Iron Man 2

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There's a strong buzz about, "Iron Man 2," the eagerly awaited sequel to the popular comic strip movie, which put Robert Downey Jr. on the map as a major Hollywood star. Since then, he has demonstrated his box-office cache in "Sherlock Holmes," which should also become a viable franchise.
"Iron Man 2" world premiered in the U.K. and is playing in France and other territories before, where it is breaking box-office records. The film opens in the U.S. May 7, as the first official summer entry. I predict that Iron Man 2" will be even more commercially popular than the first one.
By and large I agree with the assessment of our French correspondent, Olivier Brunel, when he reviewed the film last week out of Paris. But where I differ from other critics, including our own, is in the element of joy (it's like taking a ride in Disneyland) or sheer visual (and mindless) pleasure. 
There's already consensus among critics that dramatically, "Iron Man 2" is at least a notch or two beneath the first one. Yes, the movie is big, loud, and feels longer than its actual running time. Moreover, the plot is shallow, containing characters that appear and disappear at random, and are almost lost amidst the largely undifferentiated war machines and metallic battle. 
However, what unfolds on screen is a fast-paced, glossy, polished picture that while not demanding of the viewers, offers the kind of facile, popcorn entertainment that only Hollywood can make, or to put it more accurately, the kind of fare that Hollywood is particularly good at.
Contributing to the level of joy is the energetic performance of Robert Downey Jr., who seems to relish every moment he is on screen—I just wish he had a bigger in this sequel, which has too many characters for its own good. An alert, intelligent actor, Downey Jr. is particularly good in playing restless, self-absorbed, talkative heroes—just watch how he fires his lines.
In 2008, "Iron Man" was novel and fun, paying attention to the hero as well as to the surrounding characters.  In contrast, "Iron Man 2" takes the easy way out. Rushing from one set-piece to another, the film is marred by a minor, not particularly involving story. I think Favreau and his team were too concerned about outdoing the first film, delivering a package that would please the fans of the comic book and first picture and would outgross "Iron Man" so that there will be "Iron Man 3." 
The scribe, actor Justin Theroux (who appeared in David Lynch movies), has concocted a sharply uneven tale, in which the first reel is promising is setting the main conflicts and introducing the antagonists, but then, due to lack of new ideas or any surprises, the narrative almost disappears amidst the action sequences. 
Relying heavily on CGI effects, Favreau and Theorux have not built on the dramatic foundations of the first movie.  "Iron Man 2" centers on Stark, now overwhelmed on all fronts while also facing personal demons, and his need to call on his allies to help him confront the forces that threaten to destroy him and all of mankind.
You may recall that at the end of "Iron Man," Tony Stark publicly disclosed his identity. And now that the world knows that the billionaire industrialist is Iron Man, Stark seeks to underscore the benefits of the Iron Man suit by re-launching his late father’s extravagant Stark Expo, a showcase for the humanitarian innovations inspired by its technology.
Predictably, the U.S. administration exerts pressure on Stark to share his expert knowledge and revolutionary technology with the military for the country's collective welfare, though we know the main interest is get a lucrative Defense contract. 
First, Stark is placed under investigation by the government following his public revelation of his superhero persona. Then he encounters the arch villain, Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who sneaks into Monaco's street raceway, vowing revenge against Stark.  A mysterious figure from the Stark family’s past, Vanko sets out to destroy Tony by revealing his own weapon based on Stark’s technology.  Attacking our hero when he least expects it, Vanko succeeds in showing the faults of Stark's supposedly impenetrable armor. 
Mickey Rourke, fresh off from his Oscar nod last year for "The Wrestler," seems to relish his part as the demented Russian baddie, a villain that's full of surprises; you never know what he'll do next. With tattoos all over his body, and sporting an atrocious Russian accent, Rourke turns the film into high-camp, a factor which may or may not have been intentional. 
The always-reliable Sam Rockwell renders a stunning performance as Justin Hammer, a rival industrialist to Stark’s global domination, who later becomes one of the men to whom Stark hands over his technology. As usual, Rockwell steals most of the scenes he is in, bringing edge, quirkiness and much needed comic relief.
Unfortunately, Favreau and Theorux have not built on the dramatic foundations of the first movie.  "Iron Man 2" centers on Stark, now overwhelmed on all fronts while also facing personal demons, and his need to call on his allies to help him confront the forces that threaten to destroy him and all of mankind.
"Iron Man 2" is still very much a male enterprise, despite the fact that there are two femmes in this story. Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Pepper Potts, Stark’s personal assistant-cum-love interest, though she is again given few scenes, with or without him.
The other femme is played by Scarlett Johansson as Natalie, the new slinky recruit at Stark Industries and potential rival to Pepper, whose main job boils down to dressing in and out tight sexy outfits
In the first movie, Stark's prickly personality dominated the action and the screen, but in "Iron Man 2," he vies for our attention with half a dozen eccentric individuals.  It's a shame that good actors, such as Don Cheadle as Stark’s buddy-cum-sidekick Rhodes, and Samuel L. Jackson as a shady inter-agency exec, have so little to do; Jackson, wearing an eye-patch, doesn't even show up until the film's second half. 
While some subplots are irrelevant to the central tale, others seem significant but are quickly swept away. There are scenes of congressional hearings with nasty senators, flashbacks about the past of Stark's father (well played by John Slattery of TV's "Mad Men" fame), suggestions of mental illness. 
While the first act moves around quickly from Siberia to Washington D.C. to Monaco and Malibu, the rest of the film is largely set indoors, in boardrooms, army bases, science labs, for which the decorative design can only offer minor compensations.
Like the original, "Iron Man 2" contains overly long, metal-on-metal fights. Not all of the set pieces are well placed or well executed, turning at least two of them into noisy, repetitious acts, which all but stop the little narrative flow the movie has.