"Iron Man 2"

Last year I started a phenomenon that took hold of the masses. And by the “masses” I mean the 8 or 12 nerdiest people I hang out with. It was called the Summer of the Nerd and it was awesome. We celebrated the large amount of nerd fare the summer had to offer and had a blast doing it. Recently, a friend and I just had a debate as to which year, 2011 or 2012, was the more appropriate summer for a sequel to the SOTN and ultimately decided that we might just have to make it a trilogy. Both ’11 and ’12 are rock solid with nerdy goodness. 2010, however, is the black sheep of the nerdy family. It is to the rest of the surrounding years what Timothy B. Schmidt is to the rest of The Eagles: odd, off putting, and completely unhip. Even Schmidt, though, had his moment in the sun, leaving hope for poor little 2010. “Iron Man 2” is destined to be to 2010 nerds what “Love Will Keep Us Alive” was for old Schmitty. (I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Eagles tour if you can’t tell.)

When we left Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” he had taken a route uncommon to super heroes and given away the secret part of his secret identity, announcing to the world that he was, in fact, Iron Man. “Iron Man 2” drops us right back into the snarky world of Stark as his self importance reaches an all time high. From the rebirth of the Stark Expo to his verbal destruction of a senator demanding possession of the Iron Man suit, Stark is publicly riding high and loving it. Behind the scenes, however, Tony is suffering. The technology he uses to keep himself alive is slowly poisoning him and his struggles to find a better alternative have proven useless. While he is at his reckless, self endangering worst, baddies Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) come out of the woodworks to challenge Iron Man’s power. Sarcasm, one liners, and action packed battles abound.

When Jon Favreau was announced as the director of this franchise in 2007, I was incredibly skeptical. I really enjoy Favreau’s work, mind you, but to ask a guy whose biggest accomplishment was “Elf” to take on a big time superhero action movie like “Iron Man” seemed quite a stretch. To his credit, however, Favs made it clear that he understood the task at hand. (I like to refer to him as Favs because I feel like, if I knew him in real life, he’d be cool with me calling him that.) He dug deep into the comic book mythology and worked extremely hard to make sure that the finished product bridged the gap between the Comic Purists and regular movie goers. “IM2” takes up where the first left off and makes it pretty easy for anyone, whether a comic junkie or not, to enjoy the ride.

Justin Theroux’s script is, for the most part, solid. He takes the elements that made Stark such a brash yet charismatic character in the first film and cranks them up a notch while managing to keep him from going over the top. While Stark is the meat, potatoes, and second vegetable choice of the whole shebang, Theroux and Favs do a pretty good job of developing the rest of the characters and the world in which they live. There are times when the story, at least for me, drifts a bit and I would suggest there are a couple of scenes that are unnecessary. But on the whole, you can deal with a few errant swings when your batter is slugging .500. The action sequences, meanwhile, are more backdrops to the cast rather than main characters. This is a rarity in a world that is dominated by Michael Bay and the like, though this was a principal upheld in the first “Iron Man” so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. That does, however, put a lot of pressure on the talent which is where “IM2” truly shines.

Let’s just be open and honest here, friends. I have a huge man crush on Robert Downey, Jr. Always have. Even in the drug years when he was pulling roles that even John Travolta would turn down, his performances never felt flat or uninspired. The dude just exudes talent and I don’t think any role could suit Downey better than Tony Stark. It would be very easy for a guy of Downey’s abilities coming from where he’s come from to take the $20 million bucks he’s getting from a superhero action movie and mail in his performance. Instead he embraces Tony Stark (or maybe he IS Tony Stark) and brings a rocking A-game. Truth be told, I was worried going in that “IM2” was going to get the “Spiderman 3” treatment: too many known faces, too little screen time to go around. Instead, Rourke, Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johannson, and the rest all actually provide support for Downey (shocker) instead of clogging up the screen. I particularly like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, a role that just seems much more lively than most of her other work.

I will say that I think the first “Iron Man” is a better film from a quality standpoint than the sequel. At times you can feel the pressure on “IM2” to live up to the standard of its predecessor, whereas the first one had no such stress. Sometimes that pressure comes across as strain in the story or even a scene or two of gratuitous action that I personally believe might not have been there in the first one. With all that said, however, “IM2” is an absolute riot. I LOLed (I like to use that phrase in jest because it drives me freaking nuts when people use it for real) more times in the first 30 minutes than I have in a lot of really good comedies. It’s all a bit absurd, of course, and at times the dialogue DEFINITELY crosses the line between tongue-in-cheek and overly campy. But overall the entertainment value is off the charts. “IM2” provides enough laughs to serve as a stellar comedy, enough explosions to work as a straight action film, and enough heroics to be a worthy comic book film. It is a good (if not great) piece of filmmaking that is a must see for any movie fan, nerd or otherwise.

Grade: B+

Man crushes are totally acceptable, right?