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Review: Favreau hits on Marvel success again with 'Iron Man 2'

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“Iron Man 2”
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated: PG-13

Baby boomers grew up on rock 'n' roll, black and white TV and comic books.

I had had a steady diet of DC comics - Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, et cetera - by the time I discovered Marvel. These super heroes - Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four - were different. They all had foibles. They weren't so unbelievably perfect or righteous. They were human as well as superhuman.

None more exemplified the group than millionaire scientific inventor and international playboy Tony Stark, who became Iron Man.

Stark was a combination Hugh Hefner and Steve Jobs. His Stark Industries led the world in high-tech innovations. And his most useful invention was the device he implanted in his chest to keep his failing heart ticking.

A super hero with a bad heart? You didn't find that kind of stuff in DC comic land.

Nobody captured the Marvel vibe better than director Jon Favreau and his leading man, Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man.” “Iron Man 2” isn't quite as good as the first installment, but it's pretty darned good.

It benefits by being able to cut the obligatory “origin” segments that have slowed down films from the first “Star Trek” to “Superman.” Viewers met Tony Stark and learned why and how Iron Man came about in the first installment.

“Iron Man 2” picks up shortly after the end of that story. Tony Stark - unlike most superheroes - has divulged his secret identity to the world at large and has realized that the heart maintenance device he wears in his chest is slowly poisoning him.

At the Stark Enterprises Expo, Iron Man/Tony Stark and a line of dancing girls entertain. But a competitor, an entrepreneur named Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), has co-opted the technology and is giving Stark a run for his money.

That's a pain, but not as big a pain as the crazy Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who has developed his own Iron Man suit, adding several nasty touches. Vanko wants to create havoc as much as Stark wants to bring about world peace.

Along again this time is Gwenyth Paltrow as Stark's sidekick, and now CEO of Stark Enterprises, Pepper Potts. Stan Lee, the marvel behind Marvel Comics, has a thing for alliteration. Spider-Man is Peter Parker, The Hulk is Bruce Banner, Daredevil is Matt Murdock, and so on.

A new and welcome character, as sexy as she is tough, is Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson). She's Stark's new assistant but also turns up in a far different role.

The ending battle scene between Vanko and Iron Man is just about as good as an on-screen superhero action battle gets. The best “comic book” movies translate the magic of those pulp, ink-laden wonders, to the big screen.

“Iron Man 2” deals a lot with Stark's many human problems as well as his dire desire to keep the world a peaceful place.

It's the classic Marvel formula and Favreau, along with the always charming Robert Downey Jr., make the second episode nearly as great as the first one. There's not a dull moment here and the door is left open for a third installment.

It's a fun film with an underlying message. And it lives up to the expectations of those of us who still remember how different, exciting and fun Marvel comics were.[[In-content Ad]]


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