I entered the theater to see the first Iron Man film with no expectations whatsoever; I was tired of the same old shit, particularly the putridly vomit-inducing 139 minutes that calls itself Spiderman 3. (The moment that you see Tobey Maguire becoming "emo" and dancing like a douche is the moment that your franchise just jumped the shark.) After watching Robert Downey Jr. play the part so perfectly and witnessing Jeff Bridges having fun with a villainous comic book character role, I was very pleasantly surprised. My thoughts echoed the same sentiments after watching Iron Man 2. Like the first film in many ways, the film succeeds on two levels: Firstly, Robert Downey Jr. is the embodiment of Tony Stark (more so than any other actor). His cockiness, humor and redemption shine through and echo a lot of the stories from his personal life over the past year. Secondly, the film's villain(s) are played by very interesting, very great actors that portray badasses in new and exciting ways.
Iron Man 2 really works when Robert Downey Jr. is portraying Tony Stark. It works significantly less when Tony Stark slips into his suit to become Iron Man. You would think that in a movie like this, the action set pieces involving Iron Man would be exciting and wonderful; however, Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark with such a pleasurable wink to the "Phoenix Metaphor" of his own life that his scenes without the suit play much better. Like Tony Stark, at one time in his life he loved alcohol with an insatiable thirst, he was addicted to banging hot ho's, and he loved being the center of attention. Unlike Tony Stark, he drank and drugged himself into a stupor and fell asleep in a neighbors bed, thinking it was his own. That fact has absolutely nothing to do with the Iron Man films, but it just goes to show how he is the fucking man. Anyway: Tony Stark is at the top of media attention and the world--just as Downey Jr. is riding high on the 133 Million Dollar opening weekend of Iron Man 2. (On a side note, that briefcase that turns into the Iron Man suit did induce a changing of my underwear.)
Mickey Rourke, with his wonderful turn in The Wrestler, is another "risen from the ashes" actor who was a perfect choice to play one of the two villains in Iron Man 2. We all know that the villain in a comic book film is nearly (if not more) as important as the hero. Rourke plays the bad guy with a gruff nonchalance and natural Russian accent that makes him a pleasure to watch. He has a penchant for birds and ruining Stark Industries. His first major scene with Tony Stark, the scene that has played out in the trailers involving his electric whips during an Indy Car race, is exciting even though the outcome is inevitable. He truly is a badass, and you just don't fuck with a badass's bird. Sam Rockwell's turn, on the other hand, is a villain with his rhetoric instead of his strength. He plays Justin Hammer, a man in direct competition of Tony Stark. He's like Tony only meaner and more insecure, a dangerous combination.
To give more away would rob the viewer of the pleasure of watching these actors play off of each other throughout the film. Numerous people are complaining that this film has too many characters, too many plot lines, and not enough romance. Not enough romance? Between who? Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow)? If I see Gwyneth Paltrow in another film in 20 years that will be too soon. She's mean enough to kick a pitbull off of a meat wagon. Fuck her. ScarJo, as those who know her more personally call her (and by personally I mean masturbating to a grainy picture of her sideboob from Mr. Skin) would be the only female where more romance would make sense. Who doesn't want to look at her? Overall, the film is an entertaining summer blockbuster (not without its faults) that flies by quickly and doesn't overstay it's welcome in its 2 hour runtime. What more can we ask for from the tired comic book genre? (B+)