From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Iron Man 2 - B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language, 124 minutes

"Iron Man" is back and he rocks (again)

One thing is for sure, "Iron Man 2" will keep you awake. With pulsating, energetic visuals, a pumping hard-rock soundtrack from rock band AC/DC and the coolest dude on the planet in Robert Downey Jr., this superhero won't give you time to nod off. While the novelty has worn off from the first one, "Iron Man 2" pulls out all the stops to make sure it entertains, and on that level it succeeds grandly.

"Iron Man 2" picks up where the first movie left off: billionaire Tony Stark (Downey) reveals his identity, and within 6 months, the U.S. Government is demanding he turn over the Iron Man hardware over. However, Stark is undergoing an identity crisis and health issues just as his nemesis, Russian scientist and slimeball Ivan Venko (Mickey Rourke) is out for revenge for past deeds. With the help of his trusted secretary Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow) and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Stark must face serious issues and powerful enemies, including fellow industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who's conspiring with Venko to destroy Stark and his company.

"Iron Man 2" is a gratifying, fast-paced joyride of an action-adventure superhero sequel from director Jon Favreau and Downey. The biggest question you may ask: is it better than the first "Iron Man?" No and yes. The edgy humanity from the 2008 blockbuster is lacking here in favor of bigger explosions, more machines, gadgets and one truly badass enemy in Rourke, ripe with tattoos, Russian accent and some deadly electrical whips. But then all this endows "Iron Man 2" with more verve, and the film's first-half action set piece, a showdown between Venko and Stark at a car race in Monaco, is its most electrifying and breathtaking scene.

Very loosely adapted from the Iron Man comic "Demon in a Bottle," "Iron Man 2" attempts to examine more of Stark's flaws and narcisstic behavior, but we all know it's not just about the man but his suit too, in this case a very hard-edged one. Downey's self-aware, loose personality is still very much intact and as likable as he is, he's more of a backseat in this outing to the first-rate special effects showcased in a high-powered climax in a battle between the machines.

The rest of the cast performs mostly well given the busy scenery. Scarlett Johansson is a pleasing but bland addition as Black Widow, though she proves she can kick butt with the best of them. Paltrow's the (whiny) voice of reason, Cheadle's an able, more lithe replacement for Terrence Howard, while Sam Rockwell is a rather milquetoast Stark antagonist, made considerably younger here than in the comics. Samuel L. Jackson is a steady but brief presence as Nick Fury, leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D, who's preparing Stark for bigger battles to come; Garry Shandling provides the tit-for-tat comic relief with Downey as a smart-aleck congressman, and director Favreau is also back as Stark's helpful driver.

"Iron Man 2" isn't a perfect superhero film. Detractors will find it excessively loud and busy (it is), while comic book enthusiasts will continue to revel in the cool weaponry and visuals (and it is pretty cool), along with the nifty Stan Lee cameo and end-of-credits scene that sets up more Stark adventures. Unsurprisingly, the self-indulgency of bigger budgets is evident and when all is said and done, the first one is still better, but "Iron Man 2" still ends up a vastly entertaining film that kicks off the summer movie-going season with a blast.