Watching Iron Man 2 is a little like spending the day in an over-crowded amusement park. It?s noisy, busy, over-stimulating and tiring but the intermittent flashes of excitement and entertainment keep you going.
These flashes are provided by Robert Downey Junior, who once again plays Tony Stark, the somewhat unhinged, narcissistic, iron suited superhero and by Mickey Rourke, as Whiplash, the disgruntled and deadly Russian physicist who derails Iron Man?s party.
Both actors have such brilliantly weathered faces and such a hefty screen presence that they lift up this unwieldy sequel merely by being in it.
Both are unpredictable, dark and edgy. They look like they?ve dined with the Devil and lived to tell the tale.
The trouble is that Iron Man 2, directed by Jon Favreau and written by Justin Theroux, surrounds these actors with a tremendous amount of sound and fury, which amounts to little.
There are confusing sub-plots and umpteen characters including Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow; Don Cheadle as Stark?s friend and eventual side-kick; Sam Rockwell as a nasty arms builder and of course Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.
By the time Samuel L Jackson showed up wearing an eye-patch, I was bleary-eyed and thoroughly exhausted.
But a killer Stark line woke me up: He looks at the man and says: I don?t want to be rude so which should I look at, your eye or your eye-patch?
Stark?s got a few other great lines--early in the film, he declares that he?s successfully privatised world peace?but mostly Iron Man 2 is more serviceable than sparkling. There are loads of metal-crunching battles, snazzy special effects and cool gadgets. None of which can camouflage the literally mechanical script.
The first film was superbly cool and consistently crackling. It infused a playful wickedness into the standard issue superhero story.
Iron Man 2 feels like a film in transition. Like the makers were simply giving you enough explanation so that you can enjoy Iron Man 3, which will inevitably follow.
Still I recommend that you catch the film, only for Whiplash on the Monaco race-track and the sheer pleasure of Robert Downey Junior.