"Iron Man 2," arguably the 2010 blockbuster season's most anticipated movie, is entertaining for most of its two-hour length, with its mix of cheeky dialogue and dazzling special effects.
As with the similarly effects-laden "Sherlock Holmes," the main reason to see "IM2" is Robert Downey Jr., reprising his role as billionaire Tony Stark, aka Ironman. There are strong supporting performances, especially by Gwyneth Paltrow, back as Pepper Potts. Scenes with Downey and Paltrow, filled with libido-charged sarcasm, are the film's best.
Don Cheadle, impressive as always, is Stark's military liaison. Samuel L. Jackson, as Nick Fury, does persuasive menace so well. Sam Rockwell plays Stark's armaments rival, Justin Hammer, with braying simplicity. Scarlett Johansson portrays Stark's new hire as a blank cipher who transforms from Natasha Romanoff to Black Widow. Garry Shandling as a Pennsylvania senator bears an uncanny resemblance to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Mickey Rourke kicks his Oscar-nominated performance in "The Wrestler" up a notch as Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash for a World Wrestling Entertainment cage-match face-off with Iron Man.
Director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man," "Elf"), also Stark's aide de camp, Happy Hogan, working from a screenplay by Justin Theroux ("Tropic Thunder") based on the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Marvel comic book, paces "IM2" in eight-10 minute segments, alternating action set pieces (Monaco Grand Prix Race, for example) with character-driven scenes (Stark and Pepper Potts).
Explanations about the Arc reactor (the device in Stark's chest that gives him super powers) and other science fiction tech stuff are kept to a staccato-speech minimum.
Globe-trotting, jet-set scenes (Russia, Malibu, Monaco, New York City), jokey dialogue ("Don't say wind farm. I'm already feeling gassy."), fast cars (Audi V-10, Rolls Royce) and slick editing convey a James Bond movie vibe.
The real-life Los Angeles International Airport area's Randy's Donuts scene between Downey as Iron Man and Jackson as Nick Fury is a pulp fixation right out of "Pulp Fiction." Cameos by CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly lend a contemporary reality. It's a credit to Favreau's skill that he can make C-Span compelling.
The Unisphere and observatory towers from the 1964-'65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, N.Y., sets the stage for the climactic confrontation (as happened in "Men in Black").
If you've seen some of this before, it's not only because "IM2" is a sequel. The irony of "Iron Man 2" is that the film borrows from many super-hero action movies. Iron Man, after all, is nothing less than a one-man Transformer.
The Tony Stark-Pepper Potts romance recalls Superman and Lois Lane.
Stark's cute household servo units owe a debt to "Short Circuit." The huge, clashing, banging battle bots, not unlike those in "Avatar" and "Star Wars," extend in concept back to "Terminator" and "RoboCop."
The movie concludes with AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." No irony there. "Iron Man 2" is to movies what heavy metal is to music.
"Iron Man 2": MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller; Run Time: 2 hr., 4 min.; Distributed by Paramount.
Credit Readers Anonymous: After the concluding "Iron Man 2" credits roll, there's an approximate three-minute scene in New Mexico where the anvil of Thor has been found, setting the stage for "The Avengers" movie.
Box Office, May 7, "Iron Man 2" opened at No. 1 with $133.6 million, fifth best-ever opening weekend. "Iron Man" opened with $98.6 million the same weekend in 2008.
2. "A Nightmare on Elm Street," $9.1 million, $48.5 million, two weeks; 3. "How to Train Your Dragon," $6.7 million, $201 million, seven weeks; 4. "Date Night," $5.3 million, $80.8 million, five weeks; 5. "The Back-Up Plan," $4.3 million, $29.4 million, three weeks; 6. "Furry Vengeance," $4 million, $11.6 million, two weeks; 7. "Clash of the Titans," $2.3 million, $157.8 million, six weeks; 8."Death at a Funeral," $2.1 million, $38.3 million, four weeks; 9. "The Losers," $1.8 million, $21.4 million, three weeks; 10. "Bebes," $1.5 million, opening
Unreel, May 14: "Robin Hood," rated PG-13, is director Ridley Scott's latest interpretation of late 12th century legend, Robin Hood (Russell Crowe). Cate Blanchett plays the widow Marion.
"Letters to Juliet," rated PG, stars Allentown native Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, a young woman vacationing in Verona, Italy, who finds an unanswered "Letter to Juliet," the letter writer (Vanessa Redgrave) and her own true love.
"Just Wright," rated PG: Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) is a physical therapist attracted to a basketball player (Common), who is her patient. But he's putting the full-court press on her friend. Still, the Queen's got game.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes