Directed by Jon Favreau
One of the most unexpected pleasures of the first “Iron Man” movie was the way in which it said to hell with the laws of physics, this is a comic book and we can do anything we want. The other great pleasure of the film was the casting of Robert Downey, Jr., as Iron Man – probably the only actor in Hollywood who can play an ironic role without stepping outside and saying “it’s only a joke, folks.” You know that he’s playing an unbelievable part and he’s enjoying it as much as you are.
Fortunately, “Iron Man 2” has the same wicked sense of humor, and as directed by Jon Favreau and written by Justin Theroux, it also exhibits the same go-to-hell attitude toward whatever laws of physics it violates. With Robert Downey, Jr., again and a plot that, unlike most films, has its climactic scenes set in Queens, of all places, it’s another example of thumbing your nose at Hollywood logic. And what in the world was Samuel L. Jackson, with an eye patch, no less, doing in the film? He spots something and Iron Man says, “You have a good eye.” For that matter, what was Scarlett Johansson doing in the Tilda Swinton role from “Michael Clayton” as the not-to-be-trifled-with attorney for the Stark Corporation.
And best of all, there’s Mickey Rourke as the Soviet physicist Ivan Vanko, also known as Whiplash, who has a grudge against Iron Man and is hired by Stark’s competitor Sam Rockwell to do away with Iron Man. In other words, “Iron Man 2” is as bizarre a delight as the first one was. Everyone plays it straight, except for Downey, who is allowed to use irony to make his points. As it happens, this time he’s dying for want of an unknown combination of elements to put into his heart; he has to find the right ones and manufacture this unknown alloy of metals in order to live. Will he live? Is the Pope Catholic? Well, we don’t know that either, but yes, he does emerge triumphant, just in time for the next sequel.
Let me not close this out without a nod to Jon Favreau, who can direct comedy as well – maybe better than anybody else working today. He also plays Iron Man’s nebbishy sidekick, and knows how to make a comedy scene work, either as an actor or as a director. It’s a rare talent.