Advance Review: Iron Man 2

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This time around, though there were punches, new tech, new super-heroes, spectacular revelations about the deceased Howard Stark and a development in the relationship between two of the main characters, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, I did not jump on my seat at the end of the movie.

Though, let's face it, another cliffhanger after the 3-minute credits, this one taken directly from an scene we have seen in a comic almost four years ago, had the crowd whispering...

There was a lot of hype for this movie. Personally, I watched the many trailers and clips that were released, as well as the bunch of pictures featuring the many characters who were appearing on the movie. This was yet another superhero movie, said (by the director and the producers) to be something more than a standalone story. It was promised to be the bridge between the first Iron Man movie and the Avengers one.

And this came true, in a way.

However, after watching Iron Man 2 at the theater on Friday night, surrounded by a big crowd of enthusiasts and fans of the Marvel Comics-owned property, I could not help but to feel disappointed.

Disappointed is a hard word, I know, and I realize all the work from producers, director, actors, screenwriters, etc. that is behind this blockbuster, but if my gut means anything, this one will not sell as well as the first one did.

But let's get down to business, what did this movie, the second one in the Iron Man saga, offered to the public?

The movie starts very promising, showing that there's someone that has access to the ark reactor designs (the one that Stane was not able to replicate on the first movie, remember?), and that he has a very valid reason to hate Tony Stark/Iron Man.

This first sequence serves as a reminder of the current status of the multi-billionaire industrialist, after the end of Iron Man, in a satisfying way.

Then, as it happened on the first movie, knowledge is put to use as this someone, clearly obsessed with Tony Stark and his exploits as both Stark and his alter ego, Iron Man, gets to work.

And then, after the Iron Man 2 title hits the screen like a thunderbolt, the hero makes his first appearance, showing in less than five minutes all the traits that make me believe that Favreau has completely nailed down the character. It's as if you were reading a great Iron Man comic (maybe one written by David Micheline).

And speaking of the hero of the movie, Marvel could not have chosen a better actor to play the role. Downey Jr. is as ironic and self-confident (even when he's wrong) as Tony is supposed to be, and when he is inside the armor he is the fast-thinking, heavy-hitting, tongue-in-cheek super-hero we are used to read.

Him and Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s big boss man were, in my opinion, the reasons why I could bear the movies' strange pace, a pace that sometimes had me wondering if I wasn't seeing a collection of the coolest scenes or shots, instead of a fluid movie with a story behind it.

Don't get me wrong, there IS a story here, but due to the nature of it, the public gets a lonely and erratic Stark, which leads to all kind of situations (funny jokes included).

And when the dust is settled and everything is said and done, even the big surprise in the desert (ups!), you are left wondering: OK, that was cool, but now what?

This movie sets up a couple of interesting themes that will have people talking. On this subject, I will just say that I liked them being put into the movie, because they are key defining factors of Iron Man: addictions.

And what the movie tries to show is that addictions come in varied and dangerous ways. At this point you may be thinking about the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline, and you wouldn't be wrong, but that is not the worst addiction Tony faces in this movie, as only the help from someone already gone, an eye-patched spy and his own amazing intellect will be the key to save his life.

The movie lasts 124 minutes, during which the character portrayed by Downey Jr. travels a dangerous road, which starts with him being a rock star, adored by millions for saving the world, as CEO of his father's empire and a man who likes showing off. This road, however, seems to have many bumps along the way.

The first one, and one that continues throughout the movie, is Tony's deteriorating condition, and the fact that he decides to face it alone, instead of searching for support in Pepper or Rhodey, some of his closest friends in this adaptation (and on the original source). And while I am talking about Tony's friends, just let me point out that I believe the way Happy Hogan has been portrayed (loyal employee and Stark's bodyguard) is very funny, but it feels static. In the comics Happy ended up being much more than this, and the creators should have realized that, having the character evolve throughout the movies. I wonder if he'll be changed by the turn of events between Tony and Pepper that takes place at the end of the movie.

The second one is called Natalie, a mysterious woman that enters Tony's world almost as the same time as he, inadvertently, lets Pepper Potts get out of it. Natalie might or might not be who you think, but since her very first appearance, it is obvious that she's not just a Stark employee (from legal, as she claims).

The third one is called Ivan Vanko, a dangerous and ruthless menace from the cold streets of Russia, who seeks vengeance against the Stark family, and has a clear goal: to destroy Stark and his legacy.

Though his first attempt at doing both gets frustrated, that doesn't mean he won't try again, finding unexpected allies along the way, others who share a common goal: the utter destruction of what Tony Stark represents.

But, however, there are others that Iron Man finds along this road that will help him get back on his feet, when things look most dire: meet Colonel Nick Fury in all his glory (perfectly rendered by Samuel L. Jackson), with knowledge of things happening that he won't talk about-but just hint at- and being the only person in the whole story to whom Tony seems to listen.

His appearances can be counted, true, but they are priceless and always have a meaning, a reason to them. Just like in any good Marvel comic.

And yes, there is robot fighting, plenty of it. I have to give five stars out of five to the people behind the special effects and the design of the action sequences.

You might read all of this and think that Iron Man 2 equals or surpasses its predecessor, and the thing is that it certainly has the ingredients to do so, but somewhere down the line, somehow, they didn't end up making the tasty plate they should have.

If you want to spend a nice 2 hours watching your favorite hero having a hard time, and you are looking for that trademarked Marvel mix of arrogant and funny, tortured and feet of clay superhero, then you are in for a treat. But for the non superhero fan, do not expect the movie to be full, or a well-rendered tale of a man being left alone by his own actions. The plot had more room to explore than what the final product offered.

However, I will be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out, if only to see some scenes that were in the trailers but somehow were omitted from the movie.

Anyway, on May 7, you will be the ones watching and judging by yourselves. And remember, wait for the credits to roll and stay in your seats, no matter what you see other people doing. If you don't do so, you will miss the appearance of...

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