‘Iron Man 2’ breaks sequel mold

There are some actors who were meant to play certain roles and once the audience sees them in that part, they become that character. Bruce Willis as John McClane, Christopher Reeve as Superman and Heath Ledger as The Joker.

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By Stephanie Holland / Editor in Chief

(Paramount Pictures)

By Stephanie Holland / Editor in Chief

There are some actors who were meant to play certain roles and once the audience sees them in that part, they become that character. Bruce Willis as John McClane, Christopher Reeve as Superman and Heath Ledger as The Joker.

Add Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man to that list, because in “Iron Man 2” Downey so brilliantly embodies Tony Stark that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.

The first “Iron Man” was one of the best films of 2008 and made $585 million worldwide so “Iron Man 2” had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it not only lives up to expectations, it surpasses them.

“Iron Man 2” is nerdy enough to put fanboys in full geek out mode and entertaining enough to give everyone else a thrilling two hour moviegoing experience.

The story picks up where the first film left off, with Stark revealing his secret identity to the world. Because of Iron Man the world is enjoying an extended period of peace, however, there are those in the United States government who feel that the suit should be turned over to the military.

In one of the film’s funnier scenes, Stark fends off the pompous Senator Stern, hilariously played by Garry Shandling, at a Senate hearing.

This is the scene where the audience gets its first glimpse of Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and military ally. The role was played by Terrance Howard in the first film, but Cheadle took over after a dispute between Howard and Marvel Studios.

No offense to Howard, but Cheadle is a much better fit in this part. The chemistry between he and Downey makes the complexities of their relationship seem more grounded in reality.

Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Stark’s assistant/confidante/love interest Pepper Potts. In the comics these characters have a decade’s long flirtation that withstands several tragedies before they finally become a couple. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t make the audience wait quite that long for a resolution to the sexual tension that follows the characters throughout the film.

All superheroes are only as good as the villains they fight and Iron Man has two great protagonists in this movie.

Justin Hammer is the weapons manufacturer who has flourished since Stark Industries got out of the weapons business. He is the same age as Stark, but not as smart, successful or popular, so he is overflowing with jealousy. Hammer is brought to life by genre favorite Sam Rockwell, who plays Hammer as someone who both loathes and wants to be Tony Stark at the same time.

The true villain of the film is Ivan Vanko, (Mickey Rourke) a Russian convict who thinks his family was betrayed by the Stark family years ago and is now exacting his revenge. The character seems to be a mix of the comic book characters Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash. He has developed a suit similar to Iron Man, except he also has long whips that emanate electrical energy.

Rourke is always perfect as the bad guy, as he seems to be having more fun being evil. He offers just the right balance between tortured genius and total madman.

“Iron Man 2” also continues to set up the “Avengers” franchise of films that Marvel is releasing in the next two years. The film features a closer look at S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret agency that most of the superheroes in the Marvel universe work with.

Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Scarlett Johansson is Natalie Rushman, Starks’s new assistant and a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.

It may sound like there’s a lot going on in “Iron Man 2” (and there is) but, Jon Favreau’s steady direction makes it all seamless and keeps the audience entertained for a very quick 124 minutes.

Though it may not top the first “Iron Man,” which was pretty much the perfect comic book movie, “Iron Man 2” comes very close.

As a matter of fact, it’s so good it continues to entertain even after the credits have rolled.

“Iron Man 2” is the first big movie of the summer and it has set the bar extremely high for the rest of the competition.

(Paramount Pictures)

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