It kind of reminded me of Batman Forever.
Give me a chance to explain myself.
Although I enjoyed Batman Forever as a kid, Iron Man 2 is a much better work and actually a good movie. Technically, this sequel is mostly a match for the original Iron Man, which I thought was a very good film, not an outstanding one. Iron Man 2's problem is not that it fails to equal the first film, but that it lacks the ambition to surpass it. It provides merely a fun and fluffy two hours that, like Batman Forever, takes us nowhere new and adds nothing to enhance our appreciation of the material.
Having gotten the expository origin story out of the way with the first film, Favreau and Marvel had a real chance to do as Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight did, putting an already mature hero through his greatest trial. Instead, this is a story devoid of tension. In the first film, at least there was danger in that cave and a minor crisis of conscience once out of it. Here, I never felt like Tony Stark was truly tested by the villains, his critics, or his own incurable heart condition, all of which he overcame with ridiculous ease seemingly through sheer ego. In fact, the climactic events, which should logically have had catastrophic results, are instead wrapped up with such preposterous neatness that you wonder why Nick Fury even sees a need to put together a team.
On the bright side, Robert Downey, Jr. still portrays Tony Stark, playfully narcissistic, as a superhero refreshingly unlike any other. He is matched this time by the equally inspired performance of Sam Rockwell as a vigorously clueless rival weapons manufacturer. He shares few scenes with Downey, but Rockwell nevertheless provides all of the movie's best moments. Years from now, memories of his antics will probably survive anything else from the movie.
But perhaps the biggest letdown, as it was in the first film, is the mediocre action. Downey's Tony Stark is a great character, but Favreau and crew seem less confident in handling the Iron Man side of the coin. The suitcase armor is cool, but it's all downhill from there. The climax is mostly shots of shadows zipping by in the dark, intercut with close-ups of Downey and Don Cheadle's faces with holographic screens suspended in front of them, all leading up to a final showdown that is just pathetic. Frankly, it's getting to be insulting how lazy even the best superhero movies are when it comes to constructing fight sequences. Critics and directors alike too often seem to think that action is necessarily mindless, and this is one area where Hollywood oddly seems to lag behind comic books, cartoons, and video games. I may be going out on a limb here, but it might help, for starters, if Iron Man had a worthy adversary.
If I sound disappointed, the reality is that I got pretty much what I needed out of Iron Man 2. I was honestly interested in it primarily as a warm-up for the pending Avengers movie. As a preview of that, perhaps Iron Man 2 most importantly shows how Downey's Iron Man might operate alongside a peer. Don Cheadle is probably twice the man that Chris Evans has thus far shown himself to be, but the important takeaway here may be that, rather than the other actors having to hold their own next to Robert Downey, Jr., having other heroes for Downey to interact with actually allows more opportunities for Iron Man to show off his personality while in the suit.
We already got close to a definitive Iron Man movie with the first one. This sequel is not as fresh or surprising, but it is fun throughout, well-made and well-acted. Iron Man is capable of greater pathos than was exhibited here, but that's not the tone these movies are aiming for, and perhaps we get enough of that with Batman and Spider-Man. I'm not anticipating a better summer movie this year. Take that as you will.