Summer blockbuster preview: Iron Man 2

As the toastier season fast approaches, we highlight the tastier films in cinemas through the sizzling summer months. First up is Iron Man 2...

What is it?

It is Iron Man, to paraphrase the end of the first film. Having come out to the world as a closet mechanised superhero, this sequel finds Tony Stark on top of the world. He’s successfully privatised world peace, with his use of the Iron Man armour acting as an effective nuclear deterrent.

However, Tony faces difficulties when the US military decides it wants some of that Shellhead firepower for itself. They argue that Iron Man is a sword, not a shield as Tony insists, and turn to rival contractor Justin Hammer to develop similarly advanced weaponry.

Tony resolutely holds onto the technology despite the appeals of his pal Rhodey, who promised us last time around that he’d take a spin in the armour himself. Rhodey turns to Hammer too, and begins collaborating with the young pretender to create War Machine.

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Elsewhere, the sins of Tony’s father may come back to haunt him, as a Russian engineer whips up an ARC reactor of his own. Making a grand showing that humiliates Tony in a very public place, Whiplash sets out to remind the world that Iron Man is not indestructible.

Who’s Behind It?

Jon Favreau is back in the director’s chair and Robert Downey Jr. reprises Tony Stark this sequel, and the fans could hardly hope for a better combo of director and star after the first film.

Also returning from the cast of the first film are Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Leslie Bibb and Favreau himself, expanding on his cameo in the first film as Tony’s right-hand man Happy Hogan.

Newcomers include Mickey Rourke adopting a Russian accent, the excellent Sam Rockwell and the more extensively marketable but still very sexy Scarlett Johansson. In a catsuit.

One person who won’t be returning is Terence Howard. Despite delivering that aforementioned “Next time, baby”, Howard has been replaced as Rhodey in this sequel by Don Cheadle. Howard was the first person to be signed on for Iron Man and thus was reportedly paid more than everybody else in the cast. It seems he backed out when Marvel asked him to take a pay cut for the second outing, and Cheadle stepped into the breach.

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For the most part, though, the whole gang’s back! So what next?

Why Should We Watch It?

The first Iron Man was something we didn’t really see again in the summer of 2008. With moral and emotional turmoil at the fore in The Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk, it was a smart and optimistic action film that most of the family could enjoy. If it was weighed down by anything, it was the need to bring the origin story forward.

According to his Dudeness Jeff Bridges, who played Obadiah Stane, the film might never have been made at all. It started as a “$200 million student movie” for which Paramount had set a release date without first procuring a finished script. In the same interview, he credited Favreau and Downey’s improv skills for the film turning out so great.

Now that this second tier Marvel Comics character is well established, and Favreau had a script for the sequel well in advance of production, courtesy of Tropic Thunder scribe Justin Theroux, imagine just how fantastic Iron Man 2 is going to be.

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The anticipation is certainly ratcheted right up for this, and off the back of the first film and a number of well received trailers for the follow-up, projected numbers seem to suggest that the box office take might surpass The Dark Knight‘s take. I wouldn’t bet on such an outcome myself, but then I expected Avatar would under perform.

I personally only have two concerns about this film that could make or break it for me. Firstly, too many villains spoil the broth. This has Whiplash, Justin Hammer, the US government and on some level or other, Rhodey as War Machine, all going up against Iron Man.

Joel Schumacher is the obvious example of a director who couldn’t handle that, but lest we forget that Spider-Man 3 floundered with Sam Raimi, a much more talented director than Schumacher, at the helm. Still, in Favreau we trust.

Secondly, we’ve seen an awful lot of plot in those aforementioned trailers. The trailers for the first film made for a similar summation of the plot and action scenes, and I really hope they’re keeping a couple of things back this time.

As awesome as the briefcase suit ending was in that second theatrical trailer, it could have been this year’s equivalent of the Batpod exploding out of the Tumbler in The Dark Knight – a crowd-pleasing moment that everyone would talk about afterwards. Problem is, they’re talking about it already.

I voice these concerns merely in the interests of balance, because I personally can’t wait for this flick. Iron Man 2 very much looks set to be the biggest hit of the summer, and it’s always welcome when a film is a lot of fun without treating its audience like morons.

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UK Release Date: 30th AprilUS Release Date: 7th May