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Iron Man 2 (8/10 for guys; 4/10 for gals)

by Tony Medley

Run time 124 minutes.

Not for children.

This is a high octane, low intellect, typical Hollywood movie full of special effects and car crashes and violence but low on thought. Just to give an idea about what you get in this film, there are 70 credits for stunt people.

When you sit through this, you realize you are watching something put together to cash in on the enormous success of the original. Even though its cast is high quality, including Robert Downey, Jr., beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow, curvy Scarlett Johansson, a wooden Don Cheadle (replacing Terence Howard, who, whether voluntary or not, was lucky not to be cast), Mickey Rourke, and Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis the computer, none of them except Rourke contribute much to the entertainment value of this film, which is devoted almost entirely to special effects. There are an incredible number of car crashes, loud battles, destruction of buildings. You name it in terms of special effects, this film has it.

Oh, it’s entertaining all right, for guys, anyway. Follow the advice of Destiny’s Child in 2008, “all you fellas leave your girl with her friends.” The speculation that this is not a film that will appeal to women supports the idea that they really are the superior sex. It is as forgettable as any other meaningless special-effects-laden entertainment put out by Hollywood to cash in on a successful film.

Johansson, an addition to this iteration, is so round and firm and fully packed that it looked to me like Paltrow went out and bought a set of Grace Kelly falsies so she wouldn't be entirely overwhelmed in the chest department, a feminine asset for which she has not been  known (not that she's buxom here, just that her top does have a shape). Rourke duplicates his role from “The Wrestler,” in playing a mumbling, bare-chested, tattooed, violent behemoth out to kill Downey. That’s not to say that Rourke isn’t entertaining. But he better branch out because this character is going to get tiresome.

Other than Rourke, the only performances I thought stood out were Larry Shandling as a cloying, greasy, hateful United States Senator (but I repeat myself) and Sam Rockwell as the bad guy. Rockwell’s performance rang a bell with me because I had just seen Jason Patric ruin a similar role in “The Losers.” Unlike Patric, Rockwell nails it.

Since the bad guys who get slaughtered by Iron Man are mostly drones, there isn’t a lot of blood and guts, except when Rourke is onscreen.

Director Jon Favreau (who also appears again as Hogan, Downey’s personal assistant) has made Downey’s character, Tony Stark, into a real jerk, so there really isn’t anyone for whom to root. Stark is such an unlikeable egoist that one is tempted to root for Rourke.

While it’s true that the story is ridiculous, still it was a bit much to see Samuel L. Jackson thrown in as Fury, one of Marvel Comics’ heroes from “Fantastic Four” and “Spider Man” for no apparent purpose. I hope this isn’t a setup for a new film all about Fury. That’s all we need, yet another hundred million dollar movie about yet another idiotic fantasy creature.

May 6, 2010