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Iron Man 2
Will set a great tone for future Marvel films.
Iron Man 2
A Scene from "Iron Man 2."
OPENING WEEKEND: $120,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $400,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 29th, 2010: On one side is Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a fast-talking weapons manufacturer who fancies himself the next Tony Stark; on the other, Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who, while incarcerated in a Russian prison, creates his own battle-suit, which shoots devastating, whip-like beams. Hammer and Whiplash join forces to take Downey's character Tony Stark down.

Adding more flesh and blood to the new movie is Stark's mysterious new assistant, Natasha, who has an alter ego of her own, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). That introduction inevitably sparks romantic tension between Stark and former assistant Pepper Potts, who's been promoted to CEO of Stark Industries.

What to Expect: Let me think for a second. Will "Iron Man 2" make any money? Hmmmm. I better pontificate on that. Let me go into my thinking corner and put on my special hat of prognostication and try and discern the future.

What, are you kidding me? It's going to make a million jillion dollars and we will all go see it. Fine, good, whatever. But that doesn't mean we're not going to talk about it, so sit right down and you'll hear a tale.

Article continues below

"Iron Man" was a surprise to just about everybody. It's not as if the character was the king of the hill in the superhero pantheon. Second-tier hero at best. One of the Avengers, sure, but not as famous as the Hulk. Superheroes had been dominated by X-Men and Spiderman for most of the twenty-first century, with some inroads being made by the rejuvenated Batman franchise. So when Marvel pulled out Iron Man, everyone was kind of like, meh. Then when Robert Downey Jr. was cast, eyebrows went up. Oh really? That's interesting. Turned out it was a tour de force decision that was part of what made what could have been a middling entry in the comic-book genre into a smash hit that not only spiked interest in the character, but completely resurrected Downey's career. I remember seeing it with my friend Rachel. I'd seen it already, she hadn't. At the end, I turned to her and said, "Okay, on a scale of one to ten, how sexy was RDJ in this movie?" She said "Forty!"

A sequel was a foregone conclusion. Except this one wasn't quite as foregone as you might think.

The first thing you want is your star back. That was sewn up. Downey was a go. Then you want your director back. Or do you? There was some uncertainty upon first announcement of the sequel's green light as to whether or not Jon Favreau would return. Word around the campfire is that he'd asked for a modest raise and Marvel was balking. Either he backed down or they gave in, because soon afterward he was announced as officially back helming the next installment.

And then the Terrence Howard drama. Oh, the drama. Howard, who played Tony Stark's BFF Colonel Rhodes in the first film, was assumed to be returning, indeed he himself assumed he'd be returning. Rhodes' role in the series only gets larger; in fact the character eventually dons another suit to become the Iron Man ally War Machine (this suit was briefly seen in the first film). But then suddenly, Howard's role was being recast. Bzuh? Howard seemed as puzzled as everyone else. Why the sudden switch? The official line from the studio has been vague. Howard has been vocally angry at them for not bringing him back. What I hear is that Favreau wasn't too happy with Howard's performance, which was heavily edited and massaged to get what he wanted. Furthermore, Howard was the first actor who was signed to the first film and actually got the heftiest paycheck. Yep. He got more money than Gwyneth Paltrow or RDJ did. This was just on the heels of his Oscar nomination for "Hustle & Flow" and he was a much hotter property than he is at the moment, but that still boggles the mind. Naturally the studio didn't feel like paying him the same amount for the sequel, not to mention the significant wage hike I'm certain Downey must have received. As the screenplay took shape, Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux (yes, that Justin Theroux) found themselves trying to minimize his role to avoid the performance issues they had the first time around. The studio asked Howard to take a sizable pay cut. He refused. And got recast.

Personally, I'm thrilled, because the part is now being played by total BAMF Don Cheadle, who I love and adore and who is made of awesome. Cheadle literally had mere hours to accept the part, having not read the script and having only the vaguest idea (from having seen the first film) as to what his job might entail. He took the part and so here we are.

But wait, there's more! How much would you pay for more casting drama? This one isn't as dramatic, actually. The character of Black Widow, who spies on Stark for Mother Russia, was originally to be played by Emily Blunt, but sadly Blunt had a scheduling conflict and had to bow out. The part then went to the decidedly more bombshellish Scarlett Johansson. I have no real opinion of this except to be gleeful that it provided much opportunity for backstage gossip, as reports indicate that she and Gwyneth Paltrow did not get along. Well, it might be more correct to say that Gwyneth didn't get along with Johannson. Paltrow is apparently not well liked among the crew, who report that she is snobby and standoffish (although they seem to like her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin), and that she refused to have any contact with Johansson at all. There are also reports that Paltrow was upset over Johannson's prominent featuring in the early publicity put out by the studio, in which Paltrow's character, Pepper Potts, is nowhere to be seen. This is just rumor, of course, but honestly? I have no trouble at all believing it. Paltrow's always seemed like an ice queen to me. Then again, I predicted that "Avatar" would bomb, so you guys maybe shouldn't listen to me at all.

The rest of the cast was finalized with relatively little drama. Favreau will again play Stark's chaffeur Happy Hogan, John Slattery will appear in flashbacks as Stark's father (a role that was once rumored to be going to Tim Robbins), and Sam Rockwell, who actually was a contender for the part of Stark in the first film, appears as war profiteer Justin Hammer. Sam Rockwell, man. I can't figure that guy out. I'm convinced that he's talented enough to have an important career, but he seems to relish in playing offbeat, crazy-ass characters. If that's his niche, then more power to him, I guess. He does it so well, after all. The other colorful casting decision was in who they got to play Whiplash, the film's primary antagonist. Fresh off his Oscar nomination, Mickey Rourke gets to sink his teeth into some scenery as the electric-whip-wielding nemesis battled by Iron Man and War Machine. Good for him. I mean, with his face the way it is now, he's pretty much destined to play supervillains. Might as well get started now.

So that's the cast. Now, on to the writer. The first film was written by the team of Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby, who also wrote "Children of Men." Wow, you might be saying. Two good scripts! Why'd they get rid of them? Yeah, not so fast. "Children of Men" was credited to them, but insiders say that the script was heavily rewritten, uncredited, by director Alfonso Cuaron. And the "Iron Man" script was also extensively retooled during production and even improvised during shooting by the cast. Favreau and Downey both had a lot of input into the screenplay as it evolved. So neither of those films might well represent the pair's writing. Why they were not asked to return, I'm not sure. I do know that they're working on the long-anticipated "Akira" remake, so it may have been a scheduling thing. Instead, Favreau hired Justin Theroux, a rare actor-slash-writer who's successful at both, although his writing career is pretty new. His first screenplay was Downey's film "Tropic Thunder," which is a pretty good way to make one's screenwriting debut, so he was brought in to pen this film, although Favreau and Downey are both contributing heavily, so hopefully the sequel will retain the first film's charm and irreverence.

As for the plot, it's pretty standard fare. Mostly fallout from Tony Stark's announcement that yes, he is Iron Man (dun, dun, DUN DUN DUN). The Senate (in the form of Garry Shandling, who called me up to ask if I would write his theme song) wants Stark to hand over his suit to the government. The public is crawling all over him. He's reveling in his success as Iron Man to keep world peace. Time for a shakeup! Pepper Potts has taken over as CEO of Stark Industries, so he has a new personal assistant, who turns out to be a spy. Some crazy guy with whips has a personal beef against him. I can imagine there will be crash-bang-explodey to spare. In fact, I'm counting on it. The plot is just about irrelevant, isn't it? "Iron Man" was a comic book movie even for those who don't like comic book movies. In fact, I think I'm going to watch it again right as soon as I finish this preview.

In Conclusion: Casting drama and backstage catfights aside, the bulk of the creative team that made "Iron Man" such a success is back in force, spearheaded by Favreau and Downey, who's having a pretty good couple of years, wouldn't you say? It's about damn time, is what I say. RDJ, please, take my advice and fully enjoy the massive crush the entire world has on you right now. Mine it for all it's worth because it can't last, and you deserve it. The only question here is whether or not "Iron Man 2" will out-earn its predecessor, and how fast it'll break box-office records. Positioned as the original film was, at the beginning of the summer movie season in early May, this movie ought to leave an intimidating benchmark for the rest of the warm weather tentpoles to try and match.

Similar Titles: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk
May 7th, 2010 (wide)
September 28th, 2010 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures, Marvel Studios

Jon Favreau

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Paul Bettany, Scarlett Johannson, Gary Shandling, Kate Mara, Clark Gregg

Total: 169 vote(s).

Action & Adventure

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Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

124 min





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