Man suits and the two battle it out. Rhodes wins the fight and flies off still wearing the prototype.

Can things get any worse for Stark. Yes. Yes they can. For his own good and safety, Col. Nick Fury (Jackson) from SHIELD comes to Stark's aid. How can this make Tony's life worse? Easy. Fury delivers equipment and plans from Stark's father Howard. The plans are for a new source of energy. Howard Stark never got the plans off of the drawing board. These plans may be the answer to keep Stark alive.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man 2Before Stark begins work, he watches a film his father left behind. The film goes along smoothly as Howard introduces his film audience to his master plan, the city of tomorrow. The film changes to show outtakes. Howard is drinking heavily before beginning his on-camera speech. He goes along smoothly before he starts slurring his speech and has to start over. At one point, a young Tony sneaks onto the set. When Howard sees his son, he angrily kicks Tony out of the room. Just the kind of incentive Tony needs. His father never loved him, shipped him off to boarding school to get rid of him and was just not involved in Tony's life. Tony, drinking heavily himself, realizes with a shock that he has become his father's son. Like father, like son. Tony is also a miserable drunk.

Howard Stark has one last card to play and it comes up aces for Tony. At the end of the film is Howard's final words to his son. For this scene, Howard is completely sober. He apologizes to Tony for his behavior. Howard admires the way Tony has grown. Howard leaves his unfinished dream for Tony to finish, the plans for The City of Tomorrow. But it is Howard Stark's true legacy that he is most proud of, his son Tony.

In a clever bit of screen writing, the true secret behind Howard Stark's final message brings the film full circle going back to the days when Howard Stark and Anton Vanko were collaborators on a prototype arc reactor. The very reactor their sons Tony and Ivan made a reality. The plans to the city contain a design to create an artificial element that will supply unlimited, safe power.

Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Nick Fury in Iron Man 2Iron Man 2 is the first in a series of films leading up to the release of The Avengers in the Spring of 2012. Col. Nick Fury is introduced as is Black Widow (Johansson). Rhodes gets an upgrade to the suit he stole from Stark and becomes War Machine although he might not be appearing in The Avengers. The best joke of the film also references the upcoming blockbuster. It comes when Stark is building the equipment needed to create the new element. Agent Coulson (Gregg) suddenly comes across Captain America's famous shield. Stark promptly uses the shield to level off the equipment.

Stan Lee makes his obligatory appearance and it's another gem. The scene and the reference are quick and easy to miss. In Iron Man 2, Lee is mistaken for talk show host Larry King.

The action sequences and effects are top notch. One of the many highlights comes when Stark creates a 3D computer model of Howard's future city, floats the model in the air and begins de-constructing the model. Computer plans go flying around the room as Stark deletes them.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2Scarlett Johansson does make good window dressing especially in her leather cat suit. Johansson does have her moments but the script doesn't really give her much to do. Her one solo fight sequence is not one of the highlights. The sequence is edited too quickly to appreciate Johansson's fighting skills... or lack there of. But the sequence is cross-cut with Happy Hogan barely beating a single guard while Black Widow is taking out dozens of guards. The end result of the crosscutting is very funny. "I got him", Hogan yells and then sees all the carnage Black Widow has done.

Downey Jr. is very good again. He is the perfect actor to rifle off Stark's quick lines. He is also good at developing the deeper, darker complexities behind Tony Stark. Another joke happens when Stark is meeting Pepper Potts in her office. On her desk is a perpetually spinning piece of artwork that is giving Stark dizzy spells. He repeated tries to keep the piece from spinning... without success.

Once again, Favreau keeps the action lively and doesn't go long stretches without showing Iron Man, lest we forget that this is the character everyone paid money to see. To many audience go-ers, Iron Man 2 will be dull and boring for the first half of the movie. For the most part, they are right. The film is a bit of a downer as Tony Stark sinks lower into his depression because of his imminent death. It is important for the film to reflect the increasing darkness in Stark's life. On that level, the film is more serious in nature than Iron Man. The film takes off and recaptures the spirit of the original film once Tony Stark dedicates himself to finishing his father's work.

Iron Man and War Machine face off in Iron Man 2Iron Man 2 is a much more complex story than its predecessor. The film delves more deeply into the lives of every one affected by Iron Man. Friendships and allegiances are tested at every turn. Rhodes is conflicted by his duty to the military and his friendship with Stark. Potts is overwhelmed when Stark suddenly promotes her to C.E.O. Stark is dieing but refuses to tell his friends about his condition.

Vanko's revenge is all-encompassing to the point of controlled but seething vengeance. Rourke is an excellent choice to portray Vanko. He can bring out all the rage and his drive for revenge. Vanko is able to manipulate Hammer in a similar manner that Stark used at the beginning of Iron Man. People who don't know a thing about what you are building have no clue that you are changing the game plan to your advantage. Rourke captures the anguish of Ivan Vanko. On the outside, he goes with the flow and appears to be a team player while just below the surface, revenge is patiently waiting for the moment it will be released.

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2Hammer is so obsessed with destroying Stark and setting himself up as the supplier for all the military's weapons that he is blind to what Vanko is really doing in Hammer's secret laboratory. Even when it is too late, Hammer still tries to deflect the blame to save his skin. Sam Rockwell does a great job portraying Hammer. He is a weasel. You can't help but hate the guy, immediately the first time he is on screen. Hammer is an irritating itch that never goes away... all due to Rockwell's acting.

Due to the complexity of the story, the one element that doesn't occur enough in Iron Man 2 is the byplay between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. This was one of the great elements of the first installment. The two have their moments. During the final climactic battle sequence, Stark and Potts are yelling at each other over the fact that Stark did not tell her he was dieing. They are bickering on an open com line for everyone to hear. They sound like an old, married couple. Maybe that will happen in Iron Man 3.

Up next is Thor that is announced during the post credit sequence. Let's hope Thor is as good as Iron Man 1 & 2.