Monday, May 10, 2010

Robert Downey Jr. is still Iron Man’s heart

By Joe Maniscalco

“Iron Man 2” has the best Stan Lee cameo of any Marvel film to date, and if that doesn’t get you back into the theater for another adventure with billionaire industrialist turned superhero Tony Stark, there are lots of explosions, fisticuffs and comedy to justify a return trip.

As in the first “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. is once again the real-life superhero in the title role almost single-handedly infusing life into what is basically a rote, mediocre script.

Blame director Jon Favreau for dropping the ball too often, lazily borrowing from dusty old Hollywood gems like “Top Gun” and “Minority Report” when he should have taken his cue from Stark and at least tried to be a little more inventive.

In this latest Marvel adventure, government pinheads are trying hard to get their grubby mitts on “The Iron Man Weapon.” Ultra-cool bad boy Tony Stark, of course, ain’t having any of that.
“I am Iron Man,” he says, just in case you forgot.

Using his superhuman aplomb, Stark flouts a Congressional hearing and instantly charms an entire nation. His jealous foes, however, are enraged and vow to take the former wunderkind down.

Sam Rockwell knocks his role as weapons maker Justin Hammer straight out of the ballpark, but Mickey Rourke just doesn’t seem comfortable as bitter Russian physicist and short-circuited super-villain Ivan Vanko.

The women of “Iron Man 2” don’t fare well either. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is paper thin, and they might as well have credited the role of SHIELD super-agent “Natasha Romanov” to “The Body of Scarlett Johansson.”

Neither actress is required to do anything more than fill out a pencil skirt. Johansson does kick butt in one action-packed sequence but even here her moves, rather than being empowering, serve only to fuel teenage boys’ fantasies.

The 13-year-old kid from “Kick-Ass” could clean her clock.

Samuel L. Jackson is also along for the ride playing Samuel L. Jackson ...err... SHIELD director Nick Fury.

Robert Downey Jr. still does all the heavy lifting — with admirable help from Rockwell.

“Iron Man 2” is good, but the franchise needs to be tweaked before it rusts out.

“Iron Man 2.” Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle and Mickey Rourke. Runtime 124 minutes. Rated PG-13.


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