Iron Man 2

Now that Robert Downey Jr. has solved the War on Terror, it’s time for some classic Commie paranoia. Ambitious at the start, indulgent in the middle, restless at the end, this sequel gives us two great villains, one whiplash funny hero and, ultimately, a whole lot of fizzle. Mickey Rourke, heavily tattooed and swollen with muscles, co-stars as a laconic Russian with a family grudge against the Starks. Before the credits, we see Rourke pounding away at a deadly invention—how I love a popcorn flick that glamorizes physics!—and sharing what looks like vodka with his pet cockatoo. (At least he makes me want to believe it’s vodka.) He’s great, but gets less screen time then Sam Rockwell as a rival weapons-engineering CEO colluding with the Senate (represented by Garry Shandling in full smirk) to unplug Stark’s batteries. A sneering, preening little priss, Rockwell smartly recognizes he can’t show up Downey Jr.; instead, he makes a point of his weakness, pouting through his scenes like an overshadowed little brother. Of course, director Jon Favreau knows his franchise belongs to Downey Jr. for packing twice the life in the man as compensation for the Iron Man, who is still essentially an angry can of soup. But Favreau isn’t satisfied with his winning formula. Instead, he and screenwriter Justin Theroux drag down Downey Jr. with a depression subplot and drain energy with the needless entrance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who exists in this film only to jumpstart the batteries of Stan Lee’s next three summer blockbuster spin-offs: Captain America: The First Avenger, Nick Fury and The Avengers. As for the tongues that wagged when Don Cheadle usurped Terrence Howard as Lt. Colonel James Rhodes, here is Cheadle’s first line: “Look, it’s me. I’m here. Deal with it.” That goes for the film, too. It’s not a feast, it’s a quick fix. You want bombs? You want quips? You want tech? You got ’em. Now go away . . . and come back next July.

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