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Two years ago excited whispers followed people out of screenings of the new improved Incredible Hulk (rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the 2003 attempt at revamping the Marvel hero); billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) had made an appearance in the dying moments of the film offering Hulk a place in a new group being formed. Not only did this nod at the the production of an Avenger’s film (due for release in 2012) it meant that Iron Man was about to hit cinemas.

And hit it did; summer 2008 saw Iron Man explode into cinemas everywhere. Moving away from vulnerable teenage mutants or self-sacrificing millionaire vigilantes, Iron Man (hereon called Iron Man 1 to avoid confusion) offered us a witty and sassy superhero that wasn’t afraid to embrace the perks being ‘super’ brings.

Following on just moments after where Iron Man 1 left off, Iron Man 2 explores the territory claimed by Stark after he announces to the world that he is, in fact, the illusive Iron Man. Explosions and mayhem ensue but viewers may be left feeling (very slightly) slightly disappointed. When Stark proudly proclaims ‘I am iron man. The suit and I are one.’ you may fear for the Stark / iron man hybrid and wonder whether their suit has begun to rust and wilt as much as his character. Whereas the Stark of Iron Man 1 was insanely cool and aloof, the Stark of Iron Man 2 is brittle and vulnerable. Although this is due, in part, to the fatal poison beginning to course through Stark’s body from the battery that ironically sustains his life, such nigh-lifelessness threatens to affect the entire film. As Iron Man is the main attraction of the film, when he begins to falter the film sometimes follows suit. Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko fails to instil much fear as the movie’s villain and there are points in the film where your mind may begin to wander.

Of course, it is totally unfair to be entirely scathing; the film does pack in some great scenes. At one point there is an almighty battle between umpteen iron suits, there’s a truly electric Formula One race in Monaco and Stark’s smooth handling of the court case bought against him for creating a deadly weapon is both politically acute and reminiscent of his role in Iron Man 1. Robert Downey Jr. plays the role effortlessly and flawlessly, falling only when the script restricts him.

Samuel L. Jackson appears as Nick Fury and, although he doesn’t seem to have enough screen time, promises to play a pivotal role in future Marvel films. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as the loyal Pepper Potts and it is perhaps Potts who is put most to the test in Iron Man 2; she alone must deal with the personal side of Stark and a definite strain threatens their relationship (just shows what happens when the battery you inserted into your heart when you were detained by a group of rebels in the middle east begins to die, eh?) Scarlett Johansson plays Natasha, a double agent working with Fury to recruit Iron Man and, whilst not enough time is devoted to the development of her character, it is Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of Justin Hammer that perhaps most rivals Downey Jr.’s performance as he vies to be the Machiavellian villain of the film.

One of the biggest blockbusters of the year so far, Iron Man 2 is visually stunning but fails to maintain the brilliance of its prequel.

Best bit; Ivan’s appearance at the Monacon Formula 1 race.
Best performance; Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Best song; AC DC have released a compilation album to coincide with the film’s release and their songs suit the film perfectly.

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