Dear reader, hear my confession this day: I am a superhero movie geek.
Scratch that, I am a summer blockbuster geek. No, that’s not it either.
Come to think of it, I am many different geeks but if I were to pick a favorite, the superhero movie geek is one of my favorites. I was hooked at a young age, staring up at the big screen at the old Plaza 3 movie theater watching the late Christopher Reeve play the Man Of Steel in the first Superman movie way back in 1978. That lasted through the outstanding sequel three years later with much of the original cast intact. What could make it better, you ask? Superman III.
In a word, “III” tanked. It didn’t help that the movie came out opposite Return Of The Jedi in 1983, but what helped slam the lid on that crapfest was that the writers messed with the cast. Not only did they throw the hopelessly out of place Pryor into a proto-villain role, you made him a vastly unbelievable computer programmer and you took away the role of Lex Luthor, played brilliantly by Gene Hackman and replace him with Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E) as slick mega-gazillionaire Ross Webster and had all the believability of an oil company executive during a press conference.
The point being, you make a sequel you had better NOT screw with the chemistry of the cast. Don’t believe me? Name another movie Christopher Reeve made after the first Superman franchise shut down.
Which brings us to the first of the big summer blockbusters, Iron Man 2.
The sequel to the 2008 hit, Iron Man 2 returns most of the cast from the original and offers an excellent story that keeps the Tony Stark saga moving along seamlessly. Robert Downey, jr reprises the role of Stark, the hyper-rich, uber-smartass industrialist and weapons developer who in the second instalment is feeling the burdens of being a superhero. Unlike other heroes Stark revealed himself as Iron Man in the first movie and that has presented some challenges.
For one, the government is trying to get it’s grubby hands on the Iron Man suit so it can outfit it’s soldiers with the indestructible suit of armor. Add to that the fact that the arc reactor, the device that is keeping Stark alive and powers the Iron Man suit is slowly poisoning him, and of course there is a baddie in the form of Ivan Vanko, played by Mickey Rourke, who plays an ex-convict who is is bent on revenge after witnessing the death of his father, who happens to be a former associate of Stark’s father, who the elder Stark had deported and who stole the dead man’s ideas.
It’s a lot to handle for a guy who has basically everything, and he doesn’t adjust well through most of the first third of the movie.
The best part about this movie, and indeed all of the movies made from Marvel Comics is that they flawlessly blend new characters into the established cast. In Iron Man 2, two other characters are introduced and blend into the mix with ease. Scarlett Johanssen plays Natalie Rushman, a functionary to Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow who turns out to be a plant by the S.H.I.E.L.D. initiative to “observe” Stark and the further development of the Iron Man suit.
Sam Rockwell plays Justin Hammer, a rival industrialist of Stark’s who can’t quite duplicate the technology that Stark has. He plays the part very well, trying to imitate the slickness of Stark but coming up short. Samuel L. Jackson makes a return as Nick Fury, the man behind S.H.I.E.L.D. and promoter of the Avengers program, which is the name of a comic book series that, one hopes, has a future movie in the coming years. It sure seems that way, because enough hints were dropped in Iron Man 2 to point in that direction.
Bottom line: Iron Man 2 is worth it. Go see this movie. Whether you are a superhero movie geek, a comic book geek, or an action movie geek, this will not disappoint. It has a great story, keeps most of the original cast, and is funny and smart.