Alternate title: Iron Man has a built in garter belt.*
(Spoilers will be hidden behind white text. If you want to read it, highlight it. If it was revealed in the previews I don't consider it a spoiler)
It seems to be par for the course that if someone puts on the cape and tights (or costume of their choice) in their first movie, in the second they will end up facing the Wile E. Coyote Law of Unintended Consequences. What is this law, you might ask? I shall tell you.
No matter if what you do has the desired effect, it will have three at least you never expected, and at least one of those will usually be unpleasant.
In Iron Man’s case, Tony Stark finds that after the events of Iron Man his artificial heart/power source/ battery/ whatever thingmajig is not performing as well as he might hope. Okay, it is in fact killing him. Also, the US government is not happy with a private citizen owning what basically amounts to a one-man army. As much as I am in favor of one’s personal property being exempt from government interference, I can kind of see where they’re coming from with this.
Into all of this comes Ivan Venko, the son of one of Stark Sr’s colleagues back in the day. He’s holding a grudge (rightfully so) about how the Stark’s ended up with all the money and prestige and money for what was in fact a joint project between Papas Venko and Stark. He decides to create a set of lightening whips and go after Tony Stark. You know, as you do. That is certainly my immediate answer when I am holding a lifelong blood feud against someone. Giant lightening whips. Comic book characters have the weirdest set of responses to situations of anyone, ever.
The thing is. You know Ivan Venko is a bad guy the moment he is introduced during the opening credits. He’s plotting to take down the title character, he’s grubby, he’s Russian and he’s being played by Mickey Rourke. In fact, any one of those things should clue you in to his allegiances to the forces of darkness. But when you get down to it, he had a point and I think he was in the right to seek some recompense from the Starks. Now, his methods don’t really bear up under scrutiny (see Lightening Whips) but I couldn’t help but feel for him.
I think it is a testament to the writers and to Robert Downey Jr that despite my sympathies laying with Venko, I was rooting for Stark the whole way. He’s a rich playboy who really has very few redeeming qualities... but we like him. He’s not annoying or ingratiating, we actually enjoy watching him be a total douche to people. Or at least I do. It’s been said before, but if ever there was a role the RDJ was born to play, Tony Stark is it.
Mickey Rourke.... I cannot talk about him in this movie without sharing this anecdote. It is fairly spoilery so: When Venko goes to work for Hammer and hacks his way into the Hammer Industries computer system, he puts on this little pair of reading glasses while he is typing. He’s grubby and gold toothed and looks like a cross between a homeless person and a street fighter and in that moment, typing with those glasses on, he became Sexy Physicist Man and I totally fell in lust. I really loved his portrayal of both Venko and his alter-ego Whiplash. While Whiplash’s “superpower” is based in technology, it is still a very weird character and I think it could have easily been ruined by someone going all Indiana Jones with the whips. Rourke just makes him scary. I flinched when he started slinging those things around.
There is a fair amount of other stuff going on as well. There is a rival weapons dealer and the creation of the Warhammer suit and all kinds of things but my "reviews" were never meant to be summaries, simply an outline of what I liked and disliked. I liked this movie. A lot.
Iron Man (original flavor) was a powerhouse of a movie that found the middle ground between the older comic book movies (Superman, Batman, Batman Returns) and the newer, edgier movies (Batman Begins, Dark Knight and to some extent Wolverine). It took everything that made the Spiderman and X-Men movies good and polished it until it shone. Iron Man 2 does not exceed the original, very few sequels do, but I believe it more than lived up to the promise of the first and I would gladly go see an Iron Man 3 based on this movie alone.
Note: Like the first one, Iron Man 2 has an after credits scene that is more than worth waiting for if you are a comic book fan, or a fan of the comic movies. If you’re not, it’s probably okay to skip out on it.
*Yes, yes he does. I tried to find a picture of it for y'all but just trust me, the paint job on the Iron Man suit is very *ahem* risqué shall we say?