For the past few years, Norton By Symantec has worked with Hollywood -mostly Paramount movies where the Norton product would be placed in movies that would fit the product, which would be security software. The first time I was aware of this was The Bourne Ultimatum and then again during The Incredible Hulk. Last year, it was for the craptacular movie GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra. And for each of those movies I got invited to private screening for tech journalists. And last year was the first time I could attend one of those screenings. This year, it was Iron Man 2 and Norton by Symantec extended an invitation again to me and a guest. And I want to thank the find folks at Norton for the invite as Iron Man 2 was a pretty good movie.
In my review of the first Iron Man, I said that I enjoyed the origin aspect of the story and got to see the journey of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) grow from a narcissistic, self-centered playboy to a man that uses his intelligence for the greater good. But what made the movie go south for me was Jeff Bridges over the top performance as the villain and that fight scene wasn’t that great.
So I had high hopes for the sequel and while Iron Man 2 is no Empire Strikes Back, it was a pretty good sequel that I might actually say was better the original. And I will tell you why in great detail where I will reveal a lot of the plot of the movie so if you don’t want to know what happens then SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this story.
Iron Man 2 opens up where the original ended with Tony revealing to the world that he is Iron Man at a press conference. Watching this in cold, snowy Moscow is Anton Vanko a former colleague of Tony’s father, Howard Stark (John Slattery) and is dying. He tells his son, Ivan (Mickey Rourke) that it could have been him as Iron Man. The eldre Vanko dies and we see Junior pull out some schematics that are for the arc reactor -the device that is keeping Tony alive and pretty much powers his Iron Man suits – as we see him what we believe is a similar suit to exact his revenge on the Stark family for ruining his Pappy’s life.
Meanwhile, Tony is basking in his fame as Iron Man and the fact that he was responsible for much of the peace that is occurring in the world. We see Stark (in his Iron Man suit) fly in to open what is the Stark Expo which is like the World Expo like the one that is going on in Shanghai right now but it seems to be more about a technology/weapons showcase especially when one of the pavillions is for Oracle. It seems that this Expo was a dream of his father’s.
Anyways, it seems that being Iron Man is making him sick. The arc reactor that is keeping him alive is also poisoning his blood. Knowing that he is dying, he makes his loyal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) the new CEO of Stark and hires someone from legal, Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) as his new assistant.
The U.S. Government wants their hands on the Iron Man technology but Tony wants none of that and it seems that his best friend James “Rhodie” Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) is helping the government acquire the technology. All the while, Tony’s rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) wants to create his own suit to sell to the government.
While in Monaco Grand Prix, Tony is racing and comes face-to-face with Vanko (aka Whiplash) who unveils his suit and tries to kill Tony. In what was a pretty cool sequence, Pepper and Tony’s bodyguard/driver Happy (Jon Favreau), come to his rescue and gives him a suitcase that actually acts as one of his Iron Man suits.
Vanko gets defeated and his sent to a prison in France but is broken free by Hammer who desires to use Vanko’s skill to help him with his own project of drones that first look similar to the Iron Man suit but end up looking like the droid army from the Star Wars prequel but only fatter.
We find out that Natalie is actually Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow), S.H.I.E.L.D agent assigned by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson or Mace Windu) to shadow Stark to see his appropriateness to join S.H.I.E.L.D. And in some convulated way, Fury helps Tony cure his illness by creating some new element that his father first knew about.
There was also a fight between Tony and Rhodes in Iron Man suits to which Tony kinda called Rhodes “War Machine” which is Iron Man’s sidekick’s name.
The movie climax’s back to the Stark Expo with Hammer revealing his drones and then a fight sequence between Tony and the drones and War Machine (as Vanko has taken control over them remotely).
Those fight scenes was fairly by the book but the fight scene that I really enjoyed was Johansson was kicking ass at Hammer’s compound. She was quite fluid in her motions that it was hypnotic. Favreau as Happy was pretty funny in this scene as he fought one bad guy and then sees the many baddies that the Black Widow took care of.
Of course in the end, the Black Widow disengages the control over War Machine and he and Iron Man of course vanquish the bad guy.
And that was one thing that bothered me, Mickey Rourke looks like a bad ass and his character looks like a vengeful, menacing man but when push comes to shove, he is pretty easy to beat.
In terms of performances, again, Downey Jr. is great as Stark. He knows how to balance Stark -you (or at least me) don’t like him when he is a narcissistic S.O.B. but then when he actually starts to use his mind to help heal himself, when he going through that thinking process, it was kind of sexy.
Johansson was fine as the Black Widow and while she had little screen time, I thought she was good and you know that her character will be bigger in the inevitable sequel. FUN FACT: Emily Blunt was originally supposed to play the Black Widow but had to pull out because of conflicts with Gulliver’s Travel. Makes you wonder what the role would be like with Blunt in it.
Rockwell had really great one-liners that was matched by Downey Jr. Paltrow was fine as an exasperated Potts trying to be the voice of reason in the chaos that is Stark’s life.
Cheadle replaced Terence Howard as Rhodes and he was better than Howard and had a pretty good bromance with Downey Jr.
And make sure you stay after the end credits that introduces next year’s big summer movie, Thor