The summer movie season begins with heavy metal thunder
3 out of 5 Stars
IRON MAN 2
With Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johannson, Mickey Roarke
Opens in wide release
The unexpected upside of the original Iron Man movie was that, while everyone knew it would be a popular hit, it also happened to actually be good. It was a rare thing, an action comedy where the comedy was as good as the action. (By contrast, look at the disastrous Spider-Man 3.)
It was probably expecting too much to think Iron Man 2 could capture lightning in a bottle, though it tries — lord, it tries. The problem is, superhero-slash-billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has gone from madcap iconoclast to preeningly insufferable egotist. That is to say, he’s become Bill Clinton.
Maybe director Jon Favreau and scenarist Justin Theroux wanted to create a quasi tragic figure — from great heights, to a great fall — but Tony, despite being played by adorably arrogant Downey (his last name should be "Snark"), he’s hard to like.
And there are too many scenes that go nowhere about industrial politics with a snivelling rival (Sam Rockwell) financing Iron Man’s nemesis, a conscienceless Russian physicist (Mickey Roarke) with the same technology.
Mercifully, the action sequences are plentiful and well-staged, despite sometimes being needlessly destructive (and an anti-climactic finale). And Scarlett Johannson’s kick-ass performance as a superspy — all black leather and martial arts calm — gives the movie a breakout character for the sequels.
Still, Iron Man 2 will be around a while. This weekend, try not to miss The Secret in their Eyes, this year’s Oscar winner for foreign language film. It’s a smart and exciting mystery set in Argentina that really does reach tragic proportions … and without the fake bombast.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 7, 2010.