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Directed by: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L Jackson

While the original Iron Man movie is situated in the giddy heights of this poll (we won’t say exactly where yet in case you’re browsing through in order) its sequel doesn’t even make the top 40. Was it really that bad? Possibly not, but there was a complacent feel the film, and complacency, it seems, breeds contempt.

Second instalments are traditionally where superhero franchises go supernova, so Iron Man 2’s inability to build on its enjoyable predecessor is a disappointment. There are too few new ideas no real changes of gear or direction, and little significant development of an intriguing lead character – if Don Cheadle hadn’t replaced Terrence Howard as Stark’s mate Rhodey, you’d almost feel like the cameras had just been left running after the first movie, such is the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach of the production.

Despite a rollicking opening half hour, the movie is unable to deliver on the promise of its set-up. Maybe it’s big screen superhero fatigue, but the whole flying high/crisis of confidence/redemption plot arc feels rather 2004. Though Stark’s having to contend with both his malfunctioning body and some destructive character traits – there are nods to the “Demon In A Bottle” alcoholism story arc from the comics – there’s little in the way of adventurous storytelling here.

Luckily, screenwriter Justin Theroux is much more adept at writing gags than he is at story structure. Iron Man 2’s dialogue is so packed with zingers that many scenes feel like they’re built entirely from witty one-liners. They’re a gift for the fantastically charismatic Downey, who continually bats the dialogue out of the park in a role he was clearly destined to play. His Stark continues to be a wonderful creation, a cocky, selfish, slightly immoral bastard you can’t help loving – even when he’s spending the middle act moping around and feeling sorry for himself.

 

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