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"Iron Man 2" Review

Rather than do a standard review, I'm just going to answer the questions you're probably wanting answered.

Is it better or worse than the first one? It's both. Freed of needing to explain Shellhead's origins, it just gets on with telling its story. However, with a couple of new villains and a bunch of interpersonal conflicts to juggle, it manages to feel loaded up AND too short. It could've been another half-hour long, unlike The Dark Knight which needed a half-hour trim.

How are the special effects? Until we see the making-of stuff on the DVD, we won't know just how much is real or fake, but the fact that there weren't many times when the "FAKE!" alarm went off, that means they're better. Take a look at this:

In the movie, all the red long johns and B&W tracking markers are replaced with suit, blending seamlessly with the parts he's wearing. Why they didn't just put him in a practical suit is unknown to me. You'd think it'd be hella cheaper.

Why does it seem there's a "but" coming? Because for some reason, all but one of the big action set pieces occur at night and with the too-close framing, it's hard to follow the geography of the battles.

OK, back to what's really important: How hot is Scarlett Johansson? Even hotter than this:

She kicks ass and I hope she shows up in every Marvel Universe movie from now until Armageddon.

And Gwyneth? She's not as cute as she was in the first one and it feels like they ditched a lot of stuff, starting with that really cute scene in the airplane where she kisses his helmet and tosses it out of the plane. WTF?!? That was a great scene and without it, this spoof doesn't make much sense.

How are Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell as the villains? They're both very good, but Rockwell gets more to work with. That Rourke is able to imbue his underwritten Whiplash with some dimension is a tribute to him, but in the end, we're not quite sure what's driving him and there's a real missed opportunity at the end.

Don Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard as Rhodey; good or bad thing? A very good thing. Howard was too breathy for my tastes and Cheadle is much better at making Rhodey's relationship with Tony clear. It was a great trade up; not for Howard, but maybe he shouldn't have been trouble on the first one. (Fun fact: He was the highest paid member of the cast. Even more than Robert Downey Jr.)

Speaking of the devil, how is RDJ? He rules. He's probably the best match of actor to comic book character since Christopher Reeve was Superman.

Wow. That good. How about another picture of Scarlett? Sure, why not?

So far, it sounds pretty good. What sucks? Nothing sucks, but there will probably be some aspects you wish were handled better. I don't want to spoil it, but the dispositions of the villains could've been a lot better and perhaps when I write about the DVD, I'll elaborate. Suffice to say, there are no deal-breakers, just things that could've been better. Like having Black Widow wear this:

You know, you're coming off as a bit of a pig. Oink.

Is Olivia Munn... No. She plays a TV reporter. A real stretch for her.

Is it going to make money? It's going to make STUPID amounts of money. I went to a Midnight show and had to park farther away than I usual do when I go on a weekend afternoon when 20 screens are showing a dozen different movies, not just one flick. They had at least five rooms running and afterwards, when everyone was coming out at the same time, it was Grand Central Station in the lobby and bathrooms.

In comparison, when I saw the Midnight show of Avatar, one big room was full and the one I went into had less than 20 people in it, and this was a movie that went on to be the Biggest. Movie. Ever. I'm not saying Iron Dude Too, er, Iron Man 2 is going to make that much money, but no one at the studio will be crying come Monday. I think that The Dark Knight's 3-day take of $158.4 million is takeable.

It's after 4 am and you've got to work in the morning; any final thoughts? If you liked the first Iron Man, you will probably like this, too. It expands the universe, deepens the characters - especially Nick Fury, and has some cool gadgets. I'm scoring it a half-point lower than the original, but I can't wait for the Blu-ray to come out.

Score: 8/10. Catch a matinee.

Hey, speaking of after-credits nerd Easter eggs, what's the big reveal? You get a quick shot of Thor's hammer, teasing next summer's Marvel blockbuster. It's no big deal, but at least the credits aren't the punishing length that made getting to last time's Nick Fury reveal a chore. In the movie proper, you also get a glimpse of Capt. America's shield in prototype form.


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