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Sometimes a Superhero Movie is Just a Superhero Movie… And That’s Okay!

By Megan Lane · May 9, 2010

While Iron Man was a breath of fresh air, Iron Man 2 felt much more like a traditional superhero movie. Still, if you’re looking for a badass movie about guys in robot suits kicking each other’s asses, you walked into the right theater.

Iron Man 2 picks up six months after Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) revealed to the world that he is Iron Man. With the military, press and public all pressuring him to share his technology, Stark, along with his confidants Pepper Potts (Gweneth Paltrow) and James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), form new alliances as they battle with enemies Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Whiplash (Mickey Rouke) and try to keep the world safe from the weaponry they’ve created.

Unexpectedly, IM2 made less of a political statement than the first one. One might argue that there were themes relating to the Cold War, which sets the movie as an indictment of American supremacy/arrogance. When our Russian villain, Whiplash says “Like all guilty men, you try to re-write your own history”, we are forced to look our own past and present actions as a country. Iron Man himself is framed as the well-meaning champion of a defunct ideology, supported by the catty political maneuverings of Stark, Justin Hammer, Senator Stern (Garry Schandling), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

However, it did make a strong statement about the role of biased media in our current society. The idea of a win or a loss is not based on the results, but actually the media’s perception of the event as evidenced by the large presence of televisions and news teams throughout the film. Whiplash’s key line, “There will be blood in the water and the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you”, emphasizes one of the key problems of our current political climate: the dependence of biased media for any sort of public knowledge or political movement.

Still, this lack of statement by no means affected the movie. It was a superhero movie. While Iron Man gave us a breath of fresh air, this follow-up felt much more like a traditional superhero film, which is not actually a bad thing. We got to see bigger action sequences where Tony Stark and his suit are working as one. Six months of practice added to his “textbook narcissism” have Tony functioning at 100%, which leads to some pretty awesome scenes that had the entire audience out of their seats and cheering.

Justin Thereaux rises to the challenge and emulated the writing of Iron Man while still making the movie his own. In turn, the actors give us characters we love and more importantly, characters we love to hate. Mickey Rourke joins the cast as Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, the son of an impoverished Soviet physicist who creates his own arc reactor-based weapon in order to exact vengeance on Tony Stark. Rourke takes his role to the next level with a body covered in tattoos, gold teeth and pet cockatoo. The only thing we wanted was more. Even though he may have had less twenty lines, every single one is quotable and whenever he’s onscreen, the audience cannot help, but stare in silent admiration of a man who completely steals the movie.

In this follow-up, it appears as if director, Jon Favreau is steering away from the comics that originated Iron Man. There was no reference to Tony Stark’s alcoholism, which manifests in the long-running storyline, “The Demon in the Bottle”. Even Ironman’s arch-rival, Mandarin, remains absent. Perhaps this is because Favreau is attempting to make this movie series based more on technological issues rather than supernatural. In the comic book series, Mandarin embodied magic (or mysticism) as it opposed to Iron Man’s science (or technology). At the time, this was a metaphor portraying the nation of Communist China as cryptic wizards against the enlightened science of the modern United States. However, this metaphor doesn’t actually work in today’s climate. Perhaps Iron Man 3 will delve into these issues, but as of yet, they remain unseen.

All in all, Jon Favreau followed up his unexpected success with a solid sequel that gives us everything we expected. Iron Man fans will not be disappointed, but rather excited for what is to come in the coming years. Rather than making a deep statement about our current society, Favreau chose to prepare us for Avengers. The introduction of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as well as the growing presence of Nick Fury all evidence what we should expect in 2012. Also, make sure you stay through the credits for one more look at what’s coming.